Texas High School Football: More Than the Game celebrates high school football and the profound role it plays in contemporary Texas culture as well as Texas’s mythology. In this compelling volume by writer Joe Nick Patoski, the epic history of the sport is illustrated through an all-star cast of legendary players and coaches, cheerleaders and drill teams, marching bands and twirlers, mascots and die-hard fanatics.
Filled with the visual pomp and spectacle of the autumn ritual, Texas High School Football digs beyond the stats to look deeper into the sport and explore its significance as the common denominator that connects individuals and creates community throughout the state, from tiny Six Man rural schools to 5A suburban giants. Using the uniforms, equipment, and ephemera of the game, from Drew Brees’s football jersey to a vintage photograph of Don Meredith escorting his high school homecoming queen, Patoski poignantly weaves an engaging visual chronicle of the pageantry engrained in the souls of Texans in every corner of the state. A cavalcade of helmets, championship rings, spirit ribbons, and homecoming mums contribute to this powerful story of high school football in Texas, where supporting the local team is a passion and a responsibility. Iconic high school football images by photographers Geoff Winningham, Laura Wilson, Jeff Wilson, and Bill Kennedy are an extra bonus in this extravagantly illustrated high school football compendium.
Texas High School Football is a true game changer—you’ll never look at high school football the same way again.
Over the past two seasons, I have traveled thousands of miles across Texas to witness Texas high school football. I have seen the game played on every level and under every condition imaginable, from tiny schools with Six Man teams played in aged stadiums where every fan's voice can be heard, to large schools with college-level programs played in modern state-of-the-art facilities in front of more than 40,000 fans. My travels took me from Brownsville to Canadian and from El Paso to Orange. It didn't matter whether the game was played in a torrid heat wave, in sleet and snow at the height of a blue norther, in a pounding rainstorm accompanied by hurricane-strength winds, in a climate-controlled indoor stadium, or under a brilliant star-lit sky on a perfect October evening — the conclusion was inevitably the same: no one does high school football like Texans do.
Football may be the American game, played by all ages and on all levels of competency, but nowhere else does it excite passions, instill pride, and generate the intensity it does in Texas on the high school level. Over 100,000 high school boys (and a few girls) participate in the sport, supported by their coaches and trainers, and the hundreds of thousands of students who march in the band, lead cheers, perform dance and drill routines, dress up as mascots, or simply sit in the stands, along with their families, friends, relatives, teachers, and plain old fans. Ask any of them and they'll tell you: Texas high school football is more than just the game.
From late August into December, lights illuminate the skies across Texas every Friday night. Each point of light marks the spot where Texas high school football is being played — in big cities, small towns, isolated rural outposts, and brand new suburbs in every nook and cranny of the state. Like cattle, horses, and the weather, high school football is that rare subject that transcends language, economic status, ethnicity, faith, and geographic differences to bring folks together. It is a game, but it is also a participatory ritual celebrating team, school, and community.
Joe Nick Patoski has been a football nut ever since attending his first football game in 1956 and securing his first chinstrap from his kindergarten teacher, who was married to TCU center Arve Martin. In high school, he participated in the Friday night ritual as a cheerleader for the Arlington Heights High School Yellow Jackets. A former staff writer for Texas Monthly, Patoski has been writing about Texas and Texans for four decades. His many publications include biographies of Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Selena.