The UIL calls it “zero week,” but for football fans, the opening week of the season is anything but that. Season-opening games took place around the area last weekend, not just at the high school level but also around the NCAA. Players with Brown County ties had an impact on those games as well.
Perhaps the most high-profile of those players is Brownwood High School graduate Kirby Freeman, who was named the starting quarterback for the University of Miami Hurricanes last week, and led the team to a 31-3 win over Marshall. Former Bangs standout Jacoby Jones saw significant playing time at running back in the Baylor Bears’ loss to TCU. On the opposite sideline for that game were Brownwood’s Bart Johnson and Early’s James Gleaton.
Those are just four of the area’s former football players who have extended their playing careers at the next level, and found success. A scan of some close Texas college and university rosters reveals that a number of area kids are doing the same. Howard Payne is now home to Landon Dyer and Dustin McClure of Bangs, Josh Neeley of Early and Currie Dyess of Brownwood. Hunter Storm plays 60 miles up highway 377 for Tarleton State University after finishing his high school career at Brownwood. Early’s Tim Chandler, Josh Proud and Taylor Singleton now play for Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, as does Brownwood’s Mason Ellis.
And that’s just in football at a small sampling of schools. There are athletes from a number of sports, performers in a wide range of the fine arts and students who have focused on their academic careers at the college level, and who excel in their efforts. They may not compete in front of 7,000 loud and boisterous fans, but their accomplishments are worth noting and celebrating.
In central Texas, though, it’s football that drives the bus, as they say, and that is where many of us direct our attention. Three years ago the Bulletin added its popular Saturday edition, in part as a response to readers who wanted their Friday night coverage earlier than the Sunday paper allowed. As our Saturday offering has evolved over the past couple of years, we decided to add the element of video to this year’s coverage. Visitors to the Bulletin’s Web site will find weekly previews and then coverage from the previous week’s games. Without any promotion on our part, more than 100 people found the videos from last weekend’s games over the weekend. Those visitors were looking for information about their favorite teams, and probably a little more.
Many fans also like to follow players throughout their career. In smaller communities like those in Brown County, we know the players not just from the field but also as our neighbors, our friends’ children or our own childrens’ classmates. When they find success beyond the local level, we feel a certain pride. When Freeman, or Jones, or Gleaton or Johnson or any of the others are introduced on television during games, the entire viewing audience sees their hometown. The more success they have as players, the more often Brownwood, Early or Bangs gets national attention — and there is a certain sense of pride that goes along with that.
For years the Bulletin newsroom has had the privilege of covering the players listed above, as well as too many others to count. We’ve covered some of them from “zero week” all the way through to the state championship game. As they continue to achieve success on the next and larger stage, we can watch them, smile and say, “We remember them from way back when.”
Bill Crist is associate publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.