Texas football’s greatest hits

H.G. Bissinger’s 1990 book Friday Night Lights inspired the 2004 motion picture of the same name.
H.G. Bissinger’s 1990 book Friday Night Lights inspired the 2004 motion picture of the same name. Universal Pictures

Another football season is kicking off in Texas, and all eyes — rightly so — will be glued to the games, whether in person on TV or online.

But it’s worth remembering some of the sport’s greatest hits in the Lone Star State have come from the world of entertainment:

Five notable Texas football movies

1. North Dallas Forty (1979): Nick Nolte stars as North Dallas Bulls receiver Phil Elliott (“best hands in the game”) in a brutal indictment of pro football.

2. Friday Night Lights (2004): A season of triumph and tribulation —and constant pressure from fans — during Odessa Permian High’s run for a state championship.

3. Necessary Roughness (1991): The once-mighty Fightin’ Armadillos of Texas State University, slapped with severe NCAA sanctions, must field a ragtag team; filmed in North Texas.

4. Varsity Blues (1999): A domineering coach (Jon Voight) vs. a free-thinking quarterback (James Van Der Beek) at football-crazy West Canaan High.

5. The Junction Boys (2002): In his first year as head coach at Texas A&M, Bear Bryant subjects players to a brutal, to-hell-and-back summer training camp.

10 great Texas football books

1. Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream, by H.G. Bissinger (1990): Chronicling the Permian Panthers’ 1988 season; No. 4 on Sports Illustrated’s 2002 list of the 100 greatest sports books.

2. Semi-Tough, by Dan Jenkins (1972): Off-the-field and out-of-bounds adventures of Billy Clyde Puckett and Shake Tiller, former TCU Horned Frogs playing pro ball for the New York Giants.

3. Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story, by Jim Dent (2011): The valiant story — on the field and off — of a 1960s-era Texas Longhorns safety stricken with cancer.

4. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain (2012): The Victory Tour for an Iraq War hero and fellow squad members includes an appearance at a Cowboys Thanksgiving game.

5. North Dallas Forty, by Peter Gent (1973): Semi-autobiographical novel by a former Cowboys receiver (1964-68) was among the first to reveal ugly truths about pro football.

6. The Last Cowboy: A Life of Tom Landry, by Mark Ribowsky (2013): Chronicling the life of the legendary Dallas Cowboys coach, with insights from Landry’s widow.

7. Twelve Mighty Orphans, by Jim Dent (2007). Inspiring Depression-era story of the Mighty Mites, an unlikely Fort Worth high school football dynasty.

8. The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America, by Joe Nick Patoski (2012): Title says it all, doesn’t it?

9. The Kids Got It Right, by Jim Dent (2013): Story of friendship between Texas high school all-stars Jerry LeVias, the Jackie Robinson of Texas college football, and his white teammate Bill Bradley.

10. The One & Only, by Emily Giffin (2014): Dallas Post reporter Shea Rigsby covers the Walker Broncos, a college football powerhouse, while dating dreamboat Cowboys QB Ryan James.

11 stellar Cowboys performances

1. Troy Aikman, playing a yellow cartoon version of himself on The Simpsons in 1999.

2. Tom Landry as a cowboy “surrounded by Redskins” in a 1982 American Express Card commercial.

3. Michael Irvin as Deacon Moss, star receiver for the inmate team of 2005’s The Longest Yard.

4. Emmitt Smith, showing stellar moves on his way to the 2006 Mirror Ball trophy in Season 3 of Dancing With the Stars.

5. Jimmy Johnson, the third Castaway voted out in the 2010 season of Survivor: Nicaragua.

6. Don Meredith, playing Det. Bert Jameson in multiple episodes of the 1970s drama Police Story.

7. Jason Witten, who along with Felix Jones, tortures the fantasy football gang from The League in 2012.

8. Jerry Jones, singing the praises — well, rapping the praises — of Papa John’s pizza in a 2012 commercial.

9. Gary Hogeboom, the 12th Castaway voted out in the 2005 season of Survivor: Guatemala.

10. Tony Romo, embracing his “Arts-and-Craftsy” alter ego in a 2015 DirecTV commercial.

11. Ed “Too Tall” Jones, establishing that he really is too tall in a 2010 GEICO insurance commercial.

Five football-themed ‘King of the Hill’ episodes

1. Hank’s Cowboy Movie (1999): Hank films a video, hoping to entice the Cowboys to train in Arlen.

2. Bills Are Made to Be Broken (1999): The “Billdozer” reclaims his Arlen High touchdown record.

3. A Beer Can Named Desire (1999): Hank tackles beloved Dandy Don Meredith in a fit of anger.

4. New Cowboy on the Block (2003): Big Willie Lane, former Cowboys lineman, moves to Arlen.

5. Suite Smell of Excess (2007): Hank, Bobby and the gang bring chaos to a Texas-“Nebrasky” game.

Five great ‘Friday Night Lights’ episodes

1. Pilot (2006): After QB Jason Street is paralyzed, backup Matt Saracen leads the Panthers to victory.

2. Mud Bowl (2007): A huge storm turns the Panthers’ semifinal game into a hard-fought mess.

3. Leave No One Behind (2008): When nothing goes his way, Matt goes on a drunken bender.

4. The Son (2009): Matt struggles to grieve over the death of his Iraq soldier father, a man he hated.

5. Always (2010): Eric and Tami get a happily-ever-after ending while East Dillon wins state.

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