Derrick Sanders had finally charted out a course for the rest of his life. A 25-year-old with an undergraduate degree in business administration from Ashford University, Sanders has bounced around various menial jobs for the past three years while failing to get a full-time office gig. He takes no particular joy in any of them, but they do what they are supposed to do: pay the bills while Sanders sows what is left of his wild oats and studies for the GRE.
Sanders had an epiphany soon after leaving Ashford. Business management was not for him. He had no passion for it. When he chose the major, it seemed like a safe career path. Now he couldn’t even get a job in the field he settled on. He realized he had made a mistake and resolved to work toward getting a graduate degree in criminal justice. Derrick Sanders decided he would make a difference.
And Derrick Sanders will, in fact, make a difference. Just not the one he had envisioned.
Because Derrick Sanders is The Next Man Up.
The knock at his door came Tuesday evening. Derrick had been doing some light studying with the TV on in the background. He knew having the TV on wasn’t great for his concentration, but he also knew this was an evening that he wouldn’t be getting much studying done anyway. His shift at Target seemed to have taken forever. One woman had come in trying to return a clock radio that was clearly a few years old and without its original packaging or receipt. When he explained store policy to her, she screamed at him for 15 minutes until security was summoned. When he heard the knock, he hoped it was his friend, Rob, with beers and a copy of Borderlands 2.
“Derrick Sanders?” asked the two men on the other side of the door. Once Derrick confirmed, they handed him an iPad.
“Take this. Memorize it,” they said. “You are to report to Chiefs practice at 0800 hours tomorrow. Congratulations, Derrick. You’re the Next Man Up.”
Derrick had heard about this, but never expected it to happen to him. When Chiefs running back Nate Eachus was declared out for Kansas City’s Week 9 game against the Chargers because of a head injury, the cries rang out. Next Man Up! Next Man Up! Next Man Up!
Started by Congress in 1987, The Next Man Up program was created to ensure that there would always be available football players to replace those felled by injury. Participation in the program is by no means mandatory, but parents can receive considerable tax benefits for taking part. Unbeknownst to Derrick, his parents had signed him up when he was at the age of six. It was lean times for them. With so many signed up, the odds were low that would ever be called up but there was still a possibility. They took a calculated risk.
It backfired. On Wednesday, Derrick Sanders reported to Chiefs practice. It was the first organized football practice of his life. It showed. The plans he had finally laid out are now on hold. For the time being, losing with the Chiefs is priority number one.