by Jon Little #29
#1 My Why
In various stages of our lives I believe we all are consumed with certain things at certain times. For example, I can safely say that my 13-year-old son Jake is currently consumed with the video game Fortnite. Sure, he has a lot of other things going on and plenty of other interests, but if you were to narrow it down to one current obsession it would have to be that video game. He would stay up most of every night playing it if we didn’t put restrictions on him. Just like anything else (Myspace, Pokémon, Hoverboards, Dabbing) though it too will pass and he’ll be on to the next obsession in his life before you know it.
Whatever someone is most consumed with in their life at a given time I consider that their “why.” Of course, there can be many things, but 1 typically takes priority over everything else. For me reflecting 25 years ago to the summer of 1993 I can safely say that “my why” was Pilot Point Bearcat Football. I was 17 years young and heading into my Senior year of High School. I was coming off a Junior year in which I was just a part of a state Semi Finalist football team that was special. To me It was the most fun and important team I had ever been a part of and I had been playing football/basketball/baseball since I was in 1st grade with very little down time. I was going to be a returning starter on defense, but had been challenged by Coach Lenny Gray to also take over the offensive tight end position left vacant with Russell Jones graduating. I remember our Head Coach Jerry Jones pulling me and Paul Dennis a side and explaining how he was counting on us to be iron man football players. Which meant he was counting on us to play on both offense and defense and even special teams. We had a lot of players that platooned in on both side of the ball, but Coach Jones was counting on us to be on the field at all times. My why in the Summer of 1993 really became preparing myself for those roles and the upcoming football season. I’ve never liked to let anyone down and I certainly didn’t plan on letting down my Coaches, teammates, and the town of Pilot Point.
I can remember quite a bit about that summer. I was working at Bill’s Dollar Store on the square all summer long where I was the self-proclaimed “Head Swing Set Technician” among other duties. I got made fun of plenty of times for working there, but I’ve got thick skin, there were limited part-time job options, and I had to work in order to pay for the insurance and gas for my red Suzuki Sidekick jeep. I can remember how important vehicles were to me and my friends…they were a big part of our personalities. C.B. Standridge and his convertible Mustang 5.0. Josh Chandler and his black Corvette. Bob Erwin and his Maroon Pick-up. Ashley Wright and her White Dodge Stealth. And on and on and on. I can remember spending a lot of time out at Lake Ray Roberts and the newly opened Isle Du Bois state park or the under construction Jordan branch. I can remember spending quite a few nights/weekends playing sand volleyball out at the Kirby’s house. However, what I remember the most was the daily grind and work I was putting in lifting weights at the field house and running sprints on the game field inside Massey Stadium. It certainly wasn’t as organized and disciplined as some of these off-season programs nowadays, but it was probably ahead of its time. Coach Lonnie Scott had given everyone an individual work out plan (consisted of 1 piece of paper with workouts on it) to complete over the summer in order to get stronger and faster and prepare our bodies for the upcoming football season. It was a progression type work out that challenged you to do a little more every week over the summer. I followed those work outs to a T and made sure that I always slightly exceeded them. I was never the biggest, fastest, strongest but I was gritty and got the most out of my abilities. A “lunch pail guy” as it were.
I don’t remember personal training or group off season workouts being an option 25 years ago like they are for my son currently. We live in Allen now and I can tell you that one of Allen’s advantages is what they call “PC.” It stands for Performance Course and it’s a high energy high intensity offseason lifting/running/agility program for kids of all ages here in Allen. Spoiler alert Allen has won 5 football State Championships since 2008 in the state’s highest classification. PC has become so successful that they now have courses at schools all over Texas. I can tell you that it teaches kids the value of hard work and I wish we would have had something like it when I was in junior high and high school. My son goes every day all summer long from 10:30am -12:15pm. He’s going into 8th grade and trying to prepare himself for middle school football in Allen. They work them so hard and split time between the outside Texas heat and inside weight room that Jake is usually wiped out afterwards. My daughter Brooke did her first Performance Course at age 5 and received the ultimate award…The Athlete of the Course Award. She was 5 years old then. She’s a rare breed. She did 33 push-ups the correct way at age 5 and amazed the Coaches. We call her the “Honey Badger.” Thank God, she got her momma’s strength.
I can say that if your High School football program doesn’t have a strong off season program and is not doing something similar to PC then I’d be willing to bet that they aren’t very successful. I can honestly say that the winter/spring football offseason training I went through in Pilot Point was legit. It became apparent to me very quickly that games and Championships are won in the offseason. I believe we won the District Championship something like 17 straight years and I can tell you that much of that can be attributed to how hard we worked in off season football. There were thousands of hours of blood, sweat, and tears that went into winning those District Championships and beyond and I’m proud that my senior class of 1994 did their part to keep the streak going.
I’ll finish up with a quick story that I’ve told many times. A few weeks into football off season we traveled to play S&S Consolidated in basketball my Junior year the Winter of 92/93. As we got off the bus walking towards the gym there were a bunch of boys playing what was commonly referred to by our Coaches as unsupervised “grab ass.” I remember our Assistant Coach David West seemed a little concerned and asked 1 of the kids what they were doing. The kid seemed appalled and responded with “what do you mean what are we doing, this is football off season?!” I can’t remember if I laughed out loud or just to myself, but I remember looking right at my teammate Matt Walker and we both smiled. We couldn’t help but think that we had just easily beaten them like 76-6 (in a varsity football game) a couple of months earlier and this is what they were doing to prepare for the next season?! There is no magic formula to success if you ask me. Sure, it helps to have some stud athletes, some things go your way during the season, everyone stay healthy, but make no mistake about it there absolutely is no substitute for hard work. That certainly hasn’t changed in the last 25 years. I can tell you right now without even stepping foot on their campus or in their weight room that local teams like Muenster, Brock, Gunter, and Aledo have kids and coaches that are putting the work in today and every day. I can tell you they are going about their business with intent and purpose and they are outworking their competition. They are not jacking around outside on a practice field without supervision and calling it “football off-season.”
I plan to provide 25 weekly editions of memories and musings mainly focused on my memory of Pilot Point and the 1993 football season. I apologize in advance for my scatter shooting and if I leave anything or anyone out of any of my installments. I try my best to stay positive as I learned a long time ago that blaming, complaining, and excuse making is just annoying and gets you nowhere in life. Instead have a winner’s mentality. I leave you with one of my all-time favorite quotes in that regard…
" Losers assemble in small groups and complain.
Winners assemble as a team, and find ways to win"