Out of the Park

Aaron started at East End Little League.
Courtesy of Aaron Trevio

Call it the Aaron Treviño mystique. Any given Saturday, at the Little League ball fields in the East End, little pitchers and catchers and outfielders set their sights on something newly attainable: hitting, throwing and being like Aaron Treviño.

"When he throws the ball when he's pitching, he kicks his leg really high, and that's what I try to do every game," says Manuel Carillo, a 13-year-old Little League pitcher and first baseman. "I kinda look up to him. I wanna be like him."

"I heard that he pitches real fast and he has good hitting," says Rudy Rodriguez, an 11-year-old pitcher and catcher. "And he got a four-year scholarship to college."

Even the littlest ones have taken interest. The East End Tigers, an energetic team of seven- and eight-year-olds, have to count their fingers to remember their ages, but they know the number on the back of Aaron Treviño's green Austin High Mustangs jersey: No. 11. And, of course, they want to be Mustangs too.

Aaron Treviño is a high school senior from El Segundo Barrio, or the Second Ward, Houston's historically Mexican neighborhood east of downtown. It's a working-class community crisscrossed with railroad tracks and dotted with ramshackle homes, where there's a growing movement toward revitalization. Aaron attends HISD's High School for Law Enforcement, a magnet school for kids who hope to be cops, lawyers and judges, but plays baseball for Austin, his neighborhood high school, because Law Enforcement doesn't have its own team.

If it weren't for a breakout season (he'd never hit a home run in a high school game until his first at bat this year), Aaron, reticent and unassuming, wouldn't stand out from the hundreds of other high school baseball players in the Houston area. But that's not the way this story goes.

He swung for the fences with the Austin Mustangs -- a below-average team of Hispanic kids from the inner city -- at a time when Houston's best high school baseball players are a little paler and more suburban. He had more home runs and a higher batting average than most players inside and outside the Loop, and accomplished as much using institutions familiar to East Enders: the neighborhood Little Leagues and the local high school. It's an unusual reality for folks in his neighborhood to witness.

They usually see their best players take advantage of HISD's magnet system to play for distant schools with better teams. They usually see local talent go underdeveloped for lack of access to prohibitively expensive clinics and select teams. They usually see Austin High School players fall by the wayside -- either dropping out or chasing girls or getting jobs to help support their families. But this year Aaron Treviño made it. Next year he's off to college. And now everyone else wants to make it, too.

Going into the game against the Sam Houston Tigers, the fifth-to-last game of the season, Aaron ranked fourth in home runs and fifth in batting average among all Class 5A ball players, placing him in the company of standouts from Nimitz and Stratford and other strong suburban schools. With a swing of the bat, he'd managed to "take them boys' manhood," as one high school coach put it. A handful of Austin fans ventured out to Delmar Field to see if his hitting streak would continue.

Delmar is an HISD athletic complex nestled in the junction of Highway 290 and Loop 610, where the sounds of traffic usually drown out the battle cries from the stands. At the Wednesday-evening game, all but two of the spectators on the Austin side of the stands looked Hispanic. The other two looked white -- one guy was wearing an Astros shirt and the other a Major League Baseball cap. Both were clearly Major League scouts. Both were there to watch Aaron.

It was the first time that pro scouts had ever seen him play, though these two seemed more amused by their own company than by the action of the game. "He's a good ball player -- that's all I can tell you," said one as the other sat silently, waiting to resume what must have been a riveting conversation.

When Aaron and the Mustangs took the field in the bottom of the third, the sun had just dipped below the highway's horizon, and the opposing Tigers had already slapped four runs on the board. Aaron, playing third that night, bobbled a routine ground ball in the middle of the inning, and the scouts stopped to take notice.

"I thought it would bounce right," Aaron told his coach, Lywen Bradford, on his way to the dugout after the inning. Bradford, a former football and baseball pro, had tried to instill a winning spirit in his first year coaching the Mustangs. Aaron bought into the coach's program, and says he owes much of his senior-year success to what he learned from Bradford.  

At the top of the next inning, Aaron, the second batter to the plate, smacked a ball deep to right field and rounded the bases to second for a stand-up double. The Austin fans jumped to their feet. The scouts took quiet notice and, having seen enough, left the field.

After the game, Aaron met with his father, Jesse, who had waited behind to shake each player's hand despite a nine-run loss. Their conversation turned to all the attention that Aaron had drawn in the final games of the season: College coaches, newspaper reporters and now pro scouts all had descended out of the blue to watch him play.

"I try to ignore it," Aaron said as he walked toward the yellow bus that would take him back to Austin. Inner-city baseball doesn't usually bring about such hype. The urban neighborhoods that once breathed life into the game are often overlooked, and it's evident at all levels of the game. Only the supergifted are recruited by Division I colleges and universities. The others end up at Division II, junior college or historically black schools. Major League Baseball, led by the likes of Hank Aaron and Willie Mays in the '70s, is getting whiter and whiter, notwithstanding a largely Caribbean Hispanic contingent. Our own Houston Astros are one of baseball's whitest teams.

But somehow Aaron wasn't worried about all that. For him, baseball was still just a game. It was simple -- "See the ball, hit the ball," like his fans always said.

He would learn in his final games that it's not always that easy.

Like most kids in the Second Ward, Aaron began playing baseball at one of the Little League parks in the neighborhood. His father tells the story of how his then-chubby son started at East End Little League, a park just a couple of blocks from Austin High.

"The Espinozas moved in across the street, and they were the baseball family," he says. "Aaron would see them playing, and one day he picked up on it, just like that." Their new neighbors noticed young Aaron's arm strength and suggested that he take up T-ball. "That's how it all started. I became an assistant coach to keep an eye on him."

Manny Carillo, the president of East End Little League and father of player Manuel, remembers Aaron as a shy, average player. "He wasn't the best athlete when he played here, but he always tried," he says. "That's what people noticed about him. He'd be out here on Sundays working, trying to get better. When he was 12, he made that turn. That's when you could see that he was gonna be good."

Aaron got his start at East End, but Dixie, OFA, Magnolia Park and Denver Harbor also serve the kids of the East End/Second Ward community. More than anything, the leagues are family enterprises -- the parents who run them are filled with sentiment and heavy rhetoric of "saving the kids" and "raising good citizens."

"Little League is not about making ball players," says Don Davis, a blue-collar worker who volunteers to take care of the East End fields and has seen his son and grandson play at the league. "It's about teaching respect and stepping up to be a leader. We teach them how to suffer in the agony of defeat." There's something all-American about it. For some families it's about continuing tradition. For others, like the Treviños, it's about providing children with opportunities that their parents may not have had.

It's a spirit of optimism and self-improvement that's maintained despite scant financial resources.

"Of all the leagues around here, we are one of the lowest-income areas," says Arturo Salas, president of Magnolia Park Little League. "A lot of our kids come from single-parent homes. And a lot of the kids don't pay. If we made everyone pay, we would lose 100 kids." His league covers the extra costs with sponsors and fund-raising, but oftentimes that's not enough.

"The hard part about Little League in the inner city versus in the suburbs -- like the Pearland and Sagemont-Beverly Hills areas -- is that they have the big sponsorships that we can't have," Carillo says. "Since we're a city park, the city won't allow us to put up big billboards for sponsors, but in Pearland and Sagemont they're allowed to do that. All we can do is put banners on the fence. When we go to the suburbs, you can see the difference. They have the advantage of coaching and their community."  

The Council of Houston Inner-City Little Leagues, or CHILL, is a consortium of urban Little Leagues that wants to level the playing field. "Resources like pitching lessons aren't available to our kids like they might be in the suburban neighborhoods," says Frank Velasquez, CHILL president. "Suburban leagues might have access to a parent or a sponsor that might put up 5,000 bucks for a clinic. Our resources aren't there." So CHILL hopes to raise money to make up the difference.

But it hasn't yet received any major donations, so inner-city Little Leaguers still have to work doubly hard to keep up. It takes dedicated coaches, talent and a little luck for them to succeed. Family support is just as crucial.

When Aaron and Austin's shortstop, Ray Cortez, won baseball scholarships to Alcorn State, a historically black school in Mississippi, Coach Bradford organized an afternoon banquet. In a warm conference room at the school, he covered long folding tables with shimmery pink plastic tablecloths and hung poster-sized color photographs of Aaron and Ray on the wall. There was a table in the front of the room where the two athletes and their parents would sit, press conference-style. The plan was for the kids to sign their National Letters of Intent in front of the cameras. Friends and family took off from school and work to attend.

They were the first Austin athletes in 40 years to win Division I scholarships. The banquet should have been a culminating moment for the parents. "I get a lot of attention for getting them in school," Bradford says, "but it's the parents that have been the coaches for the last 17 years."

But because of a conflict in scheduling, Alcorn State never sent the letters. Coach Bradford, in his Sunday finest, paced the hallway near the fax machine, but the phone didn't ring. After waiting for more than an hour, the coaches decided to have a mock signing for the cameras. "It's a special occasion no matter what," said Bradford. The boys signed blank pieces of paper. The families would have to wait a little longer to reap the rewards of their efforts -- to fully actualize that generational status jump.

Jesse Treviño was born in a border town in the Rio Grande Valley. With his alcoholic father gone, his single mother raised him and his twin brother as she traveled from state to state looking for field work.

Aaron's mother, Yolanda, is a native Houstonian who grew up in the Clayton Homes, a public housing project now across the street from Minute Maid Park. When her family bought a home in the Second Ward in the late '60s, they were the first Mexican-Americans on an all-white block. Her father still lives in that home -- the green house across the street from where the Treviños live now.

The Treviños have a small well-decorated home with a front yard and a metal fence so that Buddy, their feisty rat terrier, will stay put. The family is well-off compared to many others in the community -- there are shacks just a few doors down.

Jesse Treviño works at the Dow Chemical Plant in Freeport. Yolanda Treviño works in the billing office at Baylor College of Medicine. Together they run a traditional household. "I'm from the old school," Yolanda Treviño says. On weekends she washes and irons everyone's clothes for the week, Aaron's baseball uniform included. Dinner is always ready when Aaron comes home from practice. "I'm not always here because I work, but in terms of what they need, what they want and three meals a day, Mama is still here."

Aaron has no complaints. "I have everything I need and everything I want. Even if my parents couldn't afford it, they would still do it for us. That's just how they are."

His folks are as strong-willed as they are supportive, but Aaron has never been one to buck his parents. "Ryan and I were always the problem children -- the loud and rowdy ones," his sister Cindy says. Cindy, 21, is the oldest of the three, and Ryan, 13, is the youngest. "Aaron's an angel. All he did was keep to himself and play baseball."

But baseball has drawn Aaron out of his shell. He's confident on the field, and he can be as silly and gregarious as any of his teammates. It's a side of his personality that his parents are just discovering. Being in the spotlight certainly makes it harder to hide.

With four games remaining in the season, Aaron fell into a slump. "Coach Bradford told me one day that he had talked to a coach who said that he wasn't going to give me anything to hit," he says. "From that point on, everything was on the outside half of the plate."  

Every time he went to the plate, he tried to knock it out of the park, and for that very reason he never did. "I don't think I've ever hit a home run when I wanted to," he says. "It comes when you least expect it. You shouldn't think about it, but you can't get it out of your head." When everyone is waiting, waiting, waiting for your next big hit, it's hard to relax at the plate.

"You're forcing it, Aaron," his father would say. "You're forcing it!" But Aaron kept trying.

At first it didn't affect his confidence. In the game against Milby, Austin's longtime neighborhood rival, Aaron was still in good spirits. The Friday-night game drew a big crowd, with many of the Austin fans wearing black T-shirts with the words "BEAT Milby" printed in green across the front. Little kids played under the bleachers and tramped in the dirt. The announcer did his best major-league impression, playing instrumental tracks and using special voice effects. The whole place was charged.

When Aaron wasn't on the field defending, he liked to sit in a little pink school chair outside the dugout. Resting there with his glove on his knee, he would encourage his teammates as they went up to bat, and when they returned from the plate, give them advice about their swings.

He's the largest guy on his team, and one of the most mature. His leadership role and his success at the plate made up for the team's losing record. "They're my friends, so I really didn't care how good we were," he says. But when he stopped hitting home runs, a lot of that changed. He moved from that little pink chair to the dugout.

He was still struggling going into the penultimate game of the season, against Lamar. If he could emerge from his slump against this team, it would make a storybook ending to his senior year.

In Houston, stellar high school baseball and Lamar are synonymous. Everything about Lamar is bigger and faster. Their players stand head and shoulders above Austin's. They're so numerous that they spill out of the dugout, while Austin has hardly enough to compete. As far back as anyone can remember, Lamar (along with Bellaire) has been one of the teams to beat in HISD.

But both schools are also known for attracting players from other school zones through the magnet program. The Magnet School Plan is designed to provide special programs -- such as fine arts, business and law enforcement -- that will attract students from across the district. But for many students, especially guys, sports have been a bigger draw than the academic programs. This means that talented athletes from Austin's school zone, for example, often choose to enroll in Lamar or Bellaire so that they can play for a reputable team. It means that when Aaron faced the Lamar Redskins that Wednesday afternoon, many of their players were kids he had played with in the neighborhood Little League.

Lamar coach George Garza admitted that Lamar and Bellaire are the primary beneficiaries of transfer students, but was silenced by the HISD press office before getting the chance to elaborate.

According to a written statement from HISD press secretary Terry Abbott: "Schools are not allowed to recruit students for sports programs, and students are not allowed to transfer for athletic reasons." But it's fairly easy to get around that policy.

Inner-city parents can apply for a transfer for their children based on special courses that a school might offer. Most are happy to send their kids to schools with strong academic programs. Student athletes are happy to transfer to successful teams. It's a win-win situation if you don't mind leaving your community.

When Coach Bradford started at Austin, he set out to reverse the trend. "I sat with the Little League over here about a month ago and we started talking. There are 17 kids who are zoned to Austin that are starting at major schools. I wanted to stop that bloodshed."

He began with the kids. "If you're a little kid that plays baseball walking down the street, I'm going to shake your hand," he says. "I have dinner at the Little League park every night. I know every little kid that plays baseball at East End, and I know a lot of the older kids at Denver Harbor." Much of Aaron's popularity grows from Bradford's constant praise.

"We will have the best of the eighth-graders here next year. I don't think it would be exciting for a kid to leave his neighborhood, do well, and then come home and nobody knows what he's done."  

But Bradford will have to convince parents like Aaron's. They didn't want him to attend Austin because they'd seen too many kids get lost in the shuffle. They initially decided that Aaron would attend Westside, the magnet school for Integrated Technology outside Beltway 8.

"We signed him up and everything," his father says. "But one thing that I hadn't done is taken the ride. He would have been home at seven in the evening every day, and that's if he didn't have baseball practice."

Aaron ended up at Law Enforcement, one of the seven magnet schools that do not have sports programs. Students at those schools must play at their home-zoned school, which is why Aaron plays at Austin.

Sometimes Aaron wonders what life would have been like if he had played for a better team. His mother says that the Westside and Lamar coaches have both questioned his decision. Last year, Aaron tried to transfer to Lamar, but found the paperwork too onerous. These days he's happy with his decision.

"All my friends say the worst mistake they ever made was playing for Lamar," he says. "If I had gone to Lamar, I probably never would've played. I would have never gotten recognized. Over here, I guess I'm one of the better players."

Unfortunately for him, Austin had no chance of winning that late-season game. As Lamar scored run after run, Austin's team, parents and coaches dissolved in utter frustration. The parents talked trash. The coaches screamed. One coach asked a player to hit an umpire with his bat. At the pinnacle of frustration, Coach Bradford declared through the fence, "You're getting a chance to witness minority versus majority baseball. And you can print that!" It was clear just how far he had to go to rebuild his program.

Lamar spanked Austin nine to nil, and the game was called after five innings. Aaron didn't come close to hitting a home run.

When Aaron needed to get away, he had a haven. North of Houston, on a little street off of Mt. Houston Road, there's a small inconspicuous sign that reads "DeLeon Field." It marks a long driveway bounded by tall trees, at the end of which is a clearing. Behind dozens of cars and trucks parked on mud and grass, three baseball fields are carved out of the forest. One has a caged grandstand like those in little towns across Mexico. It's Houston's own field of dreams, free of pressure and pretense.

The fields are home to one of Houston's Mexican, or Donkey, leagues. As far back as the '60s, Albert DeLeon, the old Mexican guy for whom the fields are named, would bring busloads of Mexican players up to Houston to play baseball. He organized the games and made profits off concessions. Today, the international element is mostly gone, but local Hispanics still get together on Sundays to play.

When DeLeon died, Donkey league veteran Doug Baylis took over. He's an independently wealthy, thirtysomething white guy with a boyish glint in his blue eyes. His clothes are ragged and dirty, his head is shaved, and he loves the game. He transformed the league into a place where kids from low-income backgrounds can play and learn baseball.

"I run into a lot of kids playing out here in the Mexican leagues on Sundays. They're talented, but for some reason or another aren't playing for a high school team, let alone a select team. A lot of kids that I find are ineligible because of grades. My idea was that we can get these kids and have a hell of a team." In 2001, his Bayou City Baseball Academy was incorporated as a nonprofit.

Its mission is to give kids an opportunity to play for a competitive "select" team without having to pay. Select teams, which became popular in the early '90s, are essentially all-star teams where the best players are selected from teams across the region to play in the summer and fall. The select teams travel to tournaments where they showcase their talent for college coaches. But unlike Little League, the price of joining a select team is steep -- anywhere from $300 to $3,000 -- and not really an option for families like the Treviños.

"Some of my kids have the talent to get in this business professionally," says Baylis. "I'm trying to get them exposure. They are playing on shitty teams. In the summer I can get them together with scouts. They can get to college, and if they work hard they can see themselves getting drafted. They have that kind of talent, but they need to be worked with." Baylis does his part to help. There's also the Houston RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities) League, a Major League Baseball initiative run by Mike Holmes. It's also a select team for inner-city kids.  

Coach Bradford's efforts helped Aaron win his scholarship, but for most high school baseball players, select ball is the way to compete for college scholarships. The teams play in the summer, when college coaches are freer to scout talent.

"We play a tough schedule all over the U.S.," says Mike Neff, a coach with the Columbia Angels, one of Houston's premier select teams. "You're playing the best kids in the country just about every time you step on the field. That's what these coaches like. You don't see that in high school." He says that 90 percent of his players win college scholarships. His players pay a $500 fee, plus their own travel expenses to tournaments.

Ray van Kueren, coach of the Houston Saints, charges $750 for ten tournaments and 54 games over the summer.

Some argue that pricey select teams are turning baseball into a sport for the rich.

"The way the game has gone to select ball, Little League baseball is a dying system," says Rayner Noble, head baseball coach at the University of Houston.

Kevin Brooks, head coach at San Angelo State, would agree: "I've seen the changes in the last eight years. The select thing is becoming a bigger deal. There are tournaments, so you can go see 16 teams at once, whereas in high school it's tougher to see that volume. It's one-stop shopping. But it's making it to where it's getting to be an upper-middle-class game. And that's not good for baseball."

Noble elaborates: "What happens with a lot of these inner-city kids is that they can't afford to play on a select team, or they aren't invited in the first place because they just don't have the skill to play. The reason they don't have the skill is that nowadays everybody has instruction. The select teams are looking for the best arms, the best mechanics. A lot of these inner-city kids get left out."

So it's not a surprise that Aaron is headed to a historically black school. "Since we're a historically black college, our priority is to find minority ball players that don't have the opportunity to play for Houston or Rice," says Marcus Johnson, assistant coach at Alcorn State.

Neff insists that select ball doesn't leave any of the talented behind. "If a kid just doesn't have the money, then we're going to figure out a way for that kid to play. We aren't going to turn a kid down because he doesn't have the money to play. But he's gotta have the talent. And he's gotta have the heart."

The last game of the season, the last game of his high school career, and Aaron's last chance to pull out of his slump, was against the Chavez Lobos, the worst team in the district. Before the game, Aaron was back in the school chair outside the dugout. He believed that it was his day. He'd end the season with a bang.

Everyone came to watch. The East End Tigers were there. Mike Holmes from the RBI League was there. Aaron's girlfriend, Sarah, was there, wearing a green T-shirt with the words "Treviño's Girl" stenciled on the back just above the 11. Aaron's father called his wife to make sure she'd brought the camera. It was going to be one for the history books. Aaron started the game at pitcher.

Aaron was third to bat in the top of the first inning. The first pitch was a low ball. The second a strike. The third a low ball. On the fourth pitch, Aaron hammered one to right field. Everyone in the stands stood to watch the ball travel back, back toward the wall. It veered just foul. After two more pitches, Aaron struck out.

At the bottom of the inning, Aaron took the pitcher's mound. For the first time in the regular season he wore his lucky socks, and he hiked up his pants like knickers so everyone could see them. They had wide, horizontal green and white stripes. Aaron joked with his father before the game that he would wiggle his leg in his wind up, and hypnotize the batters with the psychedelic socks. It turned out that there would be no spells cast. His lucky socks were quite unlucky. Aaron would come as close as a single player could to losing a baseball game for his team.

Over the course of the first inning, he beaned three batters -- the first on the arm, the second on the elbow, the third on the knee. Coach Bradford paced back and forth screaming. "Stay tight, son," he said. "Come downhill with it."  

His parents huddled close together. Jesse stood with his arms across his chest, and Yolanda stood pressed against him with her chin resting on his shoulder. They watched Aaron suffer.

The inning was hard for everybody to watch. It was like seeing a hero, larger than life, falling to the ground in agonizing slow motion. But he made it out after giving up only three runs.

"One thing's for sure," his father joked. "Those kids are a little leery now."

When Aaron returned to the mound in the bottom of the second, he had settled down a bit. He gave up two runs, but didn't hit any of the opposing players.

But when he took the mound in the bottom of the third, he nailed a batter on the left side of the head -- the fourth batter he'd hit in three innings. And Aaron throws hard.

"Why don't they just take him out?" Aaron's mother wondered. After a few more wild pitches in the dirt, Coach Bradford walked out to the mound, patted Aaron on the butt and moved him to shortstop. "I understand" was all Aaron said.

"I guess it's my fault," his father said. "I never put him through the classes. I always depended on the coaches to teach him. And he's had a different coach every year."

In the top of the fourth, Aaron went up to bat with the bases loaded. The Chavez Lobos led the Mustangs six to four. As Aaron stood at the plate with the bat floating over his shoulder, he had visions of that final blaze of glory. He saw himself hitting a grand slam. Wham! The ultimate redemption.

The Chavez pitcher had wrapped bands of white tape around his socks so they looked striped, and mocked Aaron's not-so-lucky ones. "See the ball, hit the ball," everyone in the stands said. The Chavez pitcher nailed him in the side with the first pitch. There's redemption for you. Aaron walked to first, and one of his teammates walked home.

Going into the top of the seventh inning (the final inning in high school baseball), the Mustangs were up seven to six, and they had the chance to win their first game in five attempts. But by that time Aaron had fallen completely apart. He threw the ball over the fence and into the street on a routine play to first base. Later in the inning, he dropped a ground ball and the tying run scored.

"Come on, Aaron," the fans pleaded.

When the Mustangs eventually lost the game, the Chavez Lobos jumped and hurrahed like they had just won the World Series. It was only their second district victory of the season.

Aaron collapsed on the field in a heap of tears. When all the other players had entered the dugout, he was still there, sitting in the dirt with his head between his legs, crying.

"Get up, Aaron," his father yelled. Jesse Treviño walked up to the fence and watched his son. "Get up, boy!" The assistant coach came out to console Aaron. "You're not going to stop playing here," he said. "So brush it off and learn from your mistakes." They walked to the dugout together. Aaron was choking back tears.

It turns out that there was more happening on the field that night than was apparent to the fans. During the period when Aaron was hitting batter after batter with fastballs, Bradford pulled him aside to talk. Aaron told his coach to leave him in the game. He had discovered something.

"Coach is always telling us that there's a certain point when we'll learn what this game is about -- what it actually means to love the game. Every time he said that, I thought, 'I know what he's talking about. I don't have anything to learn.' " But when he was up there struggling on the mound, he understood that indefinable feeling.

"Don't take me out of the game, Coach." And Bradford didn't, not even when the umpires, his assistants and the opposing coach asked him to. Even when the fans wanted to end the agony, he left Aaron in the game.

"I know it was hard for the fans, but that was a good thing that happened out there," Bradford says. The struggle. The camaraderie. It was the rebirth of the Austin High School baseball team's spirit.

About a week after the season ended, the coaches in the district met to come to a consensus about which player would be named the district MVP. Both the designated hitter and the shortstop from Lamar were in the running, as well as the shortstop at Bellaire and the catcher at Westside. And there was Aaron.  

Despite his late-season tumble, he had more home runs and a higher batting average than all other players in the district. "He's the best player, hands down," Bradford argued. The other coaches disagreed, partly because Aaron was on a losing team. But Bradford wouldn't back down. When the coaches reached an impasse, they decided it would be best not to name an MVP at all. No award was given in District 21-5A.

The day after the coaches' meeting, Aaron finally received the documents from Alcorn State. He turned down a last-minute offer from Prairie View A&M and decided to attend Alcorn in the fall. In his senior-year season, he helped to start something at Austin. People say that in a couple of years, Lamar and Bellaire better watch out.

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