While it may be the “pretty boys” receiving, running and scoring touchdowns who claim much of the glory in football, Mineola Coach Bill Dunn says football games are won and lost on the line of scrimmage and that’s why he’s so passionate about giving the soldiers of the football team, the linemen, an opportunity to sharpen their skills, one against another. That’s what Saturday’s All Pro Lineman Challenge on the practice field behind Mineola Middle School was all about.
Forty teams from roughly 26 schools, plus their families, friends and some coaches, comprised a crowd of hundreds who gathered Saturday morning. The young people, young men and women, flexed their muscles as they pushed a plumber’s truck full of tools, bench pressed, drug tires and maneuvered obstacles. The finale was a tug of war between teams that had accumulated the most points.
“This is the largest one we’ve ever had,” Dunn said, adding, “as far as I know it’s one of the largest ones in the nation.” Teams from Denison, Van Alstyne and Greenville were among Saturday’s competitors.
“It’s all competition. Linemen don’t have fun – they compete. It’s a chance for them to get out and compete with their teammates,” Dunn said. He said seven-on-seven is for “the skill kids.” But this was a chance for linemen to compete and do some events that can help their team. “It builds chemistry, and camaraderie and team work - and just competing.”
He said a lot of playoff teams were in Mineola. “You can see why. It’s always the offensive and defensive line that determine whether you win or lose, 99 percent of the time, and everybody watches the ball and watches the pretty boys and all, but it’s really the big guys up front – whoever controls the line of scrimmage is going to win most of the time.”
The schools can’t provide any financial assistance for the teams competing. The teams aren’t allowed to ride on a school bus and while coaches may be there, “they’re kind of separate.”
Winners of Division 1 were Whitehouse, first, and Lindale, second; Division 2, West Rusk, first, and Mineola, second, and Division 3, Eustace, first, Kemp, second.
This was Mineola’s seventh annual event and Dunn said he begins getting questions about it January with schools from “all over wanting to know how to do it. I feel like we have the best one in Texas.”