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Support high school football this fall

There’s nothing like the opening night of high school football on a Friday evening in any Mississippi town.

It’s still a bit warm and muggy, but the stadium grass (if it’s not synthetic turf) has been freshly cut and the tailgating crowd is buzzing about a new season.

The uniforms are clean, the band is tuned up and the cheerleaders have the crowd fired up hungry for victory.

That smell of barbecue and burgers will be beckoning.

All of the teams and their fans enter the season with a huge amount of optimism that this could be their year to win a championship.

This scene will be played out all over the Magnolia State tomorrow night as the prep teams kick off the 2015 campaign. From Booneville to Biloxi and Corinth to Carriere, folks will be closing up shop early and leaving work before 5 o’clock to enjoy some tailgating before the game.

Of course there are other areas of the United States that enjoy high school football just as much and have a rabid following, but there’s something very special about the game being played on this level in Mississippi.

High school football in Mississippi unites and brings communities together like no other event. There’s a bond that is unbroken passed down from generation to generation of families cheering on their favorite high school team.

I believe a lot of it has to do with the level of talent found all over the state in high schools, many of whom produce athletes that wind up in the college and pro ranks. In fact, Mississippi is in the top five in the nation for the number of NFL players produced per capita. A lot of those NFL players have had incredible careers — many have wound up in the NFL Hall of Fame. Those names include Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Walter Payton, and soon-to-be NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre.

As a newspaper “sports guy” for a good portion of my journalism career, I have had the opportunity to cover some incredible high school football players who went on to stellar careers in college and the NFL. In fact, I had the chance to get to know Favre and his family pretty well down in Hancock County. Admittedly Favre’s high school career was no indication of what he eventually did in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers. His dad, Irvin Favre, was the head coach at Hancock North Central and preferred to run the football a lot more than allowing his son the quarterback to toss the ball around.

In the end, it worked out pretty well for him.

What’s also special about covering high school football as a journalist is getting to know the athletes and their families. Many of those athletes I personally had the chance to cover years ago are now parents with kids playing youth football.

Get out there and support the local team and enjoy watching the youngsters of today who will become the stars of tomorrow.