Patriots Great Tippett Addresses High School Football Finalists
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Dozens of high school football players from across the commonwealth had a good reason to miss their morning classes on Tuesday.
But they could not avoid a history lesson.
New England Patriots great Andre Tippett was the keynote speaker at Tuesday's MIAA Football State Championship Breakfast at Gillette Stadium. And the Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker shared some of his thoughts about the game and its impact on his life.
Tippett decided he needed to put some of his thoughts into the proper context for an audience born after his 1993 retirement.
"The year I was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I got to hear Deacon Jones," Tippett said. "Now, I was reading this speech to my wife last night, and she said, 'You're talking about Deacon Jones and you're talking to yourself. … You've got to use some guys these guys might know.'
"Deacon Jones is probably one of the greatest players ever to play the game. I would compare him to Ed Reed, Ty Law, Jason Taylor for some of you guys who are in tune with the history and tradition of the game."
Not that this generation of high schoolers are the first to be in awe of the sport's tradition.
"My [high school] coach told me the story of how cool it was for him to be at a clinic with Vince Lombardi," Tippett said. "I was looking around, and I was like, 'No way, no way.' Not only did he go to a couple of football clinics with Vince Lombardi, but he also played with Rosey Grier.
"And, again, I'm throwing out some of those names where you're like, 'Rosey Grier? "Who is this guy talking about?' But this is kind of a history lesson. I hope you guys are taking mental notes so later you can go and Google and find out all this information."
On Friday and Saturday, the players in Tippett's audience will be looking to make a little history of their own. Not the kind they will be documenting in Canton, Ohio, perhaps, but the kind of history that ends up on a banner in a high school gymnasium.
The last 16 teams standing after three months of high school football will battle for eight state championships over two days on the same field where their contemporary football idols battle on Sundays and Monday nights.
The undefeated Hoosac Valley Hurricanes get their shot on Saturday at 1:30 when they take on Millis for the Division 8 state crown.
Four Hoosac Valley players attended the annual breakfast, where the MIAA honors the captains of the teams who reached the final and recognizes the generosity of the Kraft family and Patriots organization, which makes Gillette Stadium available for the championship games.
This year, more teams than ever will have a chance to play at the NFL venue, with two games on Friday evening followed by six on Saturday, starting with the 9 a.m. kickoff for the D6 title.
Tippett reminded the student-athletes to savor the opportunity, one which, for many of the seniors, will be a final chance to strap on shoulder pads and a helmet.
"Football is like life," Tippett said. "It requires perseverance, overcoming adversity, sacrifice, self-denial, hard work, appreciation for teamwork, developing discipline, dedication, respect for authority.
"To truly play this sport at the highest level, you have to find what I like to call your 'Wizard of Oz.' … You know what they went looking for, right, so I'm going to ask you captains to repeat after me: brains, heart, courage.
"I want to wish you guys the best on Friday and Saturday. Do not leave anything on the field."