I watched Jared Lorenzen, who passed away today at the age of 38, play football exactly one time. It happened in Louisville’s Old Cardinal Stadium, which most closely resembled a map from a video game you would buy from a spinning wire rack at Kroger for $4.99. I watched a baseball game there once as a kid, and I distinctly remember noticing that the pitcher’s mound was completely flat — something that can’t possibly have been true, but may as well have been. An entire section of the outfield bleachers, rusted-out and apparently on the verge of collapse, was simply cordoned off with yellow tape. This hideous place was the setting of the most incredible athletic performance I have personally witnessed in my entire life.
In the Kentucky state championship, Lorenzen quarterbacked Fort Thomas Highlands, a perennial champ that took it easy on my Waggener High School classmates by only winning 56-7. At one point he chucked the ball 70 yards in the air, a stunning distance even by NFL standards, only to see it dropped in the end zone.
He mostly ran. The papers listed him at just 240 pounds, another thing that couldn’t possibly have been true, because he appeared twice as large as any of my friends who tried to tackle him. Most simply bounced off him. One play in particular resembled a political cartoon. Two Waggener defenders grabbed him; unable to throw him down with any sort of force, they appeared to try to weigh him down by simply hanging on. It didn’t work. He just ran like that, carrying them for another 20 yards downfield. It was stunning. He was a terraformer, giving that place the bulldozing it needed so sorely.
I had never seen anything like it, and I have never seen anything like it in the 20 years since. He is a hero I never met and will dearly miss. He performed supernatural events in front of me, and he will have my gratitude forever.
Old Cardinal Stadium was finally demolished a few months ago. It’s very appropriate. That afternoon, it became certain that Jared Lorenzen would outlast every beam in that building.