What does Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird do for the high school football team?
Jem is obsessed with football throughout the novel and is continually reading football magazines and making Atticus read the sports pages to him at night. Scout even describes Jem as being "football crazy," and he dreams of one day starting for the Maycomb high school football team. Towards the end of the novel, Scout comes home and wishes to discuss her teacher's hypocritical comments with Jem. Remember that, at the beginning of chapter 26, Scout mentions that Jem was too slender to make the high school football team, but he enthusiastically carried the team's water buckets around at practice. When Scout enters Jem's room to discuss Miss Gates's comments, she recalls seeing twelve banana peels on the floor and an empty bottle of milk. When Scout asks Jem what he's stuffing himself for, he tells her that coach told him that he needed to gain twenty-five pounds by next season to play.
In Chapter 26, the summer ends, and Jem and Scout return to school. As a seventh grader at his new high school, Jem is too small and too young to play for the football team in any sort of official capacity, but he is able to contribute to the team by carrying the water buckets for the players. Jem doesn't mind his new non-playing role, according to Scout, and in fact, he seems to relish being part of the team in this small way. His enthusiasm for football and for his role as water boy is so strong that he spends most of his afternoon after school with the team, and he doesn't arrive home most days until dark, leaving Scout to walk home from school alone.
The reference to Jem's playing football occurs in the opening of the novel. Scout says her brother's left arm had been broken "at the elbow" when he was twelve, which left it a bit shorter than his right arm. According to Scout, this did not bother Jem at all, once he realized he could continue to play football:
He couldn't have cared less, so long as he could pass and punt.
The implication is that Jem played the position of quarterback on the team.