by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
Last Friday evening’s annual kick-off to the Rockford High School (RHS) 2011 football season played out to everyone’s delight. Football players, their parents and grandparents, extended families, friends and Rockford football fanatics all enjoyed an evening of preseason community building fellowship. The Rockford Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium’s home seating section was packed and rocking in anticipation of yet another successful football season.
The annual Hots ‘n’ Brats event began with a varsity football practice after which everyone present, including all of the RHS varsity football coaches and 2011 football team members, gathered on the stadium’s concourse for hotdogs and brats with all the trimmings.
Following the meal, Head Coach Ralph Munger thanked the Hots ‘n’ Brats committee and invited everyone to relax and, as he put it, “Talk some football.”
Moving on, Munger introduced the offensive and defensive team captains, Mark LaPrairie and Ben Braden respectively. Each, in turn, went on to introduce their teammates on either side of the line. Munger then introduced what he called “a great group of assistant coaches.”
Next up was an unveiling of the team motto board, which was engraved with the 2011 inspirational motto: “1st Things 1st.” Coach Munger gave meaning to the motto in saying, “Keep first things first in all facets of life. It starts with your behavior and attitude in taking the first step, moving on to the first down, and carrying it over into your home and your community. Simply put, take care of things one at a time.”
A highlight of the evening then followed as Coach Munger introduced two people who are “pretty special, not only to football but to all Rockford sports teams. They are at every game, rain or shine, sitting on the 50-yard line oftentimes bellowing encouragement and admonition to their beloved football team.”
Lyle English and his mom Rose Grindle, both recognized as official “Super Fans,” were on hand to present a 14”x24” stained glass work of art to the eight-member assistant coaching staff. English, a 1976 RHS grad, has a many-year habit of creating and gifting stained glass pieces to varsity lettermen and head coaches. This year he wanted to recognize those who work unselfishly behind the scenes in assisting Coach Munger in building one of the most successful high school football programs in the state’s history.
Lyle then unveiled and presented, to the entire assistant coaching staff, a beautiful stained glass window panel in school colors of black and orange, depicting the old RHS adage: “Rockford Rams Pride.”
Munger thanked Lyle on behalf of his assistants and said, “These two we call our Super Fans! They are nice folks and Lyle certainly has quite a talent and a huge heart.”
We, along with many others in the community, have known Lyle and Rose for many years. Lyle readily admits that sometimes he has “a big mouth and can be a big pain in the behind.” At the same time, no one can deny that Lyle loves all things Rockford and especially the sports programs of RHS. To parrot the words of Coach Munger, Lyle has a humongous heart! Way to go, Lyle.