Line Smasher, by Dick Friendlich
Four out of five stars
Bill Devlin is a very good quarterback and his roommate and buddy Cliff Gear a tough-running and dependable fullback. They have been together through high school and the freshman team at Ferris College. Now, they are sophomores and eligible for the varsity, facing strong competition for their positions.
The two men are opposites in personality, Devlin is blatantly confident to the point of arrogance, while Gear is subject to significant bouts of self-doubt. It is clear to all that Devlin is the best quarterback on the team, but there is some internal dissention, as other players believe that Devlin alters his play calling to make Gear look good.
Gear’s tendency to fall into bouts of self-doubt aggravate the situation and the two buddies fight to the point where Devlin moves out. The team suffers, and it is up to Devlin and Gear to swallow a bit of pride and make peace so that the football team can get back on track. They do and play a critical role when the Ferris football team wins the big game at the end.
This is a good book of adolescent sports fiction that could have been better if the emotional angst suffered by Cliff Gear were toned down a bit. He is a good football player, there is no reason to have him act as if he had never faced significant pressure to succeed before. Devlin is cocky, but with a great deal of justification, he knows how to play the quarterback position and the team wins when he is on the field. Some negative emotion is tolerable, but a fumble or a dropped pass should not lead to anguish, just a desire to get it right next time.