With the NFL season kicking off this weekend, I hereby announce the founding of the Leger Douzable Fan Club. You are all invited to join me; I’m hoping to print up membership cards and t-shirts.
Douzable is an unsung, fringe-prospect, modestly compensated defensive lineman on a team stacked with famous, talented, and highly paid defensive linemen—my team, the New York Giants. I met him in August, when he was the longest of long shots to make the team, an undrafted 23-year-old free agent who’d already been released by another team, the Minnesota Vikings. He was, for all intents and purposes, just another body to have in camp, a big guy to throw out there on the field for practices and drills. He did have one feather in his cap, though—on the final play of the Giants’ first preseason game, he forced a fumble by the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback, and this fumble was picked up by another long-shot D-lineman, Tommie Hill, and returned for the winning touchdown.
On August 19, a couple of days after that game, I attended the Giants’ training camp on the SUNY-Albany campus with my 10-year-old son and my writer pal Peter Richmond. After watching a morning practice, we stationed ourselves in a spot where my son could request autographs from the players. The veterans were friendly enough, but it was Douzable (pictured above, with child’s face awkwardly cropped out) who charmed us, and who seemed as appreciative to have inquisitive fans as we were to talk to a (for the moment) professional football player.
First of all, that name: it is pronounced, he told us, Le-ZHERE DOOZ-able, and is easily one of the best Giant football names since Ali Haji-Sheikh, who was a placekicker for the team in the ’80s. Freshly showered, Douzable emerged from the practice facility wearing a t-shirt bearing the words BE THE CHANGE—the slogan, he explained, of the African-American Student Union at the University of Central Florida. (A Tampa native, he graduated from UCF last year and was an officer in the student union.) He sweetly accepted our congratulations on the forced fumble, kindly cradled my son for a photo-op, and, in a manner we deemed wildly optimistic bordering on delusional, talked hopefully about his chances of making the team.
Peter Richmond was so taken with our new pal Leger that he wrote a rhapsodic audio essay about him for an upstate-Connecticut radio station, WHDD, which you can listen to here or read the text of here.
But even after this whole Douzable love fest, we were resigned to the fact that our Leger would soon be cut, perhaps never again to be picked up by an NFL team. Which is why it was such a delight to learn, last week, that, against all odds, Douzable had made the final 53-man roster; not the eight-man practice squad where teams stash their raw prospects and emergency fill-ins, but the actual roster.
There’s still every chance that Douzable might get released in the course of the season—even as soon as next week, when the suspended linebacker Michael Boley is elgible for reinstatement.* But we in the Leger Douzable Fan Club look forward to seeing our guy trundle onto the field to spell the big-name defensive tackles Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Chris Canty, and Rocky Bernard. And we hope that, when he records his first sack or stuffs his first run, the scoreboard operators at Giants Stadium take us up on our suggestion to put up the words, WUZN’T THAT A DOUZ-Y!!!
* UPDATE: Sadly, on Tuesday, September 15, this exact scenario played out—our buddy Leger was waived to make room for the returning Boley and a new running back, Gartrell Johnson, who was signed to fill in for the injured Danny Ware. Still, the Leger Douzable Fan Club will remain active, and we will track his movements and career wherever it takes him.**
** UPDATE OF UPDATE: Leger was quickly picked up by the St. Louis Rams, whose new coach, Steve Spagnuolo, is the Giants’ former defensive coordinator. The saga of Douzy continues...