NFL Meets Friday Night Lights
Valley Christian High football has a heavyweight roster—of coaches.
Photography by Jose Carlos Fajardo
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John Parrella watched as two orderly rows of young football players jogged onto the practice field at Dublin’s Valley Christian High. The players wore red-and-black shorts, gray T-shirts with Vikings Football across the chest, and glistening maroon helmets fresh from the factory.
“The helmets look sweet!” the former Oakland Raiders defensive lineman bellowed.
Not all of the players knew what to do with their brand-new gear. Sophomore Taylor “Tex” Bartlett wandered over, held out the chin strap, and sheepishly said, “I don’t know how to put this on.”
Parrella, the head coach, has embraced an ambitious project at the 310-student high school: starting a football program from scratch. The 38-year-old—who played in three Super Bowls during his 12-year National Football League career—understands football’s value to a community. He played at a 150-student Catholic school in Grand Island, Nebraska, and says, “It changed my life.”
“Football teaches so many lessons about life, hard work, and discipline,” Parrella says. “And I think it’s going to bring school spirit like they’ve never seen before.”
It doesn’t hurt that Parrella has assembled a big-name coaching staff for the small school’s team, including former Raiders teammate Rod Woodson, voted one of the top 50 players in NFL history; another former Raider, Josh Taves; and a respected longtime high school coach, Craig Cook. Although the new program may lack history, it will not lack coaching expertise.
“We’re taking all that NFL experience and bringing it to high school,” says Woodson. “The kids are going to learn at the NFL level. Hopefully, that knowledge will lead to wins and also lead to the kids respecting and understanding each other.”