Emotion puts Patton on another level
YOU could hear it, hear it in his voice, the whole stadium could, the emotion through the microphone as Kenny Patton let out a victory cry as he passed an official's mic.
You could hear it. See it, as he exulted, after making Nevada's Jack Darlington catch that ball out of bounds, just out of the corner of the end zone on that final defensive stand. Pumping his fist, jumping, rejoicing, screaming, howling into the night. Playing with emotion, showing himself the way Kenny Patton never has.
You could feel it. You could feel it with him. Patton has waited five years for a game like this. For a win like this. A night like this.
"This is the greatest one I've had since I've been here," he said. "Especially with that defensive stand at the end."
Yes, this was different.
He was different.
Patton had always seemed so perfect, so polite, so reserved. So nice. This guy was a wild man, this night. He even gambled, taking a would-be pooch punt, stealing it right out of the air, snagging it and running, logic be damned.
He's a new man.
"I saw that the ball was shanked, so I thought, 'Oh, I might as well go and get it,' you know, as it was going by me, get a couple free yards," he said.
But don't worry, he had permission. He'd asked Mouse Davis if he could do it, should the situation ever come up. He got the thumbs up. So last night, he gambled, and he grabbed it, and he ran 18 yards.
"I trust my hands, you know," he said. "I used to play receiver, last spring."
And then he laughed, when he said that. It's an inside joke now, it's OK. They'd moved him to receiver -- a position that was loaded, he'd have no chance to start -- for his senior season to move him. New DBs were coming in.
He'd played courageously, with injury. But new DBs were coming in. That's business.
And he can laugh about his receiver adventure now. It's past him. He's making plays and feeling good. He just had the game of his life.
"Oh, yeah. I have faith in myself," he said, after Hawaii held off the Wolf Pack 41-34 in a game that went down to the last stand. "I'm healthy for the first time in my career. I feel like I'm healthy, in shape."
He's showing emotion. After all of those years, he's letting everything hang out. He knows how Nate Ilaoa feels.
"It's exciting," he said. "You're not afraid of anything. Not, 'Oh, my shoulder,' 'Oh, my hamstring,' 'Oh, my knee.' You're just healthy, ready to go."
Sitting in that locker room, amid all the yelling, he talked about all the doctors and trainers and all their work through all these years.
He's a different man now. The emotion. The letting loose. The joy.
He was told he just looks like a different player, this year. And at this, Kenny Patton flexed a muscle. And laughed. The laugh of a man who's come out the other side.
He was talking about this game, this night, that last defensive stand. ("Leonard always says when we practice goal line, 'We've got them right where we want them,' " Patton said.) And as he talked about that stand, this game, it was obvious he just might be talking about something else, too.
"You don't quit," he said. "You never quit."