Let me preface by saying I’m not completely certain what Armageddon will look like. I’m sure there will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. I’m fairly certain that the weather will suck, the food will be less than palatable, and a lot of my friends will be there. My FBU National Championship experience was all of that, as well as a few things that not even our Creator could have envisioned for the end of the world. Eighteen teams of teenage football players running around San Antonio Texas, sleeping four to a room, frequently crossing paths with their opponents, and all with a minimal amount of adult supervision lends itself to the more terrifying aspects of Revelations.
I had the time of my life.
Football University, or FBU, conducts camps all over the United States for football players ages 12-18. They also sponsor the showcase event for high school seniors, The Army All-American Bowl, played in San Antonio, Texas. Over the years FBU has added events to the weekend of the Army All-American Bowl, including United States All-Star teams playing other countries, 7th and 8th grade East-West All-Star games, and, beginning in 2011, the FBU National Championship “Road to the Dome.” Sixty four teams from all over the country in a March Madness style tournament.
That’s where I come in.
I have coached my son’s football teams since he was five (he’s thirteen now.) My hometown (Shreveport, LA) is small enough so that the youth football coaches in the area know each other pretty well (familiarity breeds contempt.) When it was decided to put together a team to represent Northwest Louisiana my incredible pedigree and stature in the profession naturally made me a candidate to fill the final remaining position on the coaching staff. That and the fact that all the really good coaches had already said no, and all the average coaches were avid hunters and didn’t want football to cut into their time in the woods, and all the suck coaches were too lazy to answer the phone. I am not lazy. This is how I found myself on a practice field just before Thanksgiving surrounded by the greatest collection of 13 and 14 year old football talent in the northern half of Louisiana.
As any youth coach in any sport will tell you it is practically impossible to field a team of real deal, no bull, run through a wall, kill or die trying kind of players. Pick up a roster of 30 kids, weed out the clover pickers, the momma’s boys, the ones with daddies shoving them out of the car for practice, and the ones that have the desire but fall over for no apparent reason due to a lack of inner ear balance and you are left with five, maybe six kids that will be playing football on Friday nights in the coming years. Out of those five or six you may have one, and usually none, that have the potential to play ball in college.
This team would not have that problem.
Ten minutes into our first practice and I’m thinking, Holy crap. There isn’t a hole on this team that needs filling. These guys even warmed up like it was game time. Our first “light contact” scrimmage at the end of practice looked like the Coliseum scene in Gladiator. I walked up to our head coach and our OC. They were pie eyed. So was I. Everyone was trying to sort out who the gamers were so nobody was backing down an inch.
Mike the HC: “Maybe we should slow it down a bit. Before somebody gets, like, injured or something.”
Me: “Injured? We keep this up we’re gonna need six pallbearers and a backhoe.”
I walk over to the defense side and give our all-world strong (SAM) linebacker the good news. J.B. is what linebackers look like in movies. Blonde. Fast. Tall. Built like Urlacher. Mean like Nitschke.
Me: “J.B., we gotta slow it down. Somebody’s gonna get dead. No more tackling to the ground.”
J.B.: “Coach, we haven’t been tackling to the ground. We hit ‘em and they just kinda fall over.”
Can’t accuse the kid of being dumb. The 14 year old made a 27 on his ACT. Go ahead, read that again.
Things settled in after that. The boys started to realize that what was on the helmet was less important than what was in the heart. The kids from the two bitter rival private schools exchanged props. The private school kids watched the magnet school kids and saw that being smart doesn’t mean you can’t ball. And everybody was growing to love the country cousins from the east that were all day nasty but all about team.
Life lessons more important than any football game.
If we, a bunch of Louisiana boys, nobodies from nowhere, look like this, what will the big dogs look like? Texas, California, Florida? How much bigger, faster, stronger is it possible for a kid to get?
According to the bracket we wouldn’t see those teams until at least the third round. If we made it that far. Southeast Louisiana and Arkansas stood in the way.
We didn’t know it yet, but the journey that started on that practice field in November wouldn’t end until January, at the FBU National Championship in San Antonio.
Next up: Part 2, The Dog Catches The Car
Come along for the ride. Sign up at the bottom of the page to receive email updates of each installment of “The FBU National Championship”