‘The Walk-On’ by Richard Podkowski – A Rough Fall from Grace


‘The Walk-On’ by Richard Podkowski   (2022) – 299 pages


From star NFL middle linebacker for his football team to sitting in jail awaiting trial, Mike Stalowski has a spectacular fall from grace. And he has only himself to blame. Will Mike be able to dig himself out of his deep hole and somehow regain some self-respect?

This is a classic story that never goes out of fashion.

To his fans, Mike is the Steelman. Football is a game of controlled violence, and Mike is a warrior in a brutal game.

Growing up in a traditional Polish-Czech working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, Mike’s coaches find he has the talent, the size, and the aggression to make the big defensive plays that stop the opposing team from scoring. He gets a football scholarship to college.

Early on Mike’s mother recognizes his main character flaw.

She was fearful he could not control his emotions or brute force.”

Sometimes Mike is fueled by uncontrollable rage, and if Mike hits someone who is not dressed in football gear, odds are quite good they will wind up in the emergency room. His tackles on the football field have ended the careers of promising players.

The scouts for the professional teams were watching him develop in college, and he has the good fortune of signing a contract with the Chicago professional home team for millions of dollars. Mike achieves fame and accolades quickly for his ferocious hits on the field. All of a sudden this poor south-side boy has lots of money to spend on flashy cars, motorcycles, boats, disfiguring tattoos, etc.

After several successful crowd-pleasing years, Mike is nearing thirty and feeling the pain of all those tackles. He takes oxycodone to relieve his pains. His wife, his high school sweetheart, throws away millions of dollars on a ridiculously bad investment offered by a male friend of hers. Mike starts staying out at bars until after closing, picks up available women, gets into fights, and gets into trouble with the police and with his football team. His troubles are just beginning.

Seventeen years of countless hits, drugs, alcohol, and injuries, commingled with personal problems, took their toll.”

After his terrible fall, will Mike be able to pick himself up and save himself?

Does Mike really deserve a second chance? He has probably destroyed the careers of several young players over the years with his brutal tackles, but that’s just the controlled violence of football, and he has been paid handsomely for it.

Are the old traditional values which are inculcated into us by our family, our schools, and our churches obsolete and of no use in this modern world?

The ending of ‘The Walk-On’ defies expectations. That is all to the good.



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