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When offensive linemen get their hands on the football, magic happens

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Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz gives an inside look at what it’s like for an offensive lineman to tote the rock.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

We witnessed perhaps the greatest offensive line moment in NFL history on Sunday Night. Raiders tackle Marshall Newhouse — whom I love and played next to in New York, by the way — allowed a sack and fumbled on the same play. Not sure anyone has ever typed that before about an offensive lineman. It was glorious.

Marshall allows this sack. Not the best block. And then the fumble.

Most of us would just fall on the ball, but instead Marshall is going to make a play. He cleanly picks up the ball, very impressive, and starts to rumble down the field. To his credit, he is moving. He sees a would-be tackler coming to get him and switches the ball into his other hand, just like a running back. Then comes the mayhem.

As Marshall gets hit, he loses the ball, helicopters in the air, and lands on it. My favorite part, which is probably the worst part for Marshall, is the reaction of his body when he lands on the ball. So much pain.

I just can’t stop watching this clip.

If you wanted to know what goes through a lineman’s head as they run with the ball, you’ve come to the right spot. I had a 3-yard carry in college and a 16-yard kickoff return in the NFL.

Let’s start with my 3-yard carry at Oregon. We were playing a top-10 ranked USC team at home in 2007. The play call is a read option, a ROPE (get it, read option). On rope, the quarterback reads the defensive end, pulls the ball if the defensive end crashes, and then runs an option with the receiver or running back coming behind him.

On this particular play, the rope play is being run to the right, with the option part going left. Our quarterback, Dennis Dixon, pulls the ball, and he’s supposed to keep it going left. Instead, someone is in his face. He heads over to the right, where I am (No. 75). As I blocked my defensive end up the field, he rolled back towards the line of scrimmage, and I follow him.

As Dennis is running to the right, instead of the left, he still thinks he has an option guy. I turn out to be that guy.

I see the ball coming out of the corner of my eye. Being the athlete I am, I catch it. This is when things get WEIRD. Actually catching of the ball, taking three steps and getting tackled took all of what, three seconds, it felt like forever.

I remember it all.

I remember our receiver, No. 21 Garren Strong, with a look of bewilderment on his face directly in front of me as I started to run. I remember just instinctively starting to move my legs in a running fashion without any feeling of where I was going. I thought to myself “don’t fumble.” And then it was over. We beat USC, and I was the third leading rusher for the week! LOL

I also had a 16-yard kickoff return in the NFL. It was 2009, my only season on kickoff return. In fact, I only did it for seven games.

The goal is to never actually touch the football. However, this kick came straight to me. I had to field it. I caught the ball, and then took off. First, I ran as high as my 6’7 frame. I remember just trying to veer towards the light, which I do as I head left. Then, out of nowhere, five Bucs hit me at once, and I go down in a pile.

It looks soft on film. I’m not proud of the finish. However, I don’t remember the actual feeling of getting tackled, but I do remember the terror of having to run with the ball. It’s not fun.

What’s also not fun is John Fox being upset I didn’t hold the ball with two hands. Couldn’t even enjoy the moment without the coach being upset. The life of a lineman.


The current leader in the clubhouse for best offensive lineman kickoff return is clearly Patriots OL Dan Connolly from Dec. 2010 against the Packers.

This is exceptional. He fields the ball, runs to his left, smartly holding the ball with two hands. Then realizes he’s breaking free and then turns on the jets, even attempting a stiff arm.

Seventy-one yards later, Connolly is this close to a touchdown.

If you’re going to touch the ball as an offensive lineman, it’s best to touch it, or better yet, catch it, in the end zone. There’s one current lineman who’s done this better than the rest — Raiders LT Donald Penn, who has FOUR career touchdown catches! That’s outstanding and most of us would love to score just one touchdown.

I know this is an article about offensive lineman carrying or catching the football, but I have to throw a bone to Dontari Poe.

Poe, a large man, isn’t an offensive lineman, but this play is too good to pass up. Last season, with the Chiefs leading big against their division rivals, Poe lines up in the backfield for a goal-line situation, which he had done multiple times before. This time he gets the ball, starts to run towards the line of scrimmage, and throws it for a touchdown!

How awesome is this!!! I love it.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey into offensive lineman touching the football. There needs to be a catalog of every instance of this happening, only so we can see enjoy watching all these videos!