"Turns out we
had a guy here in Hoover who had his own plane, and he gave me a ride,"
says Propst. "It became clear real quick how committed this community is to
its football team."
Once on the
Kentucky campus, Propst shadowed Mumme and Wildcats offensive coordinator Mike
Leach--now the head coach at Texas Tech--during practices and sat in on all
their film sessions. Mumme even opened his playbook and film room to Propst,
who spent hours studying the Wildcats' offense. "Rush couldn't get enough
of talking ball," recalls Tony Franklin, who was an assistant at Kentucky
in '99 and is now the offensive coordinator at Troy. "I thought the offense
would be perfect for high school. Kids don't like to play smashmouth football
like they used to. But if you play pitch and catch all day, the athletes will
Before his first
practice at Hoover, Propst approached one of the school's top athletes, Danny
Rumley, a speedy 6'3", 210-pound basketball star who had never tried out
for the football team. "You come down to the field and don't wear
pads," Propst told Rumley. "Come on now, give me a chance."
The next day
Propst unveiled his pass-happy offense. In the first 30 minutes of practice,
Rumley, playing wide receiver, caught about 50 passes in drills simulating game
conditions. Afterward he excitedly asked Propst if he could be on the team.
"That's when the flood began," says Propst. "Once Danny told
everyone that he was going to play, all the best athletes in school came
As Propst taught
his players the intricacies of the offense, he also spread the gospel of his
passing attack to the Hoover football community. Propst invited every
youth-league football coach in the area to the Hoover High campus for a two-day
clinic, during which he diagrammed the offense he had learned from Mumme and
encouraged even the coaches of fourth-graders to use the same plays and
terminology Propst would be calling out on Friday nights in the fall. If he was
going to build a long-term winner, Propst told the coaches, he needed them to
teach his offense and his defense to the kids in the youth leagues.
One of the
coaches at the clinic was Parker Wilson, a fifth-grade coach who had two young
boys--an eighth-grader named John Parker and a fifth-grader named Ross--who
were already displaying big-time arms. "I put in Rush's offense," says
Wilson, 47, a sales director at Lucent Technologies. "The kids loved his
style." That fall, footballs began flying through the air all over Hoover.
In Propst's first year the Buccaneers had their first winning record since
1995, finishing 7--3. A year later they won their first state championship, and
they haven't lost more than one game in a season since.
At least once a
week Hoover athletic director Jerry Browning gets a call from a parent who
lives in another school district--sometimes even in another state--and wants to
know how his or her son can transfer to Hoover to play football. There's no
open enrollment in Alabama, which means all of Hoover's players must live with
a parent or guardian within the school district. "We get accused of
recruiting kids all the time," says Browning. "But kids want to play
for winners, so we get a lot of calls from students looking to
On March 7
Browning got one of those calls. Army Lieut. Col. Samuel Clear had phoned to
say that his family was moving to Alabama from Williamsburg, Va., because he
had been reassigned, and his two sons were interested in playing for Hoover.
When Clear mentioned that his twin boys stood 6'5", weighed about 210
pounds and ran 4.5 40s, Browning nearly swallowed his phone. Brandon was a wide
receiver who'd already caught the attention of college coaches; Byron was a
defensive lineman who'd been invited to several top scouting combines. That was
one of the better days for the Hoover football program.
"I wanted to
get my boys into a program that would develop their talent," says Clear,
who will be stationed in Montgomery, Ala., which is 83 miles from Hoover, when
he begins leadership training at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base
next month. "I don't consider it a sacrifice that I have to drive a ways to
get to work. This decision was a no-brainer."
brothers, who began their senior year at Hoover on Aug. 9, first heard about
Hoover football when the Bucs pounded Nease ( Ponte Vedra, Fla.) High 50--29
last Aug. 27 in a game shown on ESPN--the network's first high school football
broadcast. As Brandon--who has offers from Stanford, Syracuse, Duke and
Army--watched Bucs quarterback Ross Wilson fling the ball all over the field,
he called his dad into the living room. "That's the kind of offense I want
to play in!" Brandon yelled.