RUSK — Things are on an uptick when it comes to Rusk Eagle football.
Rusk went through District 7-4A-II with an unblemished record last season, giving the Eagles their first outright league title since 2003.
Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine has predicted the Red and Black, who return 14 lettermen and 10 starters from a year ago, to repeat as conference champions this fall.
Most of this year's team were still wearing diapers the last time Rusk was able to win district in back-to-back seasons — 2003, 2004.
It truly is a great time to be an Eagle.
But all is not roses in the Rusk football ranks, and the team's head coach, Jowell Hancock, is quick to expand on that.
With two-a-days only about two weeks away now, Hancock has one big concern.
“August, and the hot days that it brings, will be here real quick,” he said during an interview on Monday morning. “For the kids to be able to practice at the right level they need to come back in reasonably good condition.”
Hancock said that he is a bit uneasy now as only about 30-percent of the Eagles have been attending summer workouts on a regular basis.
“The kids have two full weeks to get properly hydrated and get their fitness level to where it needs to be (before two-a-days start),” he said. “It really is a safety thing.
“There isn't a lot of coaching that you can do with a kid that comes in out of shape and is not used to the August heat. Those kids are just trying to survive the practice. It's hard for them to be able to learn what the coaches are trying to teach them. With so many choosing not to be at summer workouts, I would say our perseverance is lacking.”
Hancock, a Jacksonville High School graduate, who is now in his fourth season leading the Red and Black, said that each player must challenge himself to get out of his comfort zone and be willing to buy into into getting better by 1-percent each day.
“We tell the kids all the time, “Once you do things right, it will change your life for ever,” Hancock said. “We want all of our players to be the pride of Rusk, Texas.
“The coaches are here not only to teach them football, but to help them make the right choices in life.”
Hancock stated that his young men have the same 24 hours in a day that the Bullard Panthers, Brownsboro Bears, Canton Eagles and Wills Points Tigers — Rusk's league rivals — have.
“The only thing that we can control is out preparation,” he said. “And that starts in the summer, not the first week in August.”
Summer strength and conditioning workouts are held at 6 a.m. and at 8 a.m., Monday through Thursday.
The 6 a.m. session allows young men who have summer jobs to get their work in prior to reporting for work.
“We have to be willing to make ourselves a winner,” Hancock said. “Everyone says they want to win, but the teams that put the work in to do so are the ones that will win.”
NOTE — At 6 p.m. Friday at the Rusk Training Center the latest installment of the “Uncommon Man”
program will take place. The meeting, which includes a free meal, will give male athletes from Rusk High School a chance to fellowship and develop character building traits while getting to know various men of the community in a relaxed setting.