I raised my kids on Remember the Titans, Friday Night Lights, and Varsity Blues.

Are you seeing a theme here? Yep, I’m a sucker for those stories where everyone comes together and the town roots the team to VICTORY.

I went to a 5A high school in Houston. I think there were 203 kids in marching band, if I’m remembering correctly. (There are only 400 kids all together at Rockdale High School.) Some of my best memories happened at playoff games with pocket warmers stuffed in my uniform. Cheese fries + hot chocolate + school spirit = me smiling.

I thought I’d grow up to be a calloused corporate lawyer with Corvettes instead of children. At least that’s what my senior yearbook alluded to. Instead, I ended up in a small town, with 7 kids, and a die-hard love of the Rockdale Tigers. 

I wanna say Blondie was in junior high when a new head coach came to town. Suddenly, the Tigers started to make playoff runs again. A buzz started brewing. People believed in their high school’s athletic program again.

I’m no insider in this town. I didn’t grow up here. But I’ve been here long enough.

These Tigers make me proud.

My blondie was a Golden Girl in high school. In fact, she was the Major of the dance team. Every Friday night, my kids sat with me in the stands while we cheered for those Tigers.

Golden Girls

A few years ago, our coach’s son, a freshman quarterback with tons of potential, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It took him off the field. But the town came together and started a “Gold Out” campaign. The t-shirts raised money because “no kid should fight cancer alone.” It didn’t take long for towns all around us to order our gold shirts and wear them to the games. Every where the Tigers went, the story was told, and football gave back. In fact, I think this year was our third year of going gold to beat cancer. Our kids aren’t just learning field plays, they learn character.

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It seems like every year we come a little closer to being number 1.

Our town has one of the oldest rivalry games in Texas- The Battle of the Bell.

I’ve seen the Tigers win the bell, and I’ve seen them lose it. I’ve watched my four year old holler “I want the bell back” to some big ole boys on the football field, and she got results too! Last year we set a record for the highest scoring Bell game. This year, we set another record when we won the bell in back-to-back years. We have Tigers bells on our Christmas tree, seriously. The excitement just keeps building.

Pep Rally

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve spent the last 15 years watching kids in this town grow up together.

And now, we’re finally going all the way!

Our Tigers are playing for the State Championship in just 2 days!!

These kids grew up with my kids. They started youth football with my kids. And they’ve done something really special.

They’re taking our town back to the state finals for the first time since 1976!

And sure, we can give all the credit to our high school coaches, because obviously they’ve done an outstanding job. But to be fair, we have to dig deeper.

We have to give kudos to the guys who got out there and taught them the game, as volunteers. Our town is blessed to have some amazing youth football coaches, who don’t get paid to work with our kids. In fact, they often pay a lot out of their own pockets to make sure every kid who wants to play gets an opportunity.

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Many of the kids who started out on this team of Texans grew up to be our winning Tigers. When they say it takes a village, it really does take every one coming together to give something.

And now it’s our time to shine.

Why should I care? My oldest son graduated last year. My next one is just a freshman, and he broke his arm this year so bad he missed most of the season. My kids aren’t on the field.

But I do care– because all these kids feel like they’re my kids in some way.

I taught some of them PreK. Others spent the night at my house with my boys. Sometimes I was their substitute teacher who let them do their reading outside in the sunshine. Other times, I was their teacher in DAEP, reminding them what road to avoid in life. But no matter what role I was playing, I’ve always been their cheerleader.

Whether we were winning or losing, I show up to say “Go Tigers.” And this week, it’s going to be hard to sit it out. I can’t afford the trip to AT&T stadium with all my kids. Between the gas and the tickets, it’s more than I have to spend.

However, you can bet there will be a house party, complete with chips, dips, and football live streamed. Oh, and we’ll be using all the Tiger hashtags. #TFND (Tiger Fight Never Dies) #KeepItLit #TeamsToRememberPlayInDecember and #TigerNation just to name a few.

This year, I’ve watched our town come together again, and do something special. My son’s first baseball coach was one of the biggest boosters for the Tigers. And right before school started, he passed away unexpectedly.

Some say Matt Lemkuhl is missing his son’s senior football season. I say, he found a different way to attend the games. A VICTORY light was put up at Tiger field in his honor, and this year, the motto has been “keep it lit”.

 

And whether or not you believe it, there was a V in the sky Friday night as our town drove to Houston for the semi-finals.

KeepItLit
Disclaimer: This picture was stolen from my friend Janice’s facebook page!

When I saw it, it gave me chills. I believe it was a sign, from a father to his son, to his team, and to our town. Sure, it’s hard to be the champions- but why not us? Why not now?

Don’t be surprised if these kids are the Texas State Champions in just a few days.  “Tis the season for Tiger Nation to Keep It Lit!