Tough Guys

Full pads, full contact, no slackers allowed

"I don't want a superstar," she continues. "I just want him to have fun and to be a little boy and to be an American little boy; for us, being out for eight years, this is a big deal. This is what they were doing while we were in Indonesia, and now he gets to do it and it's really cool."


Why is it so cool? Why is it such a big deal? Particularly in Texas, where it's such a big deal they've written books about it, made a movie about it and now, a weekly TV show?

Spectator Bill Hughes tells Coach Cummins young kids don't need to be yelled at like that.
Daniel Kramer
Spectator Bill Hughes tells Coach Cummins young kids don't need to be yelled at like that.
Sometimes a good Port-a-Potty is hard to find.
Daniel Kramer
Sometimes a good Port-a-Potty is hard to find.
Veteran Mitchell Dahmer doesn't let things get too serious.
Veteran Mitchell Dahmer doesn't let things get too serious.
The Trojans roll out their banner, made by a different mom each week.
Daniel Kramer
The Trojans roll out their banner, made by a different mom each week.
Another goal line: the concession stand.
Daniel Kramer
Another goal line: the concession stand.

"Well, you know, I think a lot of it is just the nature of Texas," Bissinger reflects. "You know it's a macho state. It takes a lot of pride in its ability to be rough and tough and Texas has more small, isolated towns than any other state in the country with the exception of Alaska, which doesn't count. And you know, based on my research, since the early 1900s football was the glue that kept these places together. This really was the only show in town on a Friday night.

"Texans are about honor, they're about courage, they're about toughness, they're about independence and they're about durability and football plays into all of that, and Texas is also into violence and there's no more violent game in America than football."

Football director Murphy Graham says they're not training kids to go on and play in the NFL or get Division 1 scholarships.

"The purpose of the league is that we believe there are things you can learn playing tackle football," he says emphatically. "You can learn them in other sports, it's just not as simple. Things like teamwork, like persistence, like setting a goal, putting a team in front of your own immediate interests, respect, discipline, courage. You know when you first start playing football and there's some bigger, stronger kid you have to tackle in a drill, and you don't really realize the protection the equipment gives you. Man, it takes guts to step up there and do that. And you know, that does something to a young man. It gives you true self-esteem which comes from, you know, making yourself to do something that is difficult. Rather than somebody telling you that you're good.

"I get moms who tell me that their kids start making their beds, their grades are improving, they're saying 'yes ma'am' and 'no ma'am'. You know, I think it's a really important thing. My dad starting coaching in 1967, he coached for 18 years and he's got grown men that seek him out and want to talk to him. I mean, it's a really special thing. I feel like we're on a holy mission. I take it really serious."


This year the Trojans have lucked out. There are no ranting parents and Coach Beavers is a homework-first kind of coach. If you don't have your homework finished, you can't practice.

Rhonda Miller says when it's done like this and you make it fun and you make them want to come back again next year, it's great.

"I heard about parents acting out of line but to see it to that level (at the Longhorn game) was shocking. I shook for hours after that game. Because I've never seen...I didn't think parents talked to their children that way -- and other children.

"And if my child played on a team like that, he wouldn't. I mean, as hard as it would be to tell him, 'Sweetie, you're not playing this year,' there's no way, because I don't talk to my child that way and you're not allowed to talk to him like that either. I mean, it's supposed to be fun. All you want is for the kids to come back and play next year. Because all it takes is one bad one and scary one like that and you've ruined a child. Our kids talked about that game for days after that because they've never seen anything like that.

"But I really like this and I know the experience that we've had with our coaches and our team. Our parents are just fantastic. So it makes you, you know, you want to come out."

In the final game of the regular season, the Trojans defeated the Wildcats 34-6. At press time, the Trojans were slated to play the Mustangs, the No. 1 seed in the Blue Division in the first round of the playoffs. Whether they win or not doesn't seem to really matter, as long as there's plenty of ice cream at the concession stand.

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