"Me too," reports another.
"O.K., form a line," says Brown, who then leads them to the bathroom.
Unlike Trinity Christian, Giddings doesn't draw fans in droves. The families of a fair number of boys show up this evening, but they've come less to cheer for Giddings than to see their children engaged in a positive activity and wearing something other than prison-issue dungarees and T-shirts. Most of those who follow the team work at the school. They attend games both to support the boys and to serve as "coverage" in the event of a problem. According to school policy, in most cases there must be a volunteer staff person on hand for each player who suits up. Giddings enlisted 23 volunteers to cover this trip, so Brown has brought 23 boys. Had more staff agreed to attend the game, more boys would have been allowed to dress out. In the past when getting enough coverage was a problem, Giddings reported to games with barely enough boys to field a team. "Without those volunteers, we couldn't play," Brown says. "At the end of the year I give each one a certificate of appreciation. It's just a piece of paper, but it lets them know how grateful me and Coach Ward are."
Last year when he was an all-state lineman, Adrian Brown often found himself pretending that the faces of school employees in the bleachers belonged to members of his family. "My mother didn't go to any of my games," he says, "so I took on Mr. and Mrs. [Trent] Campbell as my mother and father. When I'd see them there, in my head it was like seeing family. But the truth is, they were better to me than my real family ever was. My birthday came around, and I didn't even get a card from my mother. But Mr. Campbell brought me a present. It was a weekend, too, and he didn't have to be at the school. I told myself at those ball games that I had to prove to him that I could do it. I felt I owed him something."
With Brown no longer on the squad, Justin Nash anchors the offensive line. Nash has been nursing a groin injury, but he's decided to play against Trinity Christian anyway. The team needs him. Nash is famous at Giddings for two things: his appetite and his toughness. He once ate eight heaping plates of Mexican food without pausing for breath, and he once ran headfirst into a tree and knocked it over, roots and all. "Whose field is this?" Nash screams now as he warms up on the sideline.
"Our field!" crows one of his teammates.
Two years ago Nash tried to rob a convenience store. He shot a round from a handgun into the ceiling. "The next time I fire this thing it will be in your head, unless you do what I say," he yelled at the clerk, a woman cowering in fear behind the counter. When he couldn't get the register open, Nash left the store in a panic. Police arrested him the next day, and a state court sent him to Giddings.
"Sometimes I want my victim to see me play football," Nash says. "I'm not the person I used to be. Should I be playing football? After what I've done, that's a big question. It has two answers: no, if you think about how I acted in that store; and yes, if you consider how much I've changed since I came to Giddings."