Never underestimate an underdog.
I had been looking for a chance to shine on the football field for a while, and I feel like I got a taste of that in Fan Controlled Football.
In Season v1.0, I hopped around from team to team, but knew if I could find the right fit for me, I would be able to prove that I deserved some recognition. I was on the Beasts for a bit, on the Zappers too, but I found my squad in the Wild Aces that season. Ed Crouch and Jerdydude – the real OG’s know – were electric, and did their thing. We showed out when we needed to, and ended up winning the whole dang thing. I don’t think that it was a coincidence I was a part of that team.
Since there was a good amount of time between Season v1.0 and v2.0, I tested the waters to see what other opportunities were out there to showcase my talent. There were a couple of leagues calling my name, but ultimately, FCF was going to be my biggest opportunity to help me get the exposure I wanted and put the most eyeballs on me as possible. My goal has always been to make it to the next level, and FCF was going to give me the tape and solid teammates I needed to make that happen. I didn’t realize at the time, but ‘solid’ teammates was an understatement.
Coming in to training camp, I really didn’t know much about the other guys coming in. I had heard Manziel was coming back, as well as a few other Season v1.0 guys, but it was a complete surprise to me when I saw Terrell Owens walk out onto the practice field. Talk about a free education! I grew up watching him play on Sundays and dominate players week in and week out, and to see him join me and the rest of the guys in practice was amazing. He worked with us on our footwork and route running and made all of us better by just being there.
Even though TO is a Hall of Famer, that didn’t mean he was immune to my trash talk. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done, if I think I can beat you in something, I’m going to let you know. We had a good back and forth for a lot of those practices, especially on the topic of speed (check out the Dash of the Titans). I don’t care what anyone says, I think to this day I’m still faster than him.
Going into Week 1 of of the season, we were AMPED up. With guys like TO, Manziel, and the speed in our receiver and running back room, we felt like we were about to light up the scoreboard. But when Johnny ended up not playing in the game, we quickly realized we had underestimated our quarterback situation. There was no chemistry between the quarterbacks and the receivers, and for me and my speed, it was hard to get on the same page with guys we hadn’t practiced with much. We fought as hard as we could, but the offense was no where to be seen and ultimately took our L.
It was a wake up call. We needed the fans to get us a good supplemental QB with Johnny, or we needed our owners to come through and recruit us a stud to help lead our offense when Manziel was lacking.
Option one unfortunately didn’t happen, and that’s not on the fans. Quarterbacks kept coming in, and we as a wide receiver group were not clicking with them. To be a good offense means having that confidence and chemistry with your quarterback. You need to know that he’s going to give you a good and accurate ball every time. We found some rhythms here and there, but it wasn’t enough for us to get a win.
I told the other guys all season long, watch out for the Zappers. They made fun of me at first, but look where we ended up.James Harden, zappers wide receiver
I’m not going to lie, it was tough. Hearing the other guys day after day give us Zappers’ players an earful was not fun to say the least. Not to mention we were 0-2, and in a short season, 2 games down was going to be a massive hill to climb. There was hope, but we needed change fast. That’s where my boy, or as TO would say, MY QUARTERBACK, Kelly Bryant came in.
We knew Kelly had played at a high level with elite talent, but I had to go in with no expectations because our quarterback play hadn’t been solid and it took time to install a new playbook with a brand new player. He was definitely in shape, and we knew he could ball, so what’s the worst that could happen?
That next game in Week 3 against the Knights of Degen was when we knew we had found something special. Kelly showed us that he was the real deal, and it was our best showing on offense we had all season. We came up just short, but there was momentum. I knew it was a taste of things to come, and believed it was going to be a great opportunity to show the world what James Harden and the rest of the team was about.
Going into Week 4, we felt things were about to turn around. Our offense was finally clicking in practice, and my quarterback and I had started to develop some chemistry. But, in the middle of the game, we hit our worst case scenario. Kelly came up limping and had to sit out the rest of the game. None of us knew how serious it was going to be, but we struggled without him, and there was no hiding it.
So there we were, sitting at 0-4 with 3 games left to play, and I am not going to lie to you, not many of us were looking at anything more than getting some quality tape in the home stretch of the season. I’m a positive guy, and I always try to look at the bright side, but even for me it was hard. I never lost faith, but at that point in the season, it was hard to see how we were going to accomplish what we had set out to accomplish.
To make things even harder on us, we lost TO to the trade. We got some compensation for him, but I lost a great mentor and the team lost a weapon of a receiver. It was an opportunity for me to step up and show what I had, but losing a guy like that creates a big hole to fill. I was up for the challenge.
I decided to just give it my all the rest of the season, and just see what happens. No one was expecting anything out of us, so we might as well go down swinging. That’s when God blessed us with QBStew, aka Jason Stewart. He stepped up in a HUGE way for us and he, alongside Manziel, lead us to 2 straight wins in which I had 2 touchdowns and averaged over 5 yards per carry. We were back in it!
Kelly came back stronger than ever, and our team was jelling at the right time. We knew we had a shot to make the playoffs if we won in Week 7, and I’ll tell you right now, I believed we were going to win that game. I didn’t know at the time how crazy it would be, but I knew we were going to be playing more football. And that’s exactly what happened.
More football meant more opportunities for me to show the world who I am, and I can say right now, no one thought a kid from Tyler Junior College would be competing for a shot to win his 2nd straight championship. No one thought we were even going to have a chance to be in the playoffs. I consider myself a cinderella story, and to be on a team labeled as a cinderella, it had to be destiny.
Once again, people didn’t give us a chance going into the playoffs. The guys in the locker room told us we didn’t belong, that we got lucky, but we were about to prove to them why we deserved to be here.
The playoff game against the Shoulda Been Stars was our most complete game of the season. We dominated them in every aspect of the game, and they couldn’t stop us on offense to save their lives. Our fans called a great game, and Kelly was in the zone. There’s something about a guy who can get locked into a game, and #8 was keyed in on a W the whole night.
We had finally shut up most of the outside noise, but leading up to the People’s Championship, all we heard was ‘Francois this’ and ‘Stiggers that’ and ‘watch out for Cherry’, but we were ready. I was ready. A chance to play in any championship is a special occasion, but when you have millions of eyes watching, it only makes it that much more special.
The Zappers and the Apes gave the people a show. We went back and forth all game, but the feeling from the sidelines and on the field was we had this in the bag. I know I said I am a confident guy, but there was just something about this team and the story we were writing that was bound to end in us lifting up the trophy. Shoutout to the unsung hero, our defense who shut down the #1 offense in the league, because without them, I would not be in this position.
We pulled ahead to a nice lead, and when it was all said and done, I had another championship under my belt. I just knew this is what this team was capable of. I tried to tell everyone, but no one believed me. But if you doubt yourself, you aren’t able to reach your full potential.
Even though we won the championship, I’m still not satisfied. My goal has been, and always will be, to get a shot on the biggest stage of them all. I’m on the grind until I make it, and there’s nothing that can stop me. My work has been displayed in the FCF, and the results are undeniable. You take on what life throws at you, and I feel like I have made the most with what I have been given.
The journey continues for the real James Harden, and y’all better watch out for me!