Pigskin in the park

Press reporter asks Jake Plummer to throw the football

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David Cole, staff writer for The Press, prepares to launch a football to former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer Monday at McEuen Park in Coeur d’Alene.

COEUR d'ALENE - Everybody who knows me knows I'm a huge Denver Broncos fan.

And one of my favorite former Broncos has always been quarterback Jake Plummer. He was a winner for the Broncos, with a 39-15 record as a starter. But I also always liked the way he approached life in general, from what I could tell from TV and what I could read in the newspapers.

Monday afternoon, on a whim, I asked Jake if he was up for throwing the football around. I think it's great having a guy like Jake hanging around Coeur d'Alene.

"I'll do my best Rod Smith and/or Javon Walker impressions," I promised on Twitter.

"Let's do it, where you at?" he responded. Did I mention I didn't even know the guy, and he certainly didn't know me?

He had to make a stop at the post office and the hardware store, but then we met at McEuen Park.

"Where u at? I'm in yellow," he tweeted when he arrived.

Before I knew it I was out for a long pass, and a Jake Plummer perfect spiral was flying toward me. Understatement: My ability to track flying footballs and run them down has degraded in the past 20 years.

To my disappointment the ball slipped through my outstretched hands, and landed in the arms of "cornerback" and Press photographer Shawn Gust for the interception.

I caught some of Jake's passes, but I dropped a bunch, too. One perfect pass from Jake hit me smack in the face. There is far more pain in admitting that simple fact than there was in it actually happening.

It was generous of Jake, who is 39 and a father these days, to give me a chance to catch any passes at all. Catching one pass from him would be plenty to give me something to brag about for years to my family back in Denver.

He seemed to be having fun, though. He called on me to run routes he liked to throw. He rolled and scrambled out from the pocket. He gently pointed out that my drop into Gust's arms would have put a pick on the stat sheet against him.

It was great to see a 10-year NFL star enjoying himself under such ordinary circumstances. He could have definitely thrown a lot more passes, too, if I hadn't gotten so winded.

Jake just seemed happy to be playing on a sunny day in a city he loves. Playing anything. Enjoying retirement. It could have been basketball, baseball, water-skiing, Jenga, whatever.

I've read in the past, upon his retirement from the NFL, about him purging the game of football from his system. Recently, I've read about him returning to the sport where, when and how he wants.

There is no doubt in my mind he is returning, in his way and on his terms.

What the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and $5.3 million dollars couldn't get him to do back in 2007, he did for me, a fan, for absolutely nothing - play football.

David Cole, left, chats with Jake Plummer about his career in the NFL and his life after retiring following the 2006 season.

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