You are learning to take joy in the dirty work. If you’re playing on the O-Line, you may have a rock solid core under a little play-doh, but you probably don’t have a six pack. As O-Linemen, we weren’t put on earth to look pretty, we were put here to make other people look pretty by doing the dirty work and taking joy in their successes. And in a world full of people with big ideas, it’s the people who are willing to not only do the dirty work, but to learn to enjoy it, who actually make those big ideas a reality.
You are becoming keenly aware of how your decisions impact other people. If a quarterback and running back miss a handoff exchange, your team could lose a fumble and maybe lose a game because of it. If you miss a block, one of your best friends could end up with a concussion or a broken body part. One of the attributes which separates an average leader from a stellar one is how well they are able to understand the impact their decisions have on other people.
You are developing resiliency. How many times have you completely taken your man out of the play with a great block only to have a running back cut the wrong way and be tackled by the guy you thought you’d just destroyed? And whose fault is it? If you’re an offensive lineman, it’s always your fault. No matter how well you execute your responsibility, your teammates will still screw up, and you’ll still get blamed. This is part of being an offensive lineman. And it sucks, but it’s also a very powerful, long-term leadership lesson that your glory hound teammates aren’t learning. As an offensive linemen you are by definition a leader--you are at the very front of the offensive formation. Without the hole you create, there is no glory for any other position. The valuable lesson you’re learning is how to deal with the opinions of others about you while simultaneously maintaining your willingness to give your best effort on the next play. The best leaders are masters at resisting the temptation to reciprocate blame when someone first puts blame on them.
You are learning the ability to work for delayed gratification. Offensive linemen do receive credit eventually, but it’s after the winning is done. It’s not in the weight room. It’s not on the practice field. It’s usually not even during the game. But when the game is over, when the season is done, and when your glory-hound teammates aren’t walking around with a limp in a decade, they will be very grateful for the effort you put in. Leaders are faced with the same difficulties. While your backfield teammates are learning to do the best with what’s given to them and blame you when it doesn’t work out, you are learning to do your personal best. You must accept responsibility not just for your mistakes, but the mistakes other people blame on you while improving each step of the way.
You learn to listen well and react quickly. Have you ever committed a false start? One of the loneliest feelings in the world is leaving your stance too quickly only to find yourself finally receiving the full attention of everyone in the stands while the ref twirls his hands like an old-fashioned lawn mower. Your teammate may or may not give you a pat on the butt, a head nod, or say “good job” after you pancake a defensive end (who never saw the trap coming)...but you can count on feeling like everyone hates you when you jump the snap count. So what do you have to learn to do? You have to learn to listen. You have to listen to the snap count when the play comes in from the sideline. You have to listen in case there is an audible.
This may have been the most important concept from Crafton's article:
You may not receive much immediate glory for what you're doing, but you must still commit to forming the habit of giving your 100% each day, and don’t blame others--including coaches--for not seeing your immediate value. Instead, focus on listening, learning and improving and your rewards for playing offensive line will continue to pay off far longer than the last time you ever take off your cleats.