Several years ago, I was talking to a high school football coach as the start of the season was approaching, and he said something I won’t forget: high school football is football at its purest form.
In this day, where college and professional football has been tainted by money and social media has transformed players’ images and egos, it is refreshing to watch someone play just for the love of the game.
Now, I’m not naive. There have been many negative figures and organizations who have came along the high school landscape, but as with anything, there are flaws where there are people. Nonetheless, high school football is good for the reasons that it is different from the college and professional levels.
Currently in the NFL, Antonio Brown, a player that young wide receivers look up to, has been a problem for the Raiders organization with the latest issue being a dispute over the model of helmet he is allowed to wear. The dispute has thrown into question whether or not Brown will play football at all, which is absolutely ridiculous considering the player is set to make $30 million over the next two seasons. This is just the latest issue in a string of incidents that have labeled Brown as not a team player.
Meanwhile at the high school level, players across the state will touch the field this Friday for the first time this season. These players come from different backgrounds and have different things going on in their lives, but they each come under the banner of one school and play football in front of a community.
The team and community is elevated above the individual. Social media hasn’t transformed these players into celebrities. They are playing the game because they love football.
I’ve travelled around the state to different high school football venues, some saying they have the best fried catfish in the state, others taking immense pride in their band. Each community has something that makes it proud. Only at the high school level do you find this kind of fellowship in a community surrounding the game of football.
Only at the high school level will you find coaches that still say the Wing-T is the most effective offensive philosophy. Football has evolved, but you can go to any stadium in small-town USA and see the history in a community. For many of the players, 30 years later, they will be watching their children follow in their footsteps. A calling card for every small town in Alabama, each community has a rich history and personality weaved into its fabric, and football is at its center.