Europe Book Excerpt

Razorbacks vs. Geissen #9Been too long since I posted. I wanted to let everyone know that I’ve finally finished the first draft of my book about my season with the Ravensburg Razorbacks. Now comes the long process of editing and looking for publishers.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 12, hope you like it!

…It’s a sunny day and around 900 supporters fill the stands. The Sacristans are in white jerseys and purple pants. Our players wear black jerseys with red numbers and blue inserts, white helmet with a blue Razorback logo.
In European fashion, our uniforms resemble NASCAR racecars, with sponsors’ logos everywhere. Patches for Rigg’s Burger Restaurant are on the right hip and left butt cheek. Schrezenmaier Kaltetechnik is across the chest. On the helmet are stickers for Gessler+Funk Office Supplies and Kreuzer Immobilien.
The team seems to appreciate the home atmosphere as much as I do. Unlike the last two games, we come out on fire, leaving no doubt about how the game is going to go.
Inside zone right is the first play and it’s executed perfectly.
Garret holds the ball out for Steve and sees the Sacristan end crashing down the line towards our running back. Garret pulls the ball away and attacks the edge. When the safety flies towards Garret, he pitches to Micki running the bubble. Micki explodes past the block thrown by split receiver Martin Kastle for a 70-yards touchdown. We’re up 7-0 on the first play of the game.
A three and out is followed by a nice punt return from Jeremy setting us up inside the 20. Four plays later, Steve pounds into the end zone from the three and we’re up 14-0. Freiburg can’t handle our fast tempo. They’re gassed by the third play of every offensive drive. We’re dominating the trenches on both sides of the ball. Our offensive line opens huge holes for Steve, Kevin and Garret. Before our lead gets too large, I call some passes to let Garret throw some balls, but he sees so much open field that he mostly just scrambles for big gains.
By halftime, we’re up 42-0 on the way to a 61-3 final.
Winning big is fun, but these games make me feel guilty as well. There’s been some grumbling around the league that we don’t belong in the Regionaliga at all. We’d chosen the drop from the GFL2 though we’d qualified to stay. We’re better organized and funded than many teams we play. Today’s result is an example of this imbalance. Freiburg was simply outmatched in every way.
This dynamic isn’t exclusive to Europe. It’s a feature of football everywhere and at all levels. Infrastructure, experience and money differences create huge inequities. In football, more than any other sport, teams get what they deserve. The Razorbacks have more people who’ve put in more hours. We have better financial support for better import players and have more quality coaches than the Sacristans. The result of this difference in man-hours, experience and Euros is a butt-kicking. It may be ugly, but it’s a fair outcome. We deserve to beat teams like this.
I’ve spent many years coaching on the opposite end of this equation without whining about it. I tell myself to enjoy being on the top of blowouts like this. I’ve paid my dues to be in this position. That we’re better situated and prepared than Freiburg is nothing to apologize for. As a competitor though, battles between well-matched teams are more enjoyable than days like this…



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Interview and Book Information


I went to a Houston Barnes and Noble yesterday and found ten copies of Big and Bright on the shelf. Exciting for me to see.

Also had an interview about Texas HS Football come online on Sports Illustrated for Kids. You can take a look at it here.

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Texas State Championships: Day One Takeaway & Why Football Matters


Today, the Brock Eagles won the 3A Division I Championship in just their second season of varsity football, knocking off 3-time champion Cameron Yoe, 43-33. How Brock went from no program to a Texas Title so quickly must be a great story, one I’d love to learn.
But, the details of why Brock started a football program in the first place made me think.
Brock has long been a Texas power in both boys’ and girls’ basketball. Many in the town were rightfully proud of the basketball success and content on continuing without football. For years, others had fought to bring football to Brock. Eventually the football crowd won out. Over 100,000 dollars was raised, a field was build and, three years ago, the Eagles first took the field.
The coach was asked why it was important to so many that football come to Brock, why not just continue focusing on basketball? His answer was simple but went straight to the heart of why high school football is the greatest game in the world.
He said, “Not everyone can play basketball.”
In Big and Bright, I wrote about places like Brock, small town schools with nearly 100% participation. I think I well described the flavor of the game in these communities, but somehow I overlooked one special feature of football.
It isn’t just that many do play, football is the only sport everyone can play.
I know about this personally. Growing up, I was a marginal baseball player. After being cut by the JV team my freshman year, I barely made the roster as a sophomore. Had I committed, I might have made the varsity as an upper-classman… or I may have been sent home. Basketball was out of the question for me. I had a decent work ethic and some toughness, but wasn’t a natural athlete. Luckily, I found football.
Football, alone among team sports, does not limit roster size. Everyone is welcome to come out and stay out, as long as they make grades and keep showing up. Football needs hard-working, tough kids, even those with no talent. With multiple, specific skill sets, there are positions for everyone. If a kid has guts and is willing to work hard he can overcome athletic limitations and be a football player. Even those who have NO skill (There always are a few) are welcome to participate. They may never see the field, but are usually respected. Perseverance is appreciated by the more talented teammates and everyone benefits from the games’ lessons, regardless of ability.
I’m a rare coach who isn’t nuts about the movie Rudy. It’s a good film, but I don’t find the story very remarkable. What happened at Notre Dame is true, but there’s a ‘Rudy’ everywhere I’ve been. ‘Rudy’s’ are a dime a dozen in football. If Rudy played basketball or baseball, he would have been cut.
As for me, I never had to worry about the ax in football. I was welcome to be part of the team and learn the game. As an underclassman, I did little but earn respect, but eventually became a decent pulling guard my final season. My football success was modest, but it couldn’t have been achieved in any other sport.
So, congratulations to the Brock Eagles, but especially to the non-athletes. Many were undoubtedly important parts of the program. Some played as linemen and filled out special teams. Others gave good scout looks during practice, helping the team prepare. Still others, probably helped by providing more talented teammates with examples of commitment, despite knowing they’d never be stars.
What a wonderful gift the football boosters gave so many students, kids who couldn’t have participated in other sports. Bringing football to Brock gave many kids the opportunity to be champions, instead of just cheering from the stands.

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Texas Visit for State Championships

stateoftexaslogoNext weekend, I’ll travel to Texas for the 2015 UIL Championship football games in Houston. This will be my first return to the Lone Star State since the publication of Big and Bright.

I hope to do some promotion for the book and my publicist is working out some events. Whatever happens, it will be an opportunity to catch up with some old friends and see some great football. Three Big and Bright teams have survived to the Semi-Finals, the Idalou Wildcats, the Carthage Bulldogs and the Aledo Bearcats. I’ll be pulling for all of them this weekend. It would be great to see some familiar faces in Houston.

I’ll be flying into Dallas on Sunday the 10th and will spend a few days in the Metroplex before heading to Houston for the games.

I look forward to seeing some of my Texan friends. If you’re going to be in DFW between the 10th and 13th or at the Championships in Houston, please feel free to get in touch.

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La Marque High has played final game

La Marque 050Surfing the internet today, I learned that La Marque High School has run out of appeals and will be closed at the end of the school year. While the details still are to be worked out it appears that this is truly the end. The last game the Cougars would play was a 2nd round 42-39 lose to Caldwell. I couldn’t get the link for the story about that game, but I’ve attached the story about the last win La Marque would ever have… on the night that the news of the closing came out.

Best of luck to the coaches, players and supporters of the La Marque Cougars. Above giving me a great first chapter to Big and Bright, you’ve done amazing work helping so many.

From the Galveston County Daily News:

Thursday night, the La Marque Cougars won a first-round playoff game for the 24th time in the past 26 years, but it was far from business as usual.
In the first half of the Coogs’ 35-6 bi-district win over Liberty, the news that La Marque faithful had feared since February officially came down — the Texas Education Agency would be shutting down the school district.
“Instead of going into halftime of a game and making halftime adjustments, we’re going in and deciding how to handle this situation,” La Marque head coach Mike Jackson said.
Jackson and his staff decided not to tell the team the news until after the game, but whispers of the announcement reached the players before then.
“We came out, understandably so, a little distracted coming into the third quarter,” Jackson said. “The only time we didn’t dominate the game was the first 6 minutes (of the third quarter). Then we kind of settled down.”
Pre- and post-game was the definition of peaks and valleys for the La Marque players, who received a pep talk from La Marque alum and Super Bowl V champion Norm Bulaich before kickoff, only to officially receive the news of the district’s closure after the final whistle.
“Right after the game, the coaches brought us all together, and, to me, it was really heartbreaking to know that the school that I’ve looked up to since I was in elementary school is closing down,” senior offensive lineman Ashton Holmes said. “It’s really sad.”
The life lessons players have learned through athletics — such as focusing on the task at hand, controlling only what can be controlled and that things aren’t always fair — are now being put to the test as the team continues its playoff run this week.
“I’m moving forward by keeping a positive mindset, telling people that it’s not the end,” Holmes said. “Even though La Marque ISD will no longer be here, we’ll still have a great school.
“Hopefully, this will attract people back here and build up our school numbers, so the tradition can continue, not as La Marque ISD, but as La Marque High School,” Holmes added.
It’s been more than nine months since the TEA’s decision to close La Marque ISD was first announced. Through appeals to the state, the district was able to delay a final decision until Thursday.
The entire time, though, this season’s Coogs have lived with that dark cloud hanging over them.
“It’s made me grow as a leader,” Jackson said. “It’s something I’ll never go through in my career again.”
There might not be a player on the team that La Marque ISD’s situation has stuck closer to than Holmes, who is the class of 2016’s valedictorian.
“When we found out on Feb. 6 the situation we were in, I was turning 17 that day,” Holmes said. “That was the worst birthday news ever.”
If one positive can be drawn from the school district’s struggles, it’s that the dire situation has made the team tougher than what would have been expected of this year’s group otherwise.
Jackson called this football season’s successes a true testament to both the players and coaches.
“We’ve lived it since Feb. 6,” Jackson said. “It’s been a teaching moment, that you focus on what you can control, and that’s really all you can do.
“I think it’s made us more resilient as a team,” Jackson added. “We just take the attitude of we control what we can control, and what we don’t control, we can’t worry about.”
In what was projected to be a down year for the Cougars, the team now sits with a 9-2 record, are winners of nine straight games and are district champions.
“Everybody knows that this was the year you were supposed to get La Marque,” Jackson said. “Our numbers are down, we don’t have the talent that we’ve had in years past. Everybody on our schedule was licking their chops. But, here we are.”
Going forward, following nine months of outside distractions, the team now finds itself doing what it has tried to do every week — preparing to try to win a football game.
“The team, and especially the seniors, haven’t had a chance to truly enjoy this playoff run because the focus has always been on other stuff,” Jackson said.
La Marque’s area round playoff game will be 7:30 p.m. Friday against Caldwell at Falcon Stadium, 25437 Willy Lane, Huffman.
Now that the team knows it is in its final playoff run under the La Marque ISD banner, maybe now this crop of Coogs can enjoy it a little bit.

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Another Big and Bright radio interview

cover of B & BI’ve been doing a lot of interviews for Big and Bright.   Some good and some not so good. Hopefully they are helping sales.  Attached is an interview for a station in Boston, I think came out pretty well.

You can buy the book from  Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks at or call toll-free:
800-462-6420 FREE

If you’ve bought it, read it and liked it, please think about writing a review on the above links.  The book has gotten some very nice reviews, but the more the better!

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First Radio Interview for Big and Bright

I wish I’d talked more about how football can be a part of a comprehensive high school education, but other than that I think it went ok… Talking to Baltimore tomorrow morning.

Again, the book can be bought at all the places below.

The book is now available in bookstores, online and in e-book form.  You may order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks at or call toll-free:
800-462-6420 FREE

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Media Coverage of High School Football Deaths is Sensationalism at Its Worst


If you’ve been following the news over the past few months, no doubt you’ve heard about the recent spate of high school football players killed playing the sport. What was once considered a local tragedy has become a national story as outlets have begun counting each death and weaving a narrative: high school football, once considered a harmless past-time, is claiming more and more lives.

The seventh and most recent death was covered by CNN, CBS, USA Today, NBC, ESPN, Fox News, Sports Illustrated, New York Times, Washington Times, and Yahoo News. Previous deaths were also covered by People, ABC, The Guardian, Reuters, MSNBC, The Washington Post… it’s harder to find a national outlet that hasn’t covered the story. And schools are listening: CBS reports that in the wake of mounting casualties, some schools are closing their football programs all together.

You know it must be scary, because CNN even got its graphics team to animate two CGI football players tackling each other (“Is high school football worth the risk?” the segment asked).


All of which is baffling, given that the frequency of high school football deaths hasn’t increased at all, and death rates remain extremely low.

In the past two decades, there were 282 deaths as a result of high school football, or 14.1 annually. This year there’s been seven, about halfway through the season. In short, the rate of football deaths has remained completely constant.

The chances of dying during a high school football game have also always been absurdly low. 1.1 million high schoolers play the sport every year, so even if the rate of death doubled overnight, they’d have about a 0.00001% of dying before the season is out. In fact, high school football isn’t even the deadliest high school sport; it’s less dangerous than water polo, softball, and field hockey, and roughly as dangerous as lacrosse.

What then justifies all the sudden media attention? It should go without saying that every sporting death is a tragedy, especially when the victims are so young. But hundreds of high schoolers die every day of equally tragic causes and fail to make front pages and television screens across the nation. Why should football be singled out?

The simple answer is because right now at the highest level of the sport, there is a massive scandal surrounding the National Football League’s handling of concussions. In a recent study, a whopping 96% of former NFL players’ brains were found to have suffered permanent damage. The league was forced to pay $1 billion in settlements to players who allege they covered up the risks of repeated concussions.

During that aforementioned CNN segment, they treated high school football deaths and concussions as essentially the same problem.


But conflating the NFL scandal and high school football deaths confuses the issue. The majority of high school football deaths are due to what researchers call “indirect causes,” such as heat stroke, enlarged hearts, and other undisclosed medical problems. Only about 30% of deaths in the past two decades were as a result “direct causes” due to contact, a category that includes head injuries, but also ruptured organs and spinal injuries. And when deaths are due to a concussion, it still has little to do with the kind of lifelong damage cause by multiple concussions the NFL is accused of covering up.

Perhaps there is a greater story to be written about the risks of concussions even on the high school level. But if so, why did the media salivate over the deaths that were caused by a broken neck, a ruptured spleen, and a seizure, fatalities that could have occurred at any level of any contact sport?

The media’s wall-to-wall coverage of high school football deaths is therefore little more than rampant sensationalism. They’ve turned an extremely rare but tragic circumstance into part of a scary trend… one that, coincidentally I’m sure, plays on one of the greatest fears of doting mothers. It’s only one step above the bogus media stories warning parents about evil strangers poisoning Halloween candy (Hell, given the current obesity rates, even unposioned candy is deadlier than letting your kid toss around the pigskin).

It’s sad that, yet again, the media is more concerned about selling fear than focusing on issue of actual importance. But what saddens me the most is that it’s the kids just looking to have fun who stand to lose.

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2015 Razorback Book Excerpt

Razorbacks vs. Geissen #10The book about my time coaching in Germany is coming along quite well, I think. I’ve written about 25,000 words… about 1/4 done and gotten through our third game…A miserable day at Frankfurt that now I can put away forever!

Here is an excerpt about a much better day… Our first home game at Lindenhof.

…During warm-ups, Coach Frank wants to talk about the starting lineup. He doesn’t want Steve to start at running back. Steve hasn’t yet practiced with us and it would send a bad message if an import can step off the plane and into the starting lineup. I agree. Not knowing the language, I’m not qualified to deal with the political or disciplinary reasons that often determine who ought to be on the field. I tell Frank and Leo to take care of substitutions and just let me know who’s in the game.
Later I hear that starting Kevin Kienzle at running back came as a positive surprise to the players, who assumed and feared the imports would take over the team.
The difference between Lindenhof and the TSB is huge. I’d been disappointed by the setting of our first game, but I’m impressed today. The atmosphere is fantastic. The stadium holds around 1000 people, but it seems perfect for us. By kickoff nearly every seat is filled and several hundred line the low rise on the far sideline. The Razorback fans are loud and boisterous, banging drums and blowing horns. Somebody brought a portable, homemade electronic scoreboard on a flatbed trailer, still no clock, but it’s something.
During pre-game introductions the players emerge from an actual locker room below the stands at the 50-yard-line. Non-starters come first, hoisting the Razorback flag as they mob together at mid-field. The PA announcer introduces each starter, who climbs the steps to run through canned smoke and a double line of Razorback cheerleaders. European audiences enjoy the spectacle surrounding American football and, at Lindenhof, the Razorback organization puts on quite a show.
It’s a perfect football day, a slight chill in the air and bright, sunny skies. From the covered stands the view is beautiful. Green wooded hills and the towers and palaces of downtown Weingarten. With a large and enthusiastic crowd in the new stadium, the pageantry is exciting to be a part of; I just hope we give these people something to cheer about when the game starts.
We do and it doesn’t take long. Starting from our 40, Kevin runs an inside zone for four. I call a freeze, the Wilddogs jump and Martin snaps the ball…free play. We take advantage of it when Micki makes a great catch for a 20-yard gain. A GT to Kevin for 15, another IZ for 7, and a quick hitch to Joris from the 13, who catches it, turns inside and scores. Five plays into the season and we’re up 7-0…

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Amazon Reviews for Big and Bright!

cover of B & BI gotta admit it’s cool to see my book on Amazon and it just got better now that it’s actually been reviewed. Only two so far, but they were both very positive. I don’t know the first reviewer, but I love what he wrote. Very nice detail about the book.

The second reviewer is Texas Bob. As some of you know, Texas Bob wrote THE book documenting details about every HS football stadium in Texas. When I first announced my tour in 2012, he sent me a copy of his book and it sat on my passenger seat for those five months. You can link to his Texas Stadium data base on my Texas football links page or see his website here.

Thanks to both LSmith and Texas Bob for the fine reviews. It means a lot whenever a Texas HS football fan thinks I “get” what the culture of the sport is all about.

From Amazon—

More than 25 years ago, America was introduced to the culture of high school football in Texas in Friday Night Lights. While that book was very popular in the description of one football program, Big and Bright takes that concept and expands it even further. In this comprehensive book by Gray Levy, football programs from all over the state of Texas are described in great detail.

Levy uses his experience as an educator and a football coach to write about various programs in the state, both in geographic locations and in size. No matter which program he writes about, from Port Lavaca on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to Albiline in the central portion of the state, Levy writes about the players, the coaches, the games and the community support for each of these football teams.

Through Levy’s writing, the reader will be caught up in the spirit of the town and understand why the communities will support these young men fervently. Also, the experiences of the coaches and the players are captured in each town. This was one of the better aspects of the book, especially when Levy writes about what the coaches would be doing not only on game night, but during the week and during school time as well.

Levy’s experience as a coach and educator make his writing very informative for the reader as well. He also shares his opinion on both the education system and coaching frequently in the book. He does explain why he has these opinions and backs them up with experience or facts as appropriate. One example of this that I enjoyed is when Levy states that he believes that “in general, Texas coaches are less authoritarian than coaches elsewhere.” He then goes on to write about examples illustrating why he believes this. Passages like this make the book very enjoyable to read.

The football passages are detailed, deep and very descriptive. Whether it is a description of the offensive formations, the game action for the week Levy visited the school, or the recap of the season for that program, these sections are rich in description. Football fans that love the game beyond the action on the field and want to know more about the strategy and the “X’s and O’s” will especially enjoy these parts.

This book should be added to the library of football fans of all levels, even if they don’t normally watch high school football. Readers who like books on social interaction and the human aspect of sports or gatherings will also want to read this as well. It was a book that I enjoyed very much and was a very good read.

I wish to thank Taylor Trade Publishing for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pace of the book:
This was not a quick or easy read as the story for each school’s football program that Levy wrote about was described in great detail so it required careful reading.

Do I recommend?
Fans of high school football will enjoy this book as all aspects of high school football programs are covered in each chapter. Readers who have an interest in the sociology of high school football in Texas and how it bonds entire communities will also enjoy this book.

By Texas Bob on September 20, 2015

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

When I first heard that a Reno, Nevada high school football coach was coming to Texas for the 2012 football season to find out what Texas High School football was all about, I was skeptical. A long list of writers, journalist and sports writers from out of state have come to Texas to “see” High School football with their own agenda and to show us the error of our ways and our miss placed emphasis on Football in our educational institutions. In the end, they just didn’t get it.

Coach Gray Levy came to Texas with an open mind. He didn’t come to see football in Texas, he came to live it. It did that by doing several things right. First he spent time in rural Texas and urban Texas. Second, he stayed close to each of the eleven teams for at least a week. Third, he became part of the team’s community. And lastly he included teams from six man football to the largest classifications.
Big and Bright by Gray Levy is a good read for football fans. It takes you in the locker rooms of Texas high school football all across Texas. If you don’t understand Texas High School football this book will help you get it.

The first time Coach Spike Dykes’ Texas Tech Red Raiders beat Texas, a reporter ask him,
“Coach, would you say this is one of the biggest wins in your coaching career?” Spike replied, “Oh, I don’t know. When I was at Coahoma, I thought it was a pretty big win when we beat Aspermont for the district title.”
Spike Dyke gets It.

After reading “Big and Bright” I believe Coach Gray Levy gets it.

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