Posted in Giveaway, Guest Post, nonfiction, Sports, Spotlight on September 8, 2016

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Legends of the Texas High School Game

by Chad S. Conine

Genre: Texas Sports History / Biographies

Date of Publication: September 6, 2016

Publisher: University of Texas Press

# of pages: 288

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Cover R of FootballAnywhere football is played, Texas is the force to reckon with. Its powerhouse programs produce the best football players in America. In The Republic of Football, Chad S. Conine vividly captures Texas’s impact on the game with action-filled stories about legendary high school players, coaches, and teams from around the state and across seven decades.

Drawing on dozens of interviews, Conine offers rare glimpses of the early days of some of football’s biggest stars. He reveals that some players took time to achieve greatness—LaDainian Tomlinson wasn’t even the featured running back on his high school team until a breakthrough game in his senior season vaulted him to the highest level of the sport—while others, like Colt McCoy, showed their first flashes of brilliance in middle school. In telling these and many other stories of players and coaches, including Hayden Fry, Spike Dykes, Bob McQueen, Lovie Smith, Art Briles, Lawrence Elkins, Warren McVea, Ray Rhodes, Dat Nguyen, Zach Thomas, Drew Brees, and Adrian Peterson, Conine spotlights the decisive moments when players caught fire and teams such as Celina, Southlake Carroll, and Converse Judson turned into Texas dynasties.

“This is a wonderful, well-written book, full of compelling details and stories. A ‘must read’ for any Texas football fan.” —DAVE CAMPBELL Dave Campbell’s Texas Football


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University of Texas Press

guest post

I’d like to welcome Chad to StoreyBook Reviews.  If you live in Texas you know that football is a big thing here.  And especially now that fall is upon us, you will find football happening Thursday through Saturday at a minimum.  Maybe more!  So I’m excited to have Chad here to tell us a bit more about his book.

The Origin Story

Guest Post

By Chad S. Conine

Early on, when I first began working on The Republic of Football, long before it even had that title, I was having a drink with a friend and telling her about the project. She is a fan of comic books and graphic novels and she made the connection. “Oh, so it’s origin stories.” And, as I’m prone to do when holding a pint of beer, I exclaimed, “Yes! Exactly!” My friend was not necessarily a big football fan, but the fact that she connected with telling the stories of some of Texas’s great players and coaches before they were household names, that let me know I was on to something good.

As it happens, The Republic of Football has its own origin story.

My friend, Joben David, and I were going to a movie one afternoon in the spring of 2014. I had just covered the Final Four for the first time, so I was excited about having a little momentum in my career. We were talking about a book called Home Field (University of Texas Press, 2010), which I proudly displayed on the mantle in my living room. The book features photos taken from the 50-yard line at high school football stadiums all over Texas. I commented that I would like to read a book that told some of the stories from those stadiums. That was sort of the epiphany that began the project that became The Republic of Football.

My first move, within a couple of days of that conversation on the way to the movie theater, was to try to get an interview with then-Baylor football coach Art Briles. While covering college football the previous fall in Lubbock, I had a conversation with an Amarillo sportswriter named Lance Lahnert about a game between Panhandle and Hamlin during Briles’s first season as a high school football head coach. Lahnert said Briles enjoyed telling this particular story. Because I covered Baylor and had encountered Briles around Waco a few times and had pleasant exchanges with him, I figured I could get an interview with him and try to get this idea moving. So I sent an email and a few days later, while I was in Fort Worth with some friends who were working in a recording studio, I received an email in return saying Briles would talk to me for the project. I left my friends at the studio for a couple of hours while I hustled over to a coffee shop and prepped for the interview, which we scheduled for the next morning.

As the project went on, these little lightning-in-a-bottle moments, when someone took an interest in the subject and agreed to talk about his high school football days, became the fuel for the thing. The next place I went was my alma mater, Texas Tech, and sat down with Kliff Kingsbury. We chatted about football for half an hour and he was really encouraging about the idea. He suggested I reach out to Dat Nguyen. And then that worked too.

I determined that I needed to write four sample chapters to take to agents or publishers to find a home for the project, which by that time I was calling “Remember When: 50 High School Football Stories from 50 Texas Towns.” I decided to go big on the fourth one, perhaps even raising the profile from the first three prominent interviewees. And since I worked on staff at the Waco Tribune-Herald for six years and because I went to high school in the mid-1990s in Waco, my attention went to LaDainian Tomlinson. LeRoy Coleman, Tomlinson’s high school coach at Waco University, told me a great story about LaDainian’s breakout game at the beginning of his senior year. And then one afternoon, LaDainian returned a phone call and we set up the fourth cornerstone interview for the project.

A couple of weeks after I interviewed Tomlinson at a Starbucks in Keller, I connected with Robert Devens at University of Texas Press. By the beginning of July, I had signed on with them to turn in a manuscript just before football season in 2015.

The exciting thing was that the connections kept up through the project. I contacted the Minnesota Vikings and set up an interview with Adrian Peterson soon after training camp started in late July of 2014. In one of our phone calls, I asked the media relations director what was the biggest factor in Peterson agreeing to the interview. He said it was definitely the list of people whom I had already interviewed. That became my selling point. In fact, when I asked LaDainian when we met how I should make contact with current NFL guys, he said to get on it quick and probably try to do it during the informal team practices that teams hold early in the summer. He also told me to drop his name, which I did many times.

That’s the origin story for The Republic of Football. Not every person I reached out to wanted to participate, but as I look at the 41 chapters in the book, I’m thrilled with the collection that we’re putting out there this football season.


about the author

Chad ConineConine is a freelance sports journalist who has written for the Sports Xchange, Reuters, and, among others. He has been covering Texas high school and college football since the late 1990s. He lives in Waco, Texas.

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