The Twelve Mighty Orphans
by Jim Dent
Rusty Russell could have had a football coaching job at any school in the state of Texas but he found a place that truly needed him. A depression era orphanage, The Masonic Home, was home to a nearly nonexistent football program and to a resilient group of boys called the Mighty Mites. They had torn, faded uniforms, a rolled up sock that doubled as a football and practiced the game shoeless for most of the year. Under Coach Russell's direction and unconventional plays this group of boys began to shock the entire state.
They arrived at each game riding in the back of a sputtering old blue truck with barely enough gas money to return home. It was not the tattered uniforms but the elevated spirit that began to draw the crowds and the line of cars parading behind Old Blue from across the state to their games. They packed the stadiums. Fans were sitting in the isles, turned away at the doors and some even pushed their way onto the playing field. The Mites' hard-hitting tactics and underdog story were too much to resist. This courage was what every coach anticipated but no one expected from a bunch of orphans. Despite their popularity with the public, the Home and Coach Russell were constantly struggling with the Texas Interscholastic League trying to remain in the 7AA Division. But with the backing of a town and numerous Mason supporters the Home persisted.
Jim Dent's account of this unrelenting group of athletes is remarkable. Years of research and interviews have shaped this historical novel into one full of description and heart. Dent has skillfully captured the Home's family atmosphere and the coach's sense of commitment. When spirits were low, unemployment incredibly high, and America seemed a dismal place to live, the orphans rallied an entire state to believe in the impossible. Jim Dent has now brought this story to us so it will not fade into the background of history.
Review By Erin Gurry
Rating: 5 out of 5