Rob Oxford: Are you ready for some football?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Richmond Bulldogs

Text and Photos by Rob Oxford

As the youngest child, my father and I often struggled for things on which we could connect emotionally. He was an Army Veteran who served in Vietnam and was born in 1920. He didn't like to talk about his years in the service and I was too young to care about what it was like growing up in Houston, Texas during The Great Depression. Thankfully, we had Audie Murphy, John Wayne and the NFL.

My Dad introduced me to some of the greatest Westerns and War Movies ever filmed. "The Green Berets," "The Dirty Dozen," "Kelly's Heroes," "The Magnificent Seven," and "The Cowboys," the latter of which I saw at an actual Drive-In. He also introduced me to those "other" Cowboys.

Although born outside Houston, home of the Oiler's, my Dad was a Dallas Cowboy fan. Today you can argue whether or not they deserve to be called "America's Team," but back in the 70's there was no question and Cowboy Football was something we looked forward to watching together each and every Sunday.

Although his physical health prevented us from playing a lot of catch, I do remember a few occasions when we would toss the ol' pigskin. Having moved to Texas from New York the summer after 6th grade, I missed out on playing Pop Warner (the Texas version of Junior Football), so my first introduction to the sport was in 7th Grade.

 Jersey signed by Husky Running Back Myles Gaskin

How badly I wanted to be a Grapevine Middle School Pony. My brother was already a Mustang (the high school equivalent) and he was good. He was really good. The problem was most of the kids in my school had been playing on organized teams for years already. After all, this was Texas! Sadly, it wasn't until my Junior and Senior year in high school that I started to understand exactly what it took to be a good player.

Fast forward 30 years. I now have two boys of my own and they are showing an interest in football. I began thinking of what it meant to be a member of that special fraternity. I thought about the friends I made on that 7th grade team (Larry Wilson, Jeff Harper, Mason Hemphill, and Mike McClendon) who are still my friends today.

I thought about the dedication and discipline one needed to have to endure Two-A-Days in the Texas heat during the months of August and September. I thought about getting knocked down and getting back up. I thought about the pride I felt when wearing my jersey during class on game days. I thought about the respect I had for my coaches and teammates while going into battle together. Finally, I thought about the cheerleaders of course.

This was something I wanted for my boys.

After doing some research, my wife and I decided we would sign our oldest up for Richmond Junior Football. There are obviously other programs in the area, but Richmond by far had received the highest marks from those whom we had contacted. Established in 1958, the volunteers and coaches we met at the first parent meeting had exactly the same goals and aspirations we were hoping we would find. This would be more about introducing our son to the game of football and developing the right attitude and skills, than it would be about winning. Yes we all want to win, but without the right attitude no one is a winner.

President Mike Weber and Vice President Lev Arakelyan

Like most introductory sports programs Richmond is a 501c3 charity organization that relies solely on parental support. From the Board of Directors headed by Michael Weber, himself a former Richmond Bulldog, to the coaches, players, concession stand volunteers, field staff, cheerleaders and cheer coaches, Richmond Football is a family. No more so today than it was when Michael's Dad Bill was President from 2001 to 2011. Back then if you had been watching closely, you might have seen a young player by the name of Myles Gaskin (Washington Huskies) scoring touchdown after touchdown.

It's true that today there are valid concerns surrounding the sport of football. The greatest of these and rightly so, is the risk of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

The good news is that Richmond Football is actively working to reduce the chances of CTE. Not only are all Richmond Coaches certified by USA Football, a highly respected organization itself, but they are discouraged from telling players to "put a hat on 'em" or "plant your face mask in his numbers." -terms that 30 years ago were heard at every practice and screamed from every sideline.

The focus today is on a safe and low risk approach to football. No less physical, just smarter. Specifically, the introduction of the "Hawk Tackle" a form of tackling created by the Seattle Seahawks which puts the emphasis on using the shoulder. Thus keeping the head out of the equation entirely.

Although I am the unofficial "President" of the Highlander Football Gridiron Group at Shorecrest H.S., it is not my intention to convince you to let your child play football. That is entirely your decision and yours alone.

However, I would be doing a disservice to myself and possibly to you if I didn't tell you that a recent 2018 Graduate of Shorecrest, who at age 11 wasn't sure he even wanted to play football, received an award for the Most Improved Player on his team and a Left Tackle Honorable Mention nod from Wesco (the league in which Shorecrest is a member). That young man will always have those memories and so will his father who never missed a game.

Scholarships are available to interested families and gear checkout is August 6th. Find more information about Richmond Junior Football here.

Go Bulldogs!


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