William “The Refrigerator” Perry was a little before my time, but he was a big influence on me growing up. When you talk about linemen scoring touchdowns, he was the guy. Running the ball, catching the ball — he did it all. That’s what made me want to be a lineman who scores touchdowns: Watching The Fridge. He gave all us linemen hope.
Offensive linemen have always been the unsung guys on offense. When we do our jobs, it makes the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers look good. They get all the shine. And we’re cool with that. It’s part of the job. People don’t own us on fantasy teams. Catching passes and scoring touchdowns isn’t a part of our game.
So when one of us does get a chance to make a play on offense and get into the end zone, we gotta make the most of it — for ourselves, and for all the linemen all over the world.
I’ve gotten that chance three times in my 10-year NFL career, and hopefully there’s a lot more to come. Laying a huge hit or putting a guy on his back feels great and all, but ain’t nothin’ like scoring a touchdown.
But it’s not as easy as it looks. Just like any other play in football, you gotta execute on the fundamentals.
This is The Art of the “Big Man” Touchdown.
Step 1. Talk Your Coaches Into It
This is the hardest part, man. Hands down.
Everybody wants to catch touchdowns. Everybody thinks they can catch touchdowns. But even if you show off in practice, gameday is something totally different. Coaches are crazy protective over their play-calling.
I wasn’t always the 6-foot-4, 315-pound offensive tackle I am today. In fact, I didn’t even start playing football until I was a sophomore in high school. I was an All-State basketball player in California. So I’ve always been an athlete, and I’ve always had pretty good hands.
Back when I was with the Bucs, I was one of those guys who was always in the coach’s ear, joking around at practice about getting the ball.
“I got hands, man. I can run the ball, too. Ya’ll just gotta give me a chance!”
“Sorry, Penn. If I do it for you, I gotta do it for every lineman who thinks he can catch.”
Then, one day, I got lucky. In a game against the Eagles, the defense swatted down a pass at the line of scrimmage and it deflected right to me. I caught it and took off. I broke a couple tackles and ran it for 15 yards and a first down.
After that play, I was in my coaches’ ear for real.
“Yo, I told you! Now you see what to do with the ball. Ya’ll need to throw me the ball on a tackle-eligible play. When I get out there, it’s on!”
I started hassling them more and more, and finally, the next season, they came around. They installed a goal-line play for me to score.
Then, we were on the road in San Francisco in 2010 — just up the road from Los Angeles, where I grew up — and I had like 60 family members in the stands to watch me. I was telling the coaches on the sidelines over and over: “You gotta call my play!”
We were up 14-0 in the fourth quarter and we were down on the one-yard line.
And they finally called it.
It felt like I scored a touchdown for all the linemen all over the world. My whole family got to see it, and they had no idea it was coming. I was so excited that I didn’t even really celebrate. I just jumped up like a little kid, ran across the field and tried to throw the ball into the stands to where my family was sitting.
It landed a couple rows short, but they still ended up getting the ball.
I told my coaches I had hands. They finally listened, and I made sure it paid off.
But let’s talk about how it actually went down. Let’s talk about the play.
Step 2: Sell the Block
You’re an offensive lineman. Nobody thinks you’re going to release out and catch a pass.
That’s the beauty of it.
But if you just burst out into the secondary and throw your hands up looking for the ball, somebody in that secondary is going to spot you and cover you. That’s what they do.
The play we run for me is like the one most teams run, and it’s pretty simple. I line up in my normal OT position and report as eligible. When the ball is snapped, instead of releasing out and turning around to look for the ball, I block down — like I would on any other play — and wait for the defense to read the play and react. Once the defense commits to the play, I release out into the flat. The receiver on the outside runs the cornerback off to clear the flat, and nobody follows me out when I release because, well, let’s face it: I’m the offensive tackle. Why the hell would I be out there?
But the key is selling the block. You have to make whoever’s in coverage on your side think nobody is releasing on that side, so they go find something else to do. Hold that block for a two-count, and when the coast is clear, sneak out, and you’re all alone.
Step 3: Catch the Rock
It’s hard enough to get the coaches to put the play in the playbook. It’s even harder to get them to call your play. But if they throw you the rock and you don’t haul it in, kiss your touchdown-catching days goodbye.
It’s the simplest but most crucial step in the process.
You only get one shot. Don’t blow it.
Catch the rock.
Step 4: Celebrate
This is where the magic happens. This is what sets the “big man” touchdown apart.
The “big man” celebration.
When I scored that first touchdown in San Francisco, I didn’t really celebrate. But the second time I got into the end zone, I didn’t waste it.
It came during the 2013 season, which was a rough one in Tampa. Going into a game against the Dolphins, we hadn’t won a game all year — we were 0-8. In the first quarter, we got down to the one-yard-line, and they called my play. And it was on Monday Night Football, so the whole world got to see it.
And I knew what I was gonna do for the celebration before I even scored.
That was the year that Jimmy Graham was scoring a lot of touchdowns and everybody was making a big deal about him dunking the ball on the uprights, so I had to let the world know I could throw it down, too.
I still got a little of that All-State baller from high school left in me …
And that was the weekend the NFL was celebrating the troops, so you know I had to cap it off with a salute for the men and women who serve this great country.
Then I moved on to Oakland. I grew up a Raiders fan, so it was incredible to put on that Silver and Black. But to score a touchdown in a Raiders uniform? That was a dream come true. And the only thing that could top the feeling of scoring a touchdown in a Raiders uniform was what happened after that touchdown.
Growing up and watching Raiders games, I remember always seeing the Black Hole. So when I caught that TD pass, that’s where I went. Straight for the Black Hole.
They were hugging me, slapping my helmet, spilling beer on me — the whole Black Hole experience. That was one of the coolest moments of my life.
But one thing I’ve never done is dance after scoring a touchdown, which is what most people really want to see: A guy out there shaking his 300-plus pounds in celebration.
I like this one from Anthony Castonzo of the Colts.
First, I like the way he did his own thing and then went to celebrate with his teammates. But he was ready for that touchdown, too. He had that dance in the holster. He said the dance was actually from a character on the old Street Fighter video game — the dance a guy named Dalshim did after every win.
As a guy who grew up in the ‘90s, I gotta respect that.
But the best touchdown dance from a lineman I’ve ever seen has to be Warren Sapp, hands down. When he scored a touchdown on offense with the Bucs back in 1999, he killed it with his dance.
At the time, I didn’t know what he was doing. I just thought it was hilarious. Then I heard somebody say he was doing some kind of a Beyonce dance. But I don’t know … I don’t think it looked like that when Beyonce did it.
Warren Sapp definitely wins the best “big man” touchdown dance.
I might have to get in on the touchdown dance next time I get in the end zone. I’ve already done the dunk (and that’s against the rules now — thanks, NFL), and you know if I score at home in Oakland I’m going right back to the Black Hole. Hopefully it happens soon, because it’s been too long.
So don’t be afraid to slide it in this week, coach. You know I’m ready.