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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Required Reading

Jim Dent wrote The Junction Boys, a wonderful book about Bear Bryant's first season at Texas A&M and the training camp of attrition that Bryant held in Junction, Texas to see who was tough enough to play for him (the camp proved to be so tough that the Aggies had little left for the regular season). Dent did a great job with that book; ESPN dishonored it by having a bunch of no-name Aussie actors who couldn't get the Texas accents right in the telemovie that was yet another ESPN made-for-TV flop.

Dent outdid himself with his latest effort, entitled Twelve Mighty Orphans, about the Mighty Mites of the Masonic Home in Fort Worth, Texas in the 1930's and early 1940's, who, despite the size of their school and their players, competed for the Texas state championship in football every year. Fielding teams that averaged about 145 pounds per player and that had rosters of as few as 12, Coach Rusty Russell's "Mighty Mites" became the darlings of Texas and even that nation the way Seabiscuit did during that same era. (Russell himself was an amazing story, surviving a mustard gas attack during World War I that robbed him of much of his sight.)

This is just one great read. The circumstances that brought many of the kids to the orphanage were dire, and the boys at the orphanage were survivors, plain and simple. A few were to make it all the way to the NFL, and the play of one inspired a future Hall of Famer, Ronnie Lott, to become the most feared hitter of his era. Football aside, it's a story of an innovative and compassionate coach who could have forsaken the Masonic Home year after year, electing to return.

How did he win? Oh, by implementing an offense that today is known as the "spread" offense. Rusty Russell was an innovator, a coach way before his time, and he had to figure out ways to beat teams that outweighed his Mighty Mites and had much more depth.

Read this book or buy it and give it to a friend or family member for the holidays. If you're a coach, give it to your captains or your upperclassmen.


Anonymous guest007 said...

Next summer order yourself a copy of Dave Campbell's Texas Football. Just flipping through the pages would help anyone understand Texas High School Football.

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