I started this book on the Thanksgiving holiday, when football is on the mind of most sports fans who celebrate the holiday, and while it took a little time to complete, this was probably one of the more interesting and fun books I have read on the sport. Here is my review of a book on tight ends, "The Blood and Guts"
“The Blood and Guts: How Tight Ends Save Football” by Tyler Dunn
5 of 5 stars (excellent)
The position of tight end in football is one of the most challenging positions. For a player to excel in this position, he must have the strength to block defensive linemen who may weigh over 300 pounds, be smart enough to read pass coverage by linebackers and safeties, and also be quick enough to outrun 180-pound cornerbacks. But as any football fan knows, there are many who have not only played this position but have done so at a very high level. Some of these exceptional tight ends are profiled in this entertaining book by Tyler Dunn.
It should be noted that this is not a ranking of the best players to play the position and it is not meant to be taken that just because a player is not profiled that he would not be considered one of the best to have suited up at tight end. It starts with Mike Ditka, who began the change of strategy in the use of tight ends to be effective pass receivers as well as blockers. Dunn interviews and shares the stories of 15 tight ends from Ditka to George Kittle and in between, there are so many interesting stories, on-field recaps and very personal memories.
Of the memories and stories, I felt the most emotional ones were for Dallas Clark (who lost his mother to a heart attack) and for Jimmy Graham, who was literally dropped off by his mother at a group home with his clothes in a garbage bag. Those two stories both resulted in producing great tight ends who would stop at nothing to succeed. The circumstances are very different and their paths were certainly not identical, but they both made for compelling reading.
That isn’t to say that every player profiled in this book had tragic or hard stories. Some were out of fear (hard to believe Tony Gonzalez didn’t want to play football because he was afraid of the hard contact), some were just from the “boys being boys” category (Jeremy Shockey’s battles with his siblings) and some were just fun (Rob Gronkowski is probably the most notable party animal). But they, along with all the other tight ends profiled, had in common an unquenchable appetite for success and an incredible work ethic to make sure he did his best to achieve that success.
It should also be noted that while the actual game text is not plentiful in this book, the plays and games that are covered are recapped in an excellent manner. The most compelling of these is one of the most incredible individual performances in NFL history – Kellen Winslow’s performance in the 1982 playoffs for the San Diego Charges in their memorable win over the Miami Dolphins. That is just one example of the in-game coverage that is very good when it is presented in the context of that player’s story.
Football fans who remember many of the great tight ends since the era of Ditka and John Mackey will love reading about these players, their stories and their performances. For me, this book was much like Gronkowski’s early NFL career – just a lot of fun to read.
I wish to thank Twelve Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.