This book is autobiographical. It relies on my subjective remembrance. There is a clear delineation between fact and fiction. I have tried to be true, above all, to my own Luxora experience. Everyone who is a Luxora Panther, with black and gold blood flowing through our veins, will find a bit of their story, told in my autobiographical essays. For this reason, I wish to share with you and thus dedicate this book to all the people of Luxora, my hometown.
As is often the case, there are other people, who although not born or bred in Luxora, Arkansas, will nonetheless hear their own story being told through my voice. They will see the pictures of my teachers and my sports teams, and rather than see what I see, or hear what I hear, they will instead hear their story.
Luxora, my hometown, is not only my story, but the story of every man, woman and child on Earth who has been nurtured in the small town atmosphere, who has experienced the uniqueness of a place that is timeless, a time that is placeless, and although fades away into our collective memory, is never forgotten.
Luxora, my hometown, is also your hometown. It doesn’t belong to me. Luxora belongs to all of us…
Football is a rite of passage for most boys in high schools all around the United States, from coast to coast, east to west, north to south. When a boy reaches his senior year of high school, it’s expected that you play football.
It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. It’s deeper than that. It’s about what you learn on the field of battle that shapes how you will approach the battles you face later in your life.
It’s about team spirit, about giving all that you have, every second of every minute. The Luxora Panthers of 1980 embodied that notion, the ideal of football as preparation for the challenges of life.
We were coached by a legend, coach Letroy Gathen. I remember watching him play football on TV when I was a young boy. That’s how good our coach was. He made us into what we were, and would later become.
We became Panthers. We were Panthers. We will always be, “Panthers”. We bleed, not red blood, no. We bleed black and gold. Panther colors, Panther blood, black and gold are the colors of our blood.
We were ferocious Panthers, aggressive, mean, swift, and tough. We were led by Randy Porter, our All-State quarterback. In my mind, he was the greatest athlete ever produced by Luxora High School.
Randy was strong, tall, light on his feet, swift, fluid, with an arm like a cannon, and tough. And smart. He knew when to throw a ball away, to keep it from being intercepted. He knew when to throw directly to you, so you could catch and run, and he knew when to pull it back and run himself.
I still remember the day, in 5th grade, when Mr. Smith, the Superintendant of Schools, put the ball in his hand, and said, “Porter, you’re my Quarterback”. 8 years later, Porter was the best quarterback in the entire state of Arkansas.
How good was he? He was so good that he turned down scholarship offers from several major colleges so he could follow his heart, his love, and play basketball. You see, back then, most college coaches didn’t think black players were smart enough to play Quarterback.
But that’s another story. I’ll save it for another day. Today’s story is about Leland High School.
Let me tell you about the Senior Panthers before we move to talk about Leland High School, OK?
First, Oscar Reynolds. He could catch anything, hands like glue, speed that was deceptive, and always thinking one thing: how to beat his man for a touchdown. Oscar caught a game-winner over his shoulder, running diagonally from left to right, versus Osceola when we were 9-1 as 9th graders.
Marvellers Rubin? He was the meanest football player ever to play linebacker. He lived to inflict pain on enemy running backs, and quarterbacks, and anybody else who got in his way.
Eddie George? This guy made Mel Gibson look like a Boy Scout. Eddie would never quit. He was strong, with a lion sized heart. When Eddie lined you up in his sights you were going to be violently deconstructed. Neither defeat nor retreat were a part of his vocabulary. He thought I made those two words up. Eddie George always found a way to make the tackle.
Tackle? Ricky Cannon was the kind of tackle who met you in the hole, stopped your forward progress, stood you up, and held you there for Eddie and Marvellers to come along and make the kill. He was a specialist at that kind of stuff. Going in low, sliding off his blocker and making the tackle is what happened when you ran the ball on his side of the field.
Jerry Harrell? This man was a racehorse. If you give him a split second, a half step, an inch, he will run away from you. All the way to the endzone, that’s where you find him. He was a human lightning bolt. And strong. Strong enough to take a pounding all night long, and then run away to the endzone if you got tired. Jerry Harrell was fast, strong, tough, and mean. The kind of guy you like on your team.
Thomas Baker, me? I specialised in catching passes, picking up fumbles and running for touchdowns. That is to say, I was always looking for an opportunity to score. And the night that Lepanto came to town, for some reason they kept running the ball to my side. Seems they had a scouting report that side the right side was weak. Well, that Friday night, I feasted on their backfield, making 10 unassisted tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Leland High School is a public high school located in the Almaden Valley in San Jose, California, USA in the San Jose Unified School District. Leland is well known for its National #1 Speech and Debate team (as of 1999 – April 2010).
Awards and recognition
During the 2004-05 school year, Leland High School was recognized with the Blue Ribbon School Award of Excellence by the United States Department of Education, the highest award an American school can receive.
In 2002, Leland received a clear six year accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
In 2006, 413 Leland students took a total of 877 Advanced Placement tests. 79% of the Placement scores were three or above, with 29% scoring a five. The school average score was a 3.94, while 177 students qualified as AP Scholars.
Coach Flowers’ pre-game speech for Leland High School before the championship Junior Varsity (JV) game.
I will conquer what has never been conquered.
Defeat will not be in my creed.
I will believe where all those before me have doubted.
I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor and respect of my team.
I have trained my mind and now my body will follow!
WHO AM I? …. I AM A CHAMPION!!!