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A few months later, when Clear told his sons that they were all moving to Alabama, the twins knew immediately where they wanted to go to school: Hoover.
Ross Wilson is driving his mother's silver BMW through the sleepy back streets of Hoover, an affluent community of 67,500. As the blond-haired, blue-eyed Wilson approaches his house on this rainy summer evening, he ponders the fact that he is days from becoming one of the most famous high school seniors in America. Beginning on Aug. 23, MTV will feature Wilson in a new reality series called Two-a-Days. MTV cameras followed Wilson's every move last season--both on and off the field--as he led Hoover to its fourth straight state championship, and the network has edited all that footage down to eight shows that will air each Wednesday until Oct. 11.
"I'm one of the only guys who didn't like all the cameras," says Wilson. "I really just like being a normal kid."
Propst remembers the first time he saw Wilson throw a football. Wilson was in fifth grade, running Hoover's no-huddle offense at one of the fields at Hoover East Ballpark, where many of the youth leagues play. "Man, he was winging that ball everywhere, showing no fear," says Propst.
Wilson began practicing with the varsity players in informal workouts the summer before he started seventh grade--alongside his brother, who was the team's starting QB by the end of his sophomore season. As a junior last season Wilson completed 67.3% of his passes for 2,950 yards and 31 touchdowns. He may be short, but he seldom underthrows his receivers--he can heave a ball 70 yards without much effort.
That arm strength will be tested on Sept. 1 when Hoover travels to Tulsa to play Union High, which has a 57-game home winning streak. The trip to the Sooner State for the televised game on Fox Sports Net will cost Hoover, whose players and coaches will fly on a chartered plane, $108,930. Hoover spends an average of $450,000 a year on football, including travel expenses, meals, uniforms and pads. All of it is comes from gate receipts, concessions and fund-raising. Although Nike supplies the coaches with shoes and apparel, Propst is constantly pounding on the doors of local businesses asking for donations. "We do spend a lot of money," says Parker Wilson, who is president of the Buccaneer Touchdown Club, founded in 1999, which has close to 300 members and raises roughly $450,000 annually. "But we do it to create a championship atmosphere." Hoover operates more like a big-time college program than a typical high school team; Bucs players sometimes stay in hotels the night before home games, enjoy lavishly catered pregame meals and receive a police escort to and from Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, where the Buccaneers play most of their home games. "Here at Hoover we do everything first-class," says Wilson.
With his baseball cap pulled low on his forehead, the Crimson Tide's starting sophomore quarterback squints into the hellish Alabama sun and watches his brother take on Shreveport, La.--based Evangel Christian Academy, the defending Class 1A Louisiana state champions, in the semifinals of the seven-on-seven tournament. "It's like playing at a college when you're at Hoover," he says. "You get to school before class in the morning, and you watch film with coaches. You watch more film after school. And then you work your tail off in practice. Hoover totally prepared me to play at Alabama."
Out on the field it's another track meet for the Bucs. The younger Wilson is firing the ball left and right, deep and short, connecting several times with his newest receiver, Brandon Clear, who looks like a budding Randy Moss as he leaps over defenders for acrobatic catches. Propst strolls along the sideline, intensely focused, nodding his head in approval after each completion. The fans rise to their feet when the final whistle blows; Hoover wins an atypically low-scoring game 19--17 and advances to face Shiloh Christian of Springdale, Ark., in the championship. (Lightning later forces the title game to be canceled--and denies Hoover the chance to defend its title.)
After the game Propst is sitting in his office. On a shelf behind him rest the five state championship trophies he's won at Hoover. "After winning consecutive titles, we sometimes have trouble finding motivation around here--but not this year," he says. "This is the best team I've ever had at Hoover. We're already talking about going 16--0. Nothing short of perfection will be tolerated."