Tuesday, December 25, 2012
One word from one guy said it all.
On December 15th, I had the pleasure of being the MC for the reunion of the 1992 State Champion Waxahachie Indian football team. In case you did not attend my high school and don't know, they were a 16-0 team that won it all my senior year. And the highlight video we watched was awesome. I could go on and on about how dominant they were on the line of scrimmage. There was one play where Joe Garber just threw the center into the QB to destroy the play. I could tell you how smooth Lamont Moore and Sammy Overton were when they put their foot in the ground and cut up field. I could tell you that if you just watched Eric Farrar on every defensive play, you'd see the tackle 7 out of 10 plays. I could tell you that when John Dollar got in the open field, he was gone. You weren't going to catch him. I could go on and on.
But that wasn't why it was so cool to be there, or why I am writing this now. It's because those football players and coaches got up there and talked about relationships. That's what mattered to them. Not punts, passes, or points. Just people. And it came from the most unlikely places.
First Eric Farrar said the word "relationships". Then he said it again....then again...then again. He mentioned looking up Sammie Overton when he got to town and they shared a moment. Now Eric did always have a wild sense of humor, could be a little bashful at times, and the drinks were flowing. But he set the tone, even if he did not mean to. This was the starting MLB of the State Champs baby. Eric was the fire, energy, and guts of that football team. And after 20 years, he didn't recall a play or take us through a game memory. He didn't shout out some chant they did before taking the field. No, after 20 years, he wanted to talk about relationships, cause that's what mattered. Thanks for breaking it down, 41.
The next shocker came from Corey Crane. Corey played D line back then and was, in a word, crazy. He was a wild, crazy, fun-loving country boy if there ever was one. When Corey talked, he said how cool he thought it was that a lot of the guys got to grow up together from a young age. They met in elementary school, played pee wee football together, had fun together, and then got to graduate with a state championship ring on their finger. Again, like others, he did not talk about football that much. He talked about the guys coming over to his house for a swimming party. It was good stuff.
Then Coach Wofford surprised me too. Coach Wofford is what I would describe as a hard core football type. He was pretty intense back in the day, and doesn't strike you as the emotional type. But there he was 20 years later talking about the importance of this group for him. And he was the first one to almost let a tear fall. He said the coaches would do anything for each other. He said when he sees players and coaches from the '92 team, he tells them he loves them. I'll bet a couple grown men in that room had to choke back some emotion on that one. Hell I did, and I wasn't on the team. Coach Wofford also told a story about getting to see two of his players face each other in the NFL. He said the word "coach" has a special meaning to NFL guys, and he was given instant respect from an NFL veteran because he was a coach. Everybody always talks about the effect coaches have on players. We sometimes forget the impact players can have on coaches. Coach Wofford, thanks for a fantastic story.
Overall, the thing that stood out was how connected they all seemed even though it was 20 year later. Once a team, always a team I guess. They came from different parts of town. Some had two parents, some had one. Some may have had no parents around growing up. They represent multiple racial backgrounds and ways of life. But they all came together for a common purpose. They are and will always be brothers. I wouldn't take a swing at any one of them if I were you, at least not with any other team members nearby. You'd have four or five of his brothers on you before you could even draw a second punch. It was true in 1991 as they built a championship. It was true in 1992 as they won a championship. It was true in 2012 as they celebrated a championship. They will be a team forever.
That's what's so great about sports and activities for kids. Being part of a team is a great feeling. And when you talk about high school football, the extensions of that team make it special. From the band to the booster club. From the Flag Corps to the Cherokee Charmers (our drill team). From the fans that follow them around the state to the parents that help them through life. And from the student body to the coaches, high school football is a family like no other. That's why I went back to see them and talk about them after 20 years. I grew up with them and around them. The coaches that guided them also helped guide me. Those relationships helped define that part of my life.
Thanks again to Lamont Moore, LeeAnn Fletcher Garber, Andy Sanchez, and everyone that put it together.
Thanks to Coach Phillips for being there and tying everything together like he does so well. We are so proud that he was our head coach for that magical season.
Thanks to the guys that brought up Travis Allstot, the first member of the 1992 team to die. You can tell the team carries him in their hearts and always will.
And finally, thanks to everyone that was there for reminding me that no matter what we do, where we go, or how long we stay away, there are only three things that matter....relationships.......relationships.........relationships.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
I am a pro wrestling fan. Back in 1996, Wrestlemania XII featured a moment that all wrastlin' fans remember. Shawn Michaels rode the zip line from the rafters down to the ring, won the world title, and a legend was born. As he flew, then ring announcer Vince McMahon yelled out "Ohhh What a ride..." But what I've never thought about until now is the chance Shawn took that night. As he stepped off the ledge, he didn't just face the fear of falling. He faced the fear of failing. He had gone from a good guy in a tag team to a bad guy on his own. He betrayed his partner and the fans that loved him. But in the end, he was good enough to make the gamble pay off.
On June 29th, two days before A&M officially became an SEC member, a redshirt freshman named Johnny Manziel was arrested. The first time many people heard the name "Johnny Football", it was this story and the jokes that followed. So now Aggies had to drop some needs and focus on baby steps.
- Step 1, win an SEC game or two. And it would be nice if one win wasn't called Ole Miss.
- Step 2, Try to make a bowl game. A 7+ win season would give Aggieland, Sumlin, and the guy in the bow tie something to build on.
So the Aggies stood at the beginning of the season. Mother Nature moved the schedule around and made the first game Florida. That's right, Florida. And A&M had to face Will Muschamp's defense with a redshirt freshman QB. Oh yeah, forgot to mention that part. The same guy that was arrested in Northgate for fighting and passing fake ID's had taken the job in Fall camp.
Now like Shawn Michaels in '96, the Aggies did have talent. The offensive line brought back some studs. The RB position was solid as were the receivers. If the QB and leaders on defense could just bring it together, they might be all right. So were they ready? Could they compete in the best conference in college football? Or in the Michaels analogy, could they go from being just a Rocker to being HBK?
WWJFFD? - I think you know the rest. These Aggies have blown by everyone's expectations, even their own. Tonight, Johnny Manziel won the Davey O'Brien Award. He is the first freshman and first Aggie to win it. Luke Joeckel won the Outland Trophy, also a first for the school. And Saturday night, Manziel is up for the Heisman. Since the day I was born, an Aggie has never even been invited to New York. John David Crow won A&M's only Heisman in 1957. That's 55 long years. And while most projections have Manziel winning the award, I'll sit back and wait to count those chickens. But he doesn't have to win for the 2012 Aggie story to be complete. In many ways it already is. Back in '96, Shawn Michaels wasn't trying to prove he was the best ever. He was just trying to prove he belonged in that ring with Bret Hart. The Aggies have taken that step, flown down to the ring, and walked the walk. No more tag team partners. No more little brothers. No more shadows. They have proven they can stand tall and compete on the biggest stage in college football. Congrats to the Aggies for daring to dream. What a ride indeed.