When High School Football Practice began Today, back on this Saturday 50 years ago, “The County Fair” had come to town!!!

Official high school football practice begins on Monday, and for some teams they will go in the morning, and for some teams, they will go in the afternoon, it always goes in that direction…

For me, I do like the afternoons better…When you practice in the mornings, you need to go at around 7:30am to avoid some of that heat and humidity, and then when you get through with practice, you have nothing to do for the rest of the day, but sit around and do, nothing….

The time was right for me, 50 years ago today, for on this Saturday, and it was August 1 on this day 50 years ago today when we started high school football practice, and it was go time at my more preferable time, as we got going at 5:30 in the afternoon….

It was 5:30pm, on this Saturday back in 1972, when I got out there and got involved in my first high school football practice…

I was in the ninth grade back there in 1972, and we were out there on that practice field, at Western Guilford High School, and there must have been about 70-80 of us out there on that field, ready to go to work…

Remember it like it was almost yesterday…It was a cloudy Saturday afternoon, and the humidity was way on up there…One thing that we did a lot of, and I had never done much of this before, and never did enough of this type work when I was coming along with high school, college and lifetime athletics, and that was we did a lot of stretching…I was on course with the running, had been doing plenty of that for years already, and I was super-strong, almost like an oxe, or a bull moose, but the stretching was one area that I was lacking in, and I never took to it…But now that I am much older, I do all of the stretching that I can do, I will do it/the stretching all throughout the entire day, as much as possible..

Sure wish I had done more stretching when I was younger, but all you can do, is do all you can do today…

Now back to good old football practice, back in 1972…

For me, just a young fellow, a mere freshman in high school, this high school football practice, with the JV’s and the Varsity working all together, that was a new deal for me…We got started sitting on the ground with that stretching which I hated since I was jacked up with those kid’s muscles, and that extra muscularity makes it harder to stretch…But we didn’t stretch all day long, soon we were doing Carioca exercise drills, and I hated those too, and before too long, we jumped into another set of exercise, running and strength workouts, called “The County Fair”…

Western Guilford HS football coach Doug Henderson had come up with “The County Fair”, and this drill would either kill you, or it might just knock you out for awhile…It was a set of five-to-six stations, and you would go to one station and do like 25 push ups non-stop, and then that whistle blows, and you are on your way to another station ready to do 50 situps, or maybe you will be doing a monkey-roll for five minutes non-stop…And when the whistle blows, you RUN to the next station…Anybody caught walking, and your entire group will hit the white line, and start running sprints…RUN to that next station, and live or die, for “The County Fair”…Being a ninth-grade kid, I was giving it my all, and sort of wondering in a curious way, when the water break was going to happen/begin…

That “County Fair” nearly killed us, and I once heard former Greensboro Parks and Recreation leader Wayne Butler say, that “The County Fair” was the toughest thing he had ever seen or heard of in his life, and he had only seen it, he didn’t have to do it, since he was a Smith HS guy, and Smith was in the city, and the city schools never got the chance to visit the real, “County Fair”….

We had more drills and did offensive and defensive formation setups, after we got finished with our “County Fair” work/rides, and after around two hours of the running, the jumping, the crawling, and the grasping for air, it was time for the End of Practice Sprints…

Coach Doug Henderson, our Western Guilford HS coach and field general, was a diverse man of football and sport, and he made sure that we got to do plenty of different kinds of sprints, as we completed our football practice day….It was 20’s, and 30’s, and 40’s, and 50’s, and finally my favorite, the 100’s…

My plan of attack was to go kind of easy on the shorter and mid-distance sprints, and they explode on the 100’s, and this idea worked to perfection…On the longer sprints, those 100’s that I liked so much, I was out-running and beating everybody on the team…It was showing that I was the fastest man out there, when it came to the longer sprints….And everybody got to wondering, “How’s this kid, the fastest guy in the school?”…

Man plan of running the shorter sprints slower worked for some time, and then I would really kill those 100’s…I guess it was like smoking shorter cigars, vs. smoking longer cigars, back in the day…One day, I slipped up and shared my run the short sprints slower approach, and fly on the long sprints theory with a teammate, and one of the coaches overheard me, and he was on to my plan/theory, and once he got wind of my hypothesis, he told the head coach, and he said, “We better keep an eye on this boy”, and make sure if his blazing speed is for real, or if he is just blowing out cigar smoke….

Needless to say, I was very close to being on the Varsity football team in the ninth grade, but my time ended being better served with the JV bunch…I did have the chance/opportunity to move up with/to Varsity team about mid-way through the season, but being a real bright 14 year-old kid, I was killing some time one Sunday afternoon, and my younger neighbor came by our house, and he was riding a horse…Mike says to me, “Want to go play some pickup football up at the Needham’s place?”, and I said yeah, and he said hop on board, and we took off riding a horse bareback down the road to the pickup football game…

Needless to say again, I wish things could have turned out better, but when we made a sharp turn up there near Burke’s store, I fell off of the horse and landed in the road, and when I did, I fell with my arm out-stretched, and I ended up breaking my arm…Didn’t get hurt in a football game, or in a football practice, or even in a pickup football game…My season was lost when I fell off of a horse, on the way to a football game…

Football season was gone, and we even had a game scheduled for the Monday night following my Sunday afternoon fall from grace(and that was not the horse’s name), but I did end up getting to go with my JV football team to the game at East Davidson, on that Monday night, and when I got there, I still sort of got into the game…

They sent me to the Press Box to be a spotter for the PA announcer, and I sure helped him, and myself out too…He(the PA man) had me giving/feeding him the names of the Western Guilford football players that were making the plays, and somehow, some way, Andy Durham was making the bulk of the tackles for the Western Guilford defense…But he/I wasn’t even in the game, but yes he/I was…

It was very nice/sweet to hear that PA man keep on saying, “Durham on the Tackle”, and by the time the game was over that night, I ended up leading the team in tackles for that game, while I was sitting in the Press Box, with a broken arm…Funny thing was, our bus driver was making tackles too, and so were the cheerleaders, the coaches, and about every other person that traveled with our team to the game, that evening…But, I was tops in tackles for that Monday night contest back there in 1972…

Have always heard the old saying, “Make the most of your situation no matter the consequences”, and I have always planned on following that plan….

When your local high school football practices begin on Monday, you don’t have to follow my plan to success, but if you do, don’t be surprised if you make the cut…..

4 Comments

  • Fball Fan says:

    I got a good laugh at “The County Fair” story about it possibly killing you or knocking you out for awhile.

  • redclayramblers says:

    I remember Coach Tommy Grayson’s version of the county fair over at Eastern Guilford. I also remember Oklahoma and bull in the ring once you got pads.

  • Andy Durham says:

    Saw quite a few players fall by the wayside during the “County Fair”, and it is good we look back at it now and laugh, it sure wasn’t that much fun back then, but if you completed one of those practices back in that day, you did not walk from the practice field back to locker room area, you RAN….

    At 3:30 each day during the school year, you RAN to field from the Black Line outside the locker room, and you RAN back to that Black Line to end your day/practice…I don’t care who you were, there was no walking, to or from the practice field, and it was not a short run…

    The Oklahoma Drills were also part of what we did, but that came after we put on the pads…Back in the day, you had to have five days of football practice conditioning before you could begin to hit…I remember Oklahoma being pretty much a guessing game…

    In Oklahoma, it seemed like you had to guess correctly if you were on defense, since you had no idea, which way that running back was going…You had the offensive lineman blocking you, and he knew which way the play was going too….

    Sit in the hole, get rid of that blocker and make the tackle, before the back got past and through that hole…

    I think Oklahoma was more for the people that were watching the action, and the people in on the play, were involved in the Heat of Moment…

    Seems like we used to see those Oklahoma drills in our sleep, and the Wishbone Offense ruled the day, back in that day….We used to have these half T’shirts that read, “We Love the Wishbone”, and would wear those half T-shirts around the school in the Summer, and wear them under our shoulder pads, during the season…

    You could get one of those T-shirts good and sweaty from a hard day at practice, and when that T-shirt dried out, it would stand up on its own, in the corner of the locker room…

    Some great memories of those days, and sure glad we can look back and laugh at those old days now…

    I remember I used to dress out with the seniors, when I was in 10th grade…We had our own separate locker room area, and we called it The Cage…I was in there with them, since I made to every offseason workout….Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, never missed one of those Summer/offseason workouts over my four years in high school….

    Boy, we put all of that work in, and where did it take us??? At least we can identify in some ways, to what the current kids are facing today, right???

    I sort of feel like I have been there, and never left there…Still on the field, in my mind, and some of that comes from being out in the heat and humidity, and running every day, Monday-Friday….

    Always good to remain part of the process, both mentally and physically…

  • Andy Durham says:

    Saw and talked with Prince Deese today…Deese, the former Ragsdale HS and Elon College outstanding football running back and wrestler…

    Prince said was able to put his high school football days/games out of his mind/head 20 years ago now..Prince right around 67 years old today…

    It all stuck with him until he was around 48 years old…

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