Football practices begin today, which means that football has officially returned.
I could provide a thousand reasons why you all should be excited about this news, but for the sake of space, I am only going to mention five.
“Just the Friday night feeling is great,” Tivy senior defensive tackle Gonzalo Hernandez said. “Just the community knowing that it’s Friday night and it’s just game day — I think that’s what’s exciting about it all.”
1. Hickman’s motivational talks
Every year, someone films Tivy defensive coordinator Jeremy Hickman giving a motivational speech to his players. And every year, these videos end up going viral on social media.
Hickman’s speeches have almost become the stuff of legend in Kerrville, with both former and current players raving about them. These speeches are never planned. Hickman merely senses when his players need encouragement and tries his best to find the right words to galvanize them.
These addresses typically focus on persevering through difficult situations — with Hickman often reminding his players that the habits they form in high school will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
“I want to inspire the kids to be something great and to do something they never thought they could accomplish” Hickman said. “Hopefully, I can say some things that stick with them, and then later in life when they face a hard situation, they will think back to something i said that maybe touched them.”
2. The moment before kickoff
Before kickoff, and even before they run through the “TFND” banner, Tivy’s football players embrace their parents outside the team locker room, saying “I love you” to them one last time before they enter the field.
It’s one of the more touching traditions in high school sports. Parents invest a lot of time and energy into their children’s athletic careers. This brief exchange before kickoff is the players’ small way of saying “thank you” to their parents for all their support.
It’s a scene that I always enjoy watching during football season.
“You aren’t just playing for your teammates, but you can look up at the stands before and after games knowing that your parents are going to be there for you cheering you on,” Senior receiver Stoney Rhodes said.
3. Defensive linemen touchdowns
This also qualifies as one of the most beautiful scenes in football — a defensive lineman either intercepting a pass, or scooping up a fumble, and rumbling toward the end zone for a touchdown.
In football jargon, this is called a “fat-guy” touchdown. But I have elected instead to call them “defensive-linemen” touchdowns, because it’s not cool to body shame in 2019 (and also because most of the local high school linemen are actually in really good shape).
Defensive linemen touchdowns are rarities. Sometimes, you can go a whole season without ever witnessing one. But when they do happen, they’re always memorable. One of the best moments from Tivy’s 2018 season was a defensive linemen touchdown, the moment when Cary Easley collected a fumble and galloped five yards for the go-ahead touchdown during Tivy’s 24-14 win over Southside in the Area Round.
Hernandez is hoping to give Tivy fans a similar moment of ecstasy this fall.
“I have always dreamed of scoring a touchdown,” Hernandez said. “That would be so much fun. I think a lot of people would love to see that, too. A big guy like me scooping up the ball and scoring? I think a lot of people would love to see that.”
4. Pep Rallies
Most schools host pep rallies the morning before Friday Night Lights, and these rallies are another reason to be excited about the upcoming football season. They help unite the student body: the band energizes the crowd by playing the school’s fight song, Tivy’s golden girls always give a great performance and a football player usually gives a rousing speech about how they are going to destroy the other team in the upcoming game.
Also, they get students out of class.
“The pep rallies are so much,” Hernandez said. “The drum line is always exciting.”
5. Finding cool places to eat
Football parents (or just high-school football fanatics in general) spend a lot of Fridays in the fall traveling to different towns for football games. Most of the time, they like to enjoy a hearty meal before kickoff.
If they are boring people, they will settle for Chili’s or Ruby Tuesday. If they are cool, they will search for a private restaurant that’s special to the local community.
Trying to find a (good) hole-in-the-wall restaurant before a football game is an underrated part of the fall experience, and another reason to get excited about the upcoming football season.
But beware: Picking the right restaurant for your friend group is a massive responsibility. If you choose poorly, your friends will ridicule you for the rest of your life.
For example: Before Tivy’s regional semifinal game against Port Lavaca Calhoun in San Marcos last year, my friend group allowed local radio personality, Justin Stieler, to select the restaurant before the game. Stieler normally does a fantastic job of finding local spots, but on this occasion, he took us to a really pretentious brunch place with small portions and overpriced food (He claims it was an accident). Mark Keller, the voice of the Tivy Antlers, still teases him about it today. It was Keller’s first introduction to brie.
“We could have eaten a nice, juicy steak, but Justin picked out a joint that was fit for the finest debonair,” Keller said. “Honestly, it was when Justin ordered the brie that really put it over the top for me. … That was embarrassing.”
The moral of that story? As long as you avoid going to a snooty brunch joint, you should have plenty of reasons to be excited about football season.