The Slot MachineWritten by Ryan Fowler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sports geeks, like myself, love statistics.
It’s the reason we have box scores in the paper and sports almanacs on dusty bookshelves.
As sad as it sounds, when their playing days have past and they are measured up against all the greats: the numbers define the athlete.
Through the first two games of his true freshman season, UT receiver, Eric Page has 15 receptions for 266 yards (an average of 18 yards a catch) and two touchdowns. If you go by the numbers, Page is the sixth most efficient receiving in the country.
Let me repeat that, Page, who doesn’t turn 18 years old until later this month, is the sixth most efficient receiver in the country.
I would love to share with you Page’s thoughts on his fast start to his collegiate football career with the Rockets.
But that leads me to my next alarming statistic. The number of words Page has spoken to the media this season: Zero.
First-year UT head football coach Tim Beckman has a policy in place where freshman members of his football team are not permitted to speak to the media.
I can respect his wishes. What’s difficult to wrap my brain around is why we can’t talk to the hometown boy making good.
Page practically grew up right around the corner from the Glass Bowl. He attended Springfield High School, where he played nearly every position and thrived at all of them. In fact, this time last year, I wrote a Toledo Free Press column about Page’s versatility with the Blue Devils. Back then I was allowed to speak to him, and he was allowed to speak to me. With the coach muzzling his freshman players, I had to get creative with how to share his thoughts with my readers.
Then it dawned on me; I could talk to the woman who knows him best: his mom.
“It’s pretty much surreal,” said Page’s mom, Amy Weemes.
But leave it to Mom to admit she was happier with Page’s two A-grades during summer classes than his recent play on the field.
Weemes said her interaction with Page after the Purdue game was short and to the point.
“I said ‘congratulations,’” Weemes said. “He said, ‘Thanks, it was a really good time.’”
A really good time? A trip to Cedar Point is a good time. You just exposed the Boilermakers’ secondary all four quarters. Page set a Toledo freshman record with 12 receptions for 128 yards and a 34-yard touchdown play in which the 5-foot-10, 165-pound pinball bounced off Purdue defenders until he found paydirt.
The highlight found its home on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Have I mentioned Page is still 17 years old?
Amy and her son’s post-game pride-fest following the Colorado game Sept. 11 at the Glass Bowl was just as humble.
“I said ‘I am really proud of you,’” Weemes told me. “He said ‘they were double teaming me.’”
And even two Buffalo defenders couldn’t stop Page from exploding for 138 yards on three catches, including a 70-yard race to the end zone that Page won. Page’s mom did tell me that Page got on the phone with his younger brother, D.J., and the exchange was a bit more emotional.
Page kept asking his younger brother, “Did you see me?! Did you see me?!” Weemes said.
Oh, we see you Eric. And if the nation reads those box scores, they see you, too.
Weemes said 26 family members and a few friends are planning their trip to Cleveland for the Ohio State game to check out Toledo’s new “rocket fuel.”
I think it’s safe to say coach Beckman made the right choice allowing his true freshman to start in the slot receiver position.
With that said, I believe Page may have earned a new nickname come game day: The Slot Machine.
Defensive backs should be on high alert; if you leave him open, he may ring up 7s on you all day long.
Though, I should probably check with Vegas on the nickname — Page doesn’t turn 21 until Sept. 23, 2012.
Ryan Fowler is the Weekend Sports Anchor at NBC 24 News. He can be reached at email@example.com.