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A Storm on the Horizon (A New Perspective, New England Patriots Dynasty)

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Old 03-18-2012, 06:08 PM   #1
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A Storm on the Horizon (A New Perspective, New England Patriots Dynasty)

I’ve been inspired by the recent resurgence of dynasty postings on this forum and am hoping to add my own voice to the mix. Bear in mind that this is quite a departure from the standard dynasty thread. The reason will be made clear in a moment.

I was faced with the truth that I am too caught up in my dynasty with the Patriots (currently starting year 4) to focus on rebuilding a new team. Ultimately, I was attempting to figure out the best possible way to both post my own spin on a dynasty and how to jump into the middle of one without posting a lot of information from memory. The idea struck me the other morning. Take the perspective of a player. I will still be speaking mainly about the Head Coach, but will be doing so from the perspective of a player entering the franchise as a rookie. This will be done in literary form, like a novel would read. Now, I know that might sound out of the ordinary, and I agree with you. It may turn out to be a colossal failure, but I have to know for sure. Thus, I present to you…

A Storm on the Horizon:
The Story of Storm Stewart


Prologue

My hands were shaking. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, pumping blood into my ears and causing the roar of the thousands gathered to see me play to swell like the tide before a hurricane. I could feel my knees shaking as my feet carried me towards the tunnel. In front of me stood a man whose career I had followed over the past three years. His name began to circle in my freshman year of college. The new coach of the New England Patriots had just been announced, and I had no idea that the man being interviewed on SportsCenter would be my coach one day. Everyone had been speculating over who would take the reins following the departure of Bill Belichick announced only moments after a monumental loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. The name Josh McDaniels, Offensive Coordinator, had been thrown around the most. When the General Manager Sam Polo announced that the new Head Coach would be former DII Defensive Coordinator John Xavier, the entire football universe was buzzing.

I watched Coach X look up at the ceiling of the dark tunnel, wondering what sorts of things were buzzing around his brain more than four years after that announcement. If the football world had not known his name then, they certainly did now. Not only had he won three Super Bowls in as many years with the Patriots, he was also undefeated in that time. Three consecutive seasons without a loss. No one had anticipated that

What remained the source of all speculation was just how he had made it all possible. See, Coach X was a commander. The moment he stepped into a room it was immediately clear that he demanded respect. He was not an imposing man, standing at just less than six feet tall and holding a small frame that reflected his short stint in the Marines. His dark face cast even more mystery into what lay behind the secret to his success. He had taken over the Patriots organization with surprising ease. The roster hardly changed in his first year, and the offensive playbook had remained in place along with the entire staff. In fact, Coach X was often quoted telling reporters that he couldn’t care less about the offensive side of the ball and how they ran things. This wasn’t entirely true; the man’s master puppeteer hands held all of the strings and made every move with precise calculations.

He had established the defensive playbook he had brought with him from college, the 3-3-5 Mustang. Much to the chagrin of most members of the media, insisting that it would never work in the pros, he proved them wrong time and again, building a team that allowed a total of less than a hundred points in the season before I was drafted. Their leader, Keith Rivers, played linebacker like a man possessed. He almost made me consider making a change of position in my Senior year at Rutgers in hopes that I would get a bit more playing time. I’m certainly glad that I didn’t, because I knew the tools that I brought to this offense.

I still often dwelt on the fact that my time at Rutgers was so marred by a lack of appreciation. I had been highly recruited out of High School, mainly for my speed and size, yet I had never become quite the weapon I had hoped to be in College. Coming into the draft, scouts were constantly talking about my physical tools, but always mentioned my lack of production at the college level. Some of them were kind enough to say that I was “under-utilized”, and that coaches should look beyond that; however, most scouts were particularly unimpressed. That is, until I received a phone call from Coach X. I thought it was a joke at first, almost deciding to hang up midsentence. In the end, though, he convinced me of his identity. I was wondering if he had called to tell me he wanted to bring me in for an individual workout, but he never did. He asked about my family, about my degree from Rutgers, and even about what my favorite foods were. We never even discussed football. He was cordial and polite as he said goodbye and hung up the phone, leaving me confused and disappointed.

That was why I was so surprised to hear my name announced on draft day by none other than Coach X. He called me moments before the announcement to ask me if I wanted to be a Patriot. I was speechless. A team that had shown no interest in me (at least athletically) had come from nowhere to draft me. They had even traded up for me. It was a dream come true.

With Tom Brady still at the helm, I knew that I would be targeted often, even playing behind Pro Bowler Drew Goldman. I didn’t think that that would actually happen, though. The entire year leading up to me being drafted, contract talks between Brady and Coach X were heated and going nowhere. Brady wanted three more years to finish his career as a Patriot, and while Coach X empathized with his demands, he knew that the future needed to come cheap. I could see the disappointment in the face of Coach X when he told the media about the decision to let Brady go unsigned. I understood where he was coming from though. No one could expect a team to hold on to a player when two bright young stars lay awaiting their own opportunities to shine (both Dane Morrow and Darius Pryor). What hurt Coach more was the way in which front office took control and toyed with Brady like he was some sort of animal. They cut him, and resigned him to a cheaper contract after franchise tagging him.

I was wrenched from my nostalgia by the sound of the announcer calling my teammates to the field one by one. I felt the urge to vomit. My nerves were on end. It wasn’t as if I had not played in front of a crowd before, but now it was for real. This was an elite opportunity. Only fifteen hundred jobs in the entire world were associated with the NFL, including coaches, staff, and players. What I was about to do would completely change my life forever. It was a moment I would never forget.

Right before my name was announced, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Coach X’s voice followed the heavy stream of thick smoke that blew around us. “Make me proud,” He said, an air of expectation thicker than the smoke lingered as he moved forward and out of the tunnel. His words still linger in my ear years later. I will always remember exactly how I felt in the moments after he had spoken them. I felt the need to prove everything I was worth to that man. I felt the need to prove that he was right to trade up in the draft to get me; I felt the need to prove that he was not wrong in creating plays specifically designed for me; I felt the need, above all else, to prove that I was able. Able to play. Able to win. Able to give everything I had.

Then, breaking the silence, came the words that would launch my journey.

“And now, introducing rookie sensation. . . STORM STEWART!”
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Old 03-18-2012, 06:10 PM   #2
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Re: A Storm on the Horizon (A New Perspective, New England Patriots Dynasty)

Chapter One – All in a Day’s Work

The sound of the crowd was deafening. I don’t remember everything that happened in the minutes leading up to the kickoff of that first preseason game against the St. Louis Rams, but I do remember that I kept repeating Coach X’s departing words to myself. As the referee called for the team captains to attend the coin toss at midfield, I took my place among my offensive counterparts, finding myself sandwiched on the bench between two time Pro Bowl Wide Receiver Jamarion Bellows and MVP Running Back LaRon James. The thought struck me that I should move away, but I was kept rooted by Jamarion turning and speaking to me.

“Coach always sends his boys out first,” He said with a slight grin, his eyes implying that even though we too were Patriots, we were not the ‘boys’ he was talking about. “We wait our turn,” He finished, and I at last understood what he had meant. We were not Coach X’s beloved defense. It was apparent, even at practices, that Coach favored those privileged enough to play for his defense. He rarely even looked at an offensive snap if his defense wasn’t somehow associated with it. He allowed us to be taken care of by Coach McDaniels. Some of the players said it was because he felt guilty for being chosen for the Head Coach job over McDanield, and I suppose they had a point. I laughed a little at Jamarion’s joke, but stopped when I realized how dry my throat was.

I was about to stand up to get some water when LaRon passes me a bottle himself. “I’d keep that and drink as much as you can before you go on the field,” He suggested, his firm tone made me realize that it was more than a simple request. “When I played my first game,” He continued, “I almost passed out before I ever even took a snap.” He gave me a quick nod and turned his eyes back to the field. Sure enough, we had won the coin toss and selected to kick. Coach X was rattling off the coverage assignments to the kicking team as the trotted onto the field. I lifted the water bottle to my mouth and drank deeply from it as the crowd noise surged for the kickoff. That was the first moment I realized how fast the game was. One second the ball was in the air, and the next the defense was getting a call from Coach X. I watched him for a moment as he called the blitz package in to Keith Rivers. Rivers nodded his response and relayed the play to the rest of the defense.

I took a moment to appreciate the prestige of the Patriot defense. The Defensive line was established as dominant and massive. Ty Warren, Dre Moore, and Richard Seymour all took their positions on the trenches. Behind them stood three of the most dominant linebackers in the league in Adelius Thomas, Alonzi Simms, and Rivers. Perhaps the most impressive sight, though, was the defensive backfield. Nnamdi Asmougha, and Juran Riley held the Corner slots down, supported by Eugene Wilson at Free Safety. Seated on either side of the linebackers, now calling assignments to the rest of the DB’s were the Strong Safeties. In Coach X’s system, two were needed. Kenny Phillips held down the defenses right side, and JJ Collins took over the left side of the field. Between the two of them, no offense could ever hope to win a matchup battle. The sight of those eleven men made me appreciate what an honor it was to be on this team, and also added to the gravity of those words which were spoken to me in the tunnel.

The Defense moved like a blur. It was poetry in motion as they picked apart the Ram’s offense. Three and out cam so quickly that I had to remind myself to take another drink before my name was called to the field. I set the bottle down and stood with the rest of the Offense, awaiting our moment to take the turf. As the ensuing punt was returned by DeSean Jackson, we congratulated the Defense on a job well done. Coach McDaniels called out the package for the first play of the game, “Diamond”. That meant me. My senses blurred as I jogged onto the field and into the huddle for the first play call. I was already winded, and I focused myself not to look at the thousands gathered in the stands of Gillette Stadium.

“Diamond, 74, Ride 34 Blast on three, on three,” came the call from Brady, and we broke the huddle like clockwork. It wasn’t until I was set in the backfield that I realized that the first play of my first game as a Patriot was one designed specifically for me by Coach X. I didn’t have time to wonder what that implied because Brady was calling out the blocking assignments and we were off. I took the handoff in a flash and immediately felt like I had run into a stone wall. The field blurred and I hit the ground hard. I had to force myself to breathe again as the whistle blew. It seemed so far away. I grabbed the extended hand of Right Guard Patrick Boma as I got to my feet. He nodded, wordlessly telling me to shake it off. I chanced a glance at the sideline and met the gaze of Coach X. The look on his face was unreadable, but I could tell that he was repeating the same words he had told me in the tunnel in his mind, telepathically reminding me that we both had a lot at stake in this game. I needed to get my mind in the right place.

I made it back the huddle for the next call, and was surprised by it. “Diamond, 74, Ride 31 Dive on set, on set,” Brady recited, breaking the huddle again like clockwork. I took my place in the backfield between the offset backs, LaRon and Casey Barone. Brady pointed to a blitzing linebacker, and we were off against. This time, I managed to see that Casey had met that linebacker in my designated hole. I planted on my left foot, and cut the ball into the middle only to be met by another defender and dropped again before reaching the line of scrimmage. I cursed to myself as I jumped to my feet, looking to the sideline for the package change. I wasn’t going to be on the field for third down. Twice my name had been called on a play, and twice I had failed to move the ball forward even a yard. Discouraged, I watched the turf move under my shoes as I made my way back to the sideline. Roughly, a hand groped around my facemask and jerked my face upward. I was met by the angry face of veteran Center Nick Kaczur. “Listen, kid,” He growled, “Get your head out of your *** and start playing football.” He released me, and turned away.

I made my way to the bench, trying to go over the plays in my head, but coming up blank. I felt someone place a hand on my shoulder pad. LaRon James’ voice carried over the din of the crowd as Wide Receiver Wes Welker was unable to haul in the third down pass and the punt team was sent from the sideline. “Never judge your performance on any one, or two, plays. Always take the sum of the parts, and assess from there. You won’t know what to fix until the game is over, so stop worrying about it.” I nodded my acceptance on his words, and tried to rid myself of the doubts that loomed in my mind.

The next drive I was ready, taking a handoff eight yards and tumbling over a few Ram’s defenders in the process. On the next play, LaRon took a handoff in the opposite direction of me and flew untouched for 57 yards and a touchdown. I smiled for the first time since I had walked onto the field. The crowd roared and so did the team. Nick looked at me and spoke once more, “That is how we roll on this team. Can you hang?” His tone was softer than before, but every word seemed to add to the weight on my shoulders at that point. The smile faded from my face as I walked back over to the sideline and gave LaRon a healthy pat on the shoulders. He nodded to me, a silent gesture of understanding.

I finally hit my stride a few series later. This time, however, it was in using my true strength. I hauled in a pass on an out route and took it the distance for a 42 yard touchdown. The moment my feet crossed that goal line, it was as if someone had lifted that great weight off of my shoulders. This time, when I looked at Nick, he only smiled. LaRon pulled me into an embrace once we were off the field and said again, “It the sum of the parts, baby.”

Those words would propel me to an extravagant first game. It was only the preseason, but I caught passes from all three Quarterbacks, and ended the game with 202 receiving yards and three touchdowns to couple with my five carries for 22 yards. To this day, the score of that game was unimportant, and even the events on the field would prove to be meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but the lesson I learned that day was that living up to someone’s expectations takes perseverance. The simple fact that I didn’t start off my day well did not define how I ended it, and as I took off my pads to stow my locker at the field, a familiar voice came from beside me.

“Well done, son,” said Coach X. He neither smiled nor frowned. He simply spoke returned to his office to yell at the defense. This man was an enigma. He was short in speech and deep in influence. He had spoken only six complete words to me that day, and I had never felt more of a rollercoaster ride. During the game I had only been focused on proving myself, and now I felt that I had accomplished something. That struggle is what ultimately brought out the best for me, but I understand now that it was only the first step in a long journey. My career would have its ups and downs, but I would never stop relearning that first lesson of perseverance. There would be days that I would make my coach a very proud man, and others where I could see by the look in his eyes that I was no more than dirt. Oh, if looks could kill.

My first preseason game as a Patriot was nothing more than fuel to the fire. As I drove home in the one thing I spoiled myself into buying with my signing bonus, a ’71 Dodge Charger, I thought about my future with this team. I was stepping into a loaded offense on a team that had not lost a single game under its current Head Coach. The chance of failure was not high, but the consequences of failing to live up to my potential would prove catastrophic. I knew the stakes, and I knew the cost. All that was left was for me to play the game.

After these first few installments, feel free to leave critique or suggestions. I want to make this work in the best possible way. I hope you all enjoy the path I have decided to take!
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Old 03-18-2012, 08:21 PM   #3
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Re: A Storm on the Horizon (A New Perspective, New England Patriots Dynasty)

superb job. I tried something a bit like this with Patrick Boma and my Atlanta Falcons dynasty a year or so ago, but you've taken it a step further. I'm quite interested to keep reading.

if you can keep it up, you have the potential here to be one of the best dynasty threads I've read.
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Old 03-18-2012, 11:17 PM   #4
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Re: A Storm on the Horizon (A New Perspective, New England Patriots Dynasty)

Really cool perspective... keep it up!!
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Old 03-21-2012, 05:45 AM   #5
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Re: A Storm on the Horizon (A New Perspective, New England Patriots Dynasty)

Thank you all for the encouragement. I'm really enjoying this as it's satisfying my passions for both football and writing. I know it's unconventional, but I hope everyone enjoys it.

Chapter 2 – A Rite of Passage

The blast of sound from the whistle was shrill and cut through the cold August air like a blade. My Receiver’s Coach, Mike Tice, made his way over to me. He walked with a slight limp, indicating the career ending injury he had suffered that had forced his transition from playing to coaching. “Dammit, Stewart!” He growled, his words becoming the standard greeting he used for me. “I thought someone at Rutgers might’ve taught you how to run a damn route, but I guess you were too stupid to listen to ‘em!” His words goaded me, flushing my face with color. I had spent hours on the practice field working on that particular aspect of my game, and though it had improved, it was nowhere close to where it needed to be. Coach Tice made sure that every time I ran a route incorrectly, he was there to scream at me.

“Do it again!” He roared as he limped away, throwing his hands up in exasperation as he did so. This was becoming common place for practices. We would work and work from sunrise to sunset and seemingly make no progress in the coaching staff’s eyes. This, of course, was not true. I had seen this tactic before. Growing up in the south, I was accustomed to harsh treatment from my coaches. In fact, it had become something of a comfort to me to be yelled at repeatedly. My thirst to prove myself had begun at a very early age. Everything I did on the grid iron was focused towards making my name synonymous with success.

As practice drew to a close on the Friday before our second preseason game, I found myself on the receiving end of a beautifully arced pass from Darius Pryor. The two of us had been working on our timing on a play that Coach X had drawn up that week. It was designed to make the defense respect Darius as a runner, then use that respect to get me open for a deep pass. All last season, Coach X had brought Darius onto the field to run from a Pistol Formation. He had run it over and over again, allowing Darius to take the Offensive Rookie of the Year award in spite of being the third Quarterback on his roster. Coach X had never thrown the ball from that formation, though. At least not yet. That was what we were working on that day.

As my fingers closed around the ball and I trotted into the end zone, I heard sporadic approval being shouted from players who had wrapped up their practices to see us younger players get reps. It was what the veterans did, especially on the last practice before Game Day. I returned to my offensive counterparts and gave Darius an approving pat on the shoulder pad. I then noticed that everything had become quite silent and still. Everyone’s eyes were trained behind me, following the movement of some unknown object. I spun around to see what it was, and immediately understood everyone’s shock. Coach X’s wife was crossing the field to her husband. It had become a Friday ritual for her to arrive a few minutes before the end of practice. Some of the guys had said it was because of her job as a journalist for the local Boston newspaper; though, she rarely ever spoke to players that weren’t established veterans.

As soon as Coach X and his wife had disappeared into the practice facility, the cat calls began. No one could deny the fact that our leader had found quite a catch in a wife, but the fact that there were now fifty men ogling her as she disappeared only amplified the testosterone filled comments. The words stopped after a few sharp words from Nick Kaczur, who had been with the team since Coach X’s hiring, and who was one of the few team members that Mrs. X ever spoke to. After a few more words from our team captains – all defensive players, mind – we adjourned practice and made our way towards the locker room.

As I placed my practice pads into my designated locker, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see Tom Brady, his usual grin in place. “Go out there on Sunday and just do what you did last week. If you play like we’ve all seen you play before, you’ll be just fine,” He said, winking and then turning to walk away. I had been told that Tom usually gave all of the rookies inspirational speeches, but this hardly seemed to be one. I had been expecting a longwinded version of something from Any Given Sunday or something like that. What I got felt more like something a fortune cookie could have told me.



I broke the plane of the goal line for the third time that day, and the crowd in Miami groaned. It was my second rushing touchdown of the game, and it proved to be the metaphorical “nail in the coffin” for the Dolphins. I had taken one in early in the first quarter, and scored again on a short pass in the third. This third romp had me spin off of a linebacker and bowl over a safety before spiking the ball in celebration. We were now up 70-0, and had just capped what felt like a true statement of our quickly forming chemistry as an offense.

As I made my way back to the sideline, I was congratulated by a few of the defensive players. They had gathered around me, each taking a moment to speak their thanks. Then, Dre Moore and Ty Warren each took a step to the side to make room for their undisputed captain and three-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Keith Rivers. Rivers had never said two words to me, and I had gotten the impression that he was very much exactly the same as Coach X in many ways. Perhaps that was how the two had managed to create such a successful team. In any case, Rivers now stood before me, his dark eyes meeting mine. They were intense and full of emotion. In fact, it was the only aspect of his face that showed much emotion at all. I got the impression that the look in his eyes is what made him a natural leader.

The defensive players silenced, and the air around the group of us seemed to stand still for a moment. Rivers held up his right hand, a stream of bright red blood trickled from a small gash across his palm. I recall the play where he lacerated his hand. He had still sacked the Quarterback. “There is a price,” He began, his voice solid and commanding. He did not yell, nor was he angry. He was simply speaking as if every word held true significance. “A price to be paid to wear this jersey.” He pressed his bleeding hand to his chest, leaving a dark red mark hanging above the white number fifty on his chest. “Those who have worn our colors in the past, they know that being a Patriot does not come free of sacrifice. All of us know the cost of victory. It is time you learned it, too.” The inflection of his voice left me with the feeling that I was standing at a crossroad. I could not tell what would lie at the end of each path, only that I must choose now which to follow.

Rivers nodded and turned away from me, giving the other defensive players leave to disperse as well. I turned around and watched the final seconds tick off of the clock, signaling our second victory of the preseason, and the second week in a row that I had made an impact for my team. Still, Rivers’ words left me thinking. Perhaps the pride that Coach X wanted to feel from me was not about how many yards or catches or touchdowns I had at the end of the day. What else could I do, though? I played the game. I was a football player, and wasn’t that enough? There was nothing else that I would rather be doing. What more could I do?

I was, once again, changing out of my uniform and mulling over the implications of playing for this team when I was approached by another player. Drew Goldman’s voice drew my attention back to reality. “I saw you get ‘The Speech’ today. How was it?” There was an air of sarcasm in his voice. The look on my face must have let him know that I was confused because he continued by saying, “Every newbie gets ‘The Speech’ at some point in the preseason. It’s a tradition that Rivers carries on after Tedy Bruschi left. The defensive guys call it the ‘Rite of Passage’.

“It’s meant to make you consider the course of your actions. I got it in the last preseason game of last year. Keith asked me what price I was willing to pay for this team. It makes you think, doesn’t it?” I nodded my response to him, wondering what sort of price Drew had to pay. “Don’t worry about it,” He said, leaning back against my locker. “All they want is for you to understand that you don’t score touchdowns for you. You score them for us.”

Drew walked away, leaving me with even more to think about. Then another voice broke the void. It was Darius. “You were the price he had to pay, you know,” He said, sitting on the bench beside me. I looked over at him, bewildered at his statement. How in the world was I the price that Drew Goldman had to pay to be a Patriot? The man was a two time Pro Bowl Tight End. Then it struck me. I was a Tight End. Could it be that in order to be a Patriot, a guy with talent like Drew Goldman had to take a back seat to a Rookie like me? As I thought about it, it made more sense to me. Drew hadn’t scored a single touchdown in the past two games. Sure, he had made catches and gotten yards, but I had eclipsed him in the media. There was more talk about me than about him, even though he sat above me on the depth chart.

I turned around to see Drew standing at his locker, smiling away. He had every right to be angry with me for stealing his thunder. Why, then, was he content to offer advice on the Rite of Passage to me? I then understood the implications of what it meant to be a Patriot. It meant service for the greater good, no matter what the cost. When someone more talented came along, a Patriot stood aside and let them have their moment, knowing that they would do the same for the next generation of players. As I watched Drew leave the locker room, giving Tom Brady a high five on his way out, I knew that this was exactly the organization I needed to be a part of. This was a team full of men with one purpose and one goal, to win for the good of the Patriot organization.

As an aside, I know that these first few chapters are limited on game information and stats, and that is by design. Not only are the stats in preseason unimportant, it gives me time to create a background story that will shape the rest of the thread. Stick with it at least until the start of the first regular season game and we'll see how I can incorporate the information that is required for a dynasty thread while staying true to my narrative design at the same time. Thanks for reading!
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