Whatever the NFL veterans said to the LHHS Wildcats in the locker room and at the pep rally Friday must have been powerful stuff. The 0-3 Wildcats trounced their cross-town rivals, the Berkner Rams, 59-28 Friday night at Wildcat-Ram Stadium.
Three former Wildcats, donning their Super Bowl rings, flew to Dallas to see their alma mater receive awards celebrating the players’ participation in the NFL’s ultimate game. Matt Stover (Super Bowls with Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts), Merton Hanks (Super Bowl with San Francisco 49ers) and Detron Smith (Super Bowl with Denver Broncos) were joined by other star players, including Wade Smith (Houston Texans), Derrick Cullors (New England Patriots), Reggie Newhouse (Arizona Cardinals) and Rodd Newhouse (Rice University).
“Being at Lake Highlands High School was an important time in my life, and it’s an important time in your life,” Detron told the players in the locker room, “because truly we were brothers. We took pride in everything we did together, especially when we took that field. Twenty years later, we still feel that brotherhood. Tonight, when you take that field, take it to the next level, and do it for your brothers.”
“Football is about what’s in your heart,” continued Cullors. “The thing that made Detron and all of us better was we competed against each other. It made us better. We challenged each other to get better every day. If you’re not getting better every day, then you’re being average. We don’t accept average.
“You can’t say you believe you’re going to be a winner, you can’t say you believe you’re going to be a champion. You have to set some goals, then get out on the practice field and do the work it takes to achieve those goals. That’s the reason we made it to the highest level. We had to work. We had to compete. We had to fight. And we had to hold each other accountable.
“LH means so much to us,” continued Cullors. “Dig deep and find your greatness.”
“I’m the youngest guy here, out of all of these NFL champions,” Wade told the boys. “When I was in the 7th grade, I looked up to guys like this. I watched them on TV, and I said these guys came from the same neighborhood as me. My only goal in the 7th grade was to be a Lake Highlands Wildcat varsity football player.
“I played in the NFL for 12 years. I played in the Pro Bowl, I had division championships – all that – but nothing compares to when you’re here. You guys are here now. Every time you pick up a weight, every time you run a gasser, every time you are in the classroom, you have that weight on your shoulders. This is a traditional powerhouse football team. This is the School of Champions. We believe that.
Realize that that LH on your jerseys, it means something. It means something to me, and it means something to the people that are coming up behind you.
“I get emotional, because there wouldn’t be a me without this neighborhood and the people in this community who looked out for me. I come from some of the same apartments as some of you guys, and you can pay them back by what you do on the field and what you do in the classroom.”
Pulling the Wildcat kicker up off the bench, 20-year NFL veteran kicker Stover asked if the kids had seen American Sniper.
“If you want to know how to win, this kicker is your sniper. The kicker may not be down in the trenches, but aren’t those soldiers glad they have him?
“If you belittle your kicker or any other player and make him less than one of you, you can’t win. You need to trust one another and build each other up.
“It’s a privilege to play and you never, ever want to take it for granted.”
“When the team wins, everybody wins,” said Hanks. “Everybody looks a little better than they really are, and everybody gets hardware (pointing at his Super Bowl ring). I was on one of the greatest collections of football talent ever assembled. We had either a Hall of Fame player, an All Pro player or a Pro Bowl player on both sides of the ball, and in some cases, two deep. And we were losing. We weren’t taking care of each other, we weren’t lifting one another up. Finally, we bought in to what the coach was saying. It’s his job to make you better.”
“We’re all over the country, from coast to coast,” Hanks said, pointing to the veterans, “but we’re talking about you guys. We’re wondering when you guys are going to decide to be a team. We’d like to see it on the field tonight versus Berkner. I hate Berkner,” he said to lots of cheers and laughter.
“Put your best effort out there, because you’ve got folks like us watching folks like you. We fully expect you to live up to your potential, and we’re here to honor you.”
At the pep rally, Dallas City Councilman Adam McGough presented a special proclamation on behalf of the City of Dallas, honoring LH’s achievement. NFL VP of Operations Hanks presented three golden trophies from the NFL – and he even reprised his legendary celebration “pigeon dance.”
And the crowd went wild.