Dent to Tackle HP Football History in Next Book

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Jim Dent plans to write a book about Highland Park football. (Staff photo: Todd Jorgenson)

Jim Dent gained an appreciation for the history of the Highland Park football program while he was a student journalist at SMU during the 1970s.

Four decades later, the acclaimed author is ready to begin work on Doak and Bobby, a nonfiction book chronicling the legacy of the Scots on the gridiron.

Dent revealed details for the project on Thursday at Highland Park Middle School, during an event sponsored by the Raider Families Read Book Club and the HPMS Dads Club.

He will write the book this year with Park Cities People co-founder Kirk Dooley, with plans to have it published around the start of the 2014 season. He is currently looking for an investor to help with publishing costs, and hopes to use a portion of the proceeds to benefit HPISD and the football program.

“I want Doak and Bobby to be read by every student in this school district,” Dent said. “We want to put it in the students’ hands free of charge.”

It will be the first collaboration for Dent, whose 10 nonfiction sports books have included The Junction Boys and Twelve Mighty Orphans.

The title refers to Doak Walker and Bobby Layne, both football legends who played together at HP during the 1940s and later in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. Both are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I bet a lot of young people here don’t know that much about Doak Walker and Bobby Layne,” Dent said. “These are two of the most interesting characters in the history of sports.”

Although their story will be a primary focus in the book, Dent said he also will trace a broader history of the program as far back as 1923.

Dent also shared stories of his other books with the HP crowd on Thursday, such as his breakthrough with The Junction Boys, which made the New York Times bestseller list just seven weeks after it was published, and later was adapted into a television movie in 2002.

He also talked about Twelve Mighty Orphans, the underdog story of the Masonic Home Orphanage team from Fort Worth during the Great Depression. The coach of that team was Rusty Russell, who later became the coach at Highland Park.

Dent also had a message about the importance of literature for several students in the audience.

“I think reading is important regardless of your age. It’s theater of the mind,” Dent said. “There’s nothing in the world better than reading a book.”

By Todd Jorgenson Jan. 17, 2014 | 10:15 am | 25 Comments | Comments RSS
25 comments to "Dent to Tackle HP Football History in Next Book"
  1. MISMOM @ January 21, 2014 at 10:34 am
    Question on the subject of football…How many are on our varsity football team? to me it looks like 100+. is there criteria to make the varsity or can boys just sign up? Do they all get to play?

  2. NFW @ January 21, 2014 at 11:13 am
    @MISMOM–Everyone makes a team but playing time is neglible unless you are a starter. Be prepared to give up your weekends during football season (three day weekends and Thanksgiving included) because there is always a Saturday practice. The team can be ahead 50-0, and the second string MAY go in, and my son found that after four years of football, the coaches didn’t even know his name in the hallway. You kid has to decide if the experience is worth it to him or not.

  3. MISMOM @ January 22, 2014 at 2:56 pm
    @NFW thank you for the info. Has everyone always been allowed to join the team? Or were there tryouts at some point in time? Just curious how the school decided to take everyone, did parents complain or that has just always been the policy?

  4. Football player @ January 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm
    @MISMOM everyone is allowed to join the team, as it is a “class” during 8th period which extends after school for football practice. The football team at highland park from my understanding and experience (just finished my last football season) is very inclusive to anyone that would like to participate. After all these years, I am great friends with ALL of my teammates.

  5. Avid Reader @ January 24, 2014 at 1:12 pm
    @MISMOM, Varsity is only the Juniors/Seniors and any sophs/freshman that are ridiculously talented or needed. The Freshman, JV, and Varsity football are all no-cut teams. The coaches are all very inclusive of all members, but in line with what NFW said, they play to win and non-starters get only occasional field time during games if the score allows. If your kid isn’t a starter, they will be able to figure out for themselves throughout the Freshman or JV years whether it is worth it to continue.

  6. Not a dancer mom @ January 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm
    Think that is great! Now questioning why the same is not allowed for Belles (and so many other sports)? And no, not the mom of any type of dancer but witness to quite a few hurt, talented and hardworking rejected girls! No sour grapes, but curious ….

  7. Avid Reader @ January 27, 2014 at 11:12 am
    @Not a dancer mom, The majority of sports are not capable of supporting a no-cut scenario. There are not enough coaches to monitor let alone actually train the athletes. Can you imagine how many belles instructors there would have to be if they let anyone join the team? You would have girls with no dance experience signing up alongside girls that have been life-long dancers.

    Not making cuts builds character and helpfully directs kids into activities in which they are better equipped to excel. Participation medals for everyone does no one any good in real life.

  8. NFW @ January 27, 2014 at 2:39 pm
    @Avid Reader, if we follow your logic, I think the same can be said for the herd of guys on the football team. Perhaps, if we didn’t worship at the alter of Randy Allen’s football, we might find some athletes that excel in other sports as well. Instead, parents buy time with “coaches” to try to help boys excel in a sport that they are not big enough or fast enough to compete in. As a parent who has been on both sides of the sidelines with a kid (play versus excruciating bench sitting), I wish they would cut football players. It’s ridiculous to allow the football team priviledges that other sports do not seem to have, and, let’s face it, not everyone is going to be Matthew Stafford–as much as parents may want them to be.

  9. NotAlwaysThisWay @ January 27, 2014 at 8:21 pm
    @MISMOM – this the current state of HP football. Under different leadership with games well in hand the coaches made sure every single person got in to play. When I played during this time they had a specific coach, mainly from the jv/freshman squad help out in ensuring that everyone got to play during these games. I know this has been a hot topic for parents and sports club as a whole since the new line of thought was at the top.

  10. MISMOM @ January 28, 2014 at 10:39 am
    @avidreader @notadancermom, you two bring up a good question… why does football get to have so many coaches (think i counted 12 for varsity alone) while the belles have 2? I have a girl and heard the belles will have the smallest squad in 30 years for 2014. why is it getting smaller when our enrollment is up 50% in same time period?

  11. NFW @ January 28, 2014 at 1:04 pm
    Football has 12 coaches because we are in Texas, and football is king. I doubt those coaches on the sidelines include the middle school coaches who assist in the process either. It would be wonderful to take some of that money and procure the services of a math teacher who was trained as a math teacher instead of a football coach masquerading as one. Instead, we need a multitude of them to hold up colored signs to signify the upcoming play. The schools we were competing against must laugh at the spectacle.

    The 100+ kids fielded on the varsity team is a spectacle that is hard to defend–particularly in age of Robin Hood. It is ridiculous to subject those young men to the rigorous training schedule only to sit on the sidelines when there is a 40 point spread on the scoreboard. If they will never play, please cut them, and they can get their character building somewhere else.

  12. Avid Reader @ January 28, 2014 at 5:13 pm
    @NFW, Maybe should have been more careful in my word choice. Meant that not making a team builds character. I am 100% for having cuts in all varsity sports. The number of kids on the football team has always been a curiosity of mine. Any number of 3rd or 4th stringers on the football team could be starters in other sports or could bail on the team and take a worthwhile elective or even just an open period to spend time on school work or some other interest.

  13. Wondering @ January 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm
    @MISMOM – so true – and cheer has ZERO coaches – only sponsors. Cheer pays an outside coach and has to raise all money to pay him, plus buses and pep rally expenses. 12 coaches for varsity football alone?? Cheer parents can only dream of the district providing even ONE coach TOTAL for our 3 squads – composed of 50 girls plus 5 Scotsmen, and growing to 60 girls next year.

  14. 1st anon @ January 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm
    Just remember, every football, basketball, Belles, cheer coach cost 5x their actual salary, since we send 80% to the State.

    It would be interesting to know the average number of HS football coaches, dance team coaches, and Cheer coaches across 4A Texas schools, just to compare.

    From my more radical perspective, I see no reason why we even need Belles or Cheer coaches or 12 HS football coaches. If what @Wondering says about Cheer is correct (no school paid coaching), then I think that they’ve got it correct. I’d rather have the money go to a math/spanish/physics/chemistry teacher than a Belles coach, a Cheer coach, or another football coach.

  15. hpgrad @ January 29, 2014 at 5:24 pm
    @1st anon- you cant get ride of athletics and supporting groups. School would be BORING if all they were learning was math and science. Sports etc are supposed to keep kids in shape, making friends and off street.
    @wondering- So why dont the 100+ parents of belles and cheer make some kind of complaint or demand some $$ from HP athletic foundation? Im sure faced with a discrimination investigation they would part with a few dollars to keep the peace.

  16. 1st anon @ January 29, 2014 at 8:58 pm
    @hpgrad, I never said get rid of athletics and supporting groups. But do we really need paid, staff instructors for dance and cheer? And do we need *12* high school coaches (plus the junior high support coaches)?

  17. MommaScot @ January 30, 2014 at 8:00 am
    Just for clarification, the 12 coaches on the sidelines are not full-time varsity coaches. I know that one is the PE teacher for Bradfield and that he also coaches another varsity sport (can’t remember which one…baseball, maybe). All this to say, these guys are being paid just to coach varsity football. I’m sure they get a little extra for helping with the varsity team, but they are doing other things too. And for my elementary boy, seeing his PE coach on the sidelines is just about the coolest thing ever.

  18. NFW @ January 30, 2014 at 1:02 pm
    MommaScot, coolness factor aside, you have to admit that 12 coaches regardless of their other responsibilities is a laughable amount. Take a look at the sidelines of the other teams HP plays. They have trouble buying uniforms for the most part and rarely did I see more than a half dozen coaches (without colored/pictured signs)–even amongst the larger competitors. We’ll see what happens when we play 6A schools. When you are constantly begging people for money due to Robin Hood, the perception of excess is not exactly a positive one.

  19. MommaScot @ January 30, 2014 at 3:09 pm
    You have 12 coaches because you have 100 layers. Makes sense to me. And each of those 100 players paid the sports fee ($250? $350?) for the privilege of wearing the uniform, standing on the sidelines and practicing. Probably not a choice that I’d make but I don’t begrudge these boys the chance to be a part of the team. I had friends who played maybe 3 minutes total their senior year, but they loved being part of the team. One even started helping keep the stats of the team and got very into that side of the game. If the question is “are we spending too much on athletics” is the topic, I think it is fair to discuss, but if the question is “can 100 guys be on the football team”, isn’t that big of deal.

  20. 1st anon @ January 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm
    On the topic of “are we spending too much on athletics”, just looking at the expense. Let’s make a few assumptions and do some math. Now, I fully admit that I’m not certain on some of my assumptions, and if I am wrong, I hope a district finance person will step in and set me straight.

    So assume 12 coaches. Assume that they are paid $100K/year in fully loaded costs: salary, benefits, insurance, taxes, pensions, travel reimbursements, etc…. There are probably a couple who are paid more, and a few less. But adding in the total costs, on average, we’re probably at $100K each. That’s $1.2M annual for football coaching. Now, in order to pay that amount, HPISD needs to tax at 5x that level, since 4x gets sent to the State of Texas. So HPISD has to tax citizens at $6M. According to UP web sites and HP wikipedia page, there are about 34,000 people and just under 11,000 residences.

    That means that HPISD is taxing each residence at over $500/residence/year to pay for football coaches.

    I’m not a school finance expert. So it is possible that I’ve made some wrong assumptions. But I don’t think that I’m too far off.

  21. NFW @ January 30, 2014 at 4:41 pm
    MommaScot, our football coaches are nearing the supervision levels of preschool classes at that rate. Given that only 1/3 of the team actually plays, we could do with fewer ofvthem. I think most folks argument is the ACE fee doesn’t cover the costs of the “privilege” of wearing the uniform. ACE fees may cover the cost of transportation, but I doubt they cover much more. The size of the team and the associated costs are an intertwined issue.

  22. MISMOM @ January 31, 2014 at 2:36 pm
    I don’t recall the football team doing any fundraisers yet every other group does. Is the $250 ACE fee the ONLY cost for being a FB player? How much do baseball, soccer, basketball etc. players pay for their sport? I know cheer and belles pay in the $2000.00 range plus the fundraisers. Where is all the HP athletic foundation (??)$$ going? Someone needs to publish an accounting of all these groups finances.

  23. HPGRAD @ January 31, 2014 at 5:55 pm
    Why dont we have a pom or dance squad in HS? Most colleges have dance, pom, drill, cheer and baton twirlers. I am sure we have enough girls to make a squad. Plus the belles dont really do pom or jazz routines, Belles do more kick and military.

  24. Think @ February 1, 2014 at 9:26 am
    Simple economics. Break down the sports to their individual, basic components and we will take football first. IF the game was solely football you would have some drop off in attendance due to no cheerleaders, band, drill team. NOW if you have events solely for these 3 (cheerleaders, band, drill team) there would be significant drop off in attendance to see these students perform. How many students and parents with no kids performing or related to the student see these band competitions, who gets what chair for state (essentially playoffs for band). How many students and parents with no kids go to these cheer competitions or when the belles dance for nationals? Thus, you pool them together to get more exposure for the students and have them perform in front of people who wouldn’t normally see them. Football is the beast that allows the platform for these students to perform and thus you want to feed that beast to keep it going. I am not saying this is right but this is how it is. I am taking the broad stroke view.

  25. MRBE @ February 1, 2014 at 12:33 pm
    Football is king in Texas. Has been that way forever. Those 12 coaches you refer to coach all the football teams at HPHS and HPMS. If I’m not mistaken, there are only 3 coaches that focus exclusively on Varsity football. Friday nights in the fall wouldn’t be the same without HP football giving an outlet for players, band, belles, cheerleaders, students and many fans to enjoy themselves. It is like living in a small town dropped inside a large city. Sure it’s expensive but what isn’t these days. And oh by the way, the football team does indeed run a car wash fund raiser that is quite successful and the parents sell lots of tshirts and advertising to pay for much of the expense associated with the program (Granted, not the coaches salaries).

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