Over the Size Limit?

by Tina Blue
November 8, 2002

          I teach freshman-sophomore English at the University of Kansas.  For a variety of reasons, many of KU's athletes, especially those in football and basketball, end up in my English classes.

          As everyone knows, KU is a basketball school.  Football is usually not a strong program here.  But in 1991 and 1992, we actually had a very successful football team, the team that included Dana Stubblefield and Gilbert Brown, both of whom went on to multimillion-dollar contracts and successful pro careers.  In 1992, that team won the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii.  (Winning bowl games is something of a rarity at KU.  Sort of like one of those 100-year floods.)

          During the period from 1991 to 1992, most of the members of the KU football team were in my English classes for several semesters, usually all at once. 

          Now, one reason KU doesn't usually fare well in college football is that our players are merely big.  Not gigantic, humongous, or enormous.  Just ordinary big.  But what has happened in college football (and in pro football, of course) is that the average size of the players has kept increasing, so that our boys, at maybe 6' 2'' and about 240 pounds, and many even smaller than that, look like Lilliputians on the field with the hulks from other schools.

          But the team we fielded in '91 and '92 included quite a few really good-sized young men.  Many of them were in the 6' 5" range and weighed nearly 300 pounds.  (In fact, one of them regularly topped 300 pounds.)

          When several of these kids were in one of my classes at time, it almost felt as if the entire room was tilting to one side, though I'm sure that was just a psychological reaction to seeing so much human bulk massed together in one place. 

          It was a pretty close-knit team, too, and they tended to travel around Lawrence in a pack, so whenever I ran into one of them, I ran into all of them.

          Now, one afternoon in 1991 I had been out doing some serious walking with my two children, Michael and Becky.  At the time Michael was about eleven and Becky was almost ten.  We had put in about 2 ½ hours on that walk, and the kids were hot, tired, hungry and thirsty.  We still had about 20 minutes to go before we would be home, so we stopped at McDonald's to get them something to eat and drink.

     While we were sitting there, five or six of my students from the football team came into the restaurant.  Spotting me, they came over to say hi and to chat for a few minutes.  Standing around our table, they literally blocked out the sunlight coming in from the windows--this was a truly large wall of humanity in the aggregate!  My kids looked up (and up and up) in awe at these very tall, bulky fellows.

          After they left, my son asked me suspiciously, "Mom, how do you know those guys?"

          "They're my students," I answered.

          "I don't know," Michael replied skeptically, "They look awful big to be students!"

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