Saturday, January 31, 2009


I have been reading a book entitled Twelve Mighty Orphans. It is the true and inspiring story of a High School football team. A team that was comprised of young men who had lost one, or both, of their parents. They played for the Masonic Home located in Fort Worth, Texas. They dominated their sport in the 1930s and 40s. They were the human version of Seabiscuit.

They engaged a nation in the midst of the Great Depression. They represented the underdog that overcame great odds to defeat those bigger, faster and stronger. It was their grit and determination that overcame their appearance as a rag tag collection of misfits to combine into a force to be reckoned with. To see them as twelve (that is all they ever suited up for games...just enough to have a team) individuals elicited chuckles and catcalls, but as an unit of twelve they were formidable. And the opponents who took them lightly one time, would seldom do so again.

Rusty Russell was the coach of this team. He was considered an up and coming coaching talent in Texas football. He could have had much more prestigious positions. But he chose to take on the challenge of the Mighty Mites of the Masonic Home.

When he arrived they didn't even have a football. The players often had to share shoes and leather helmets. But he came nonetheless. Why? He had vision. He never saw what he had, he envisioned what he could have. It was said his gut told him "...there was magic inside this godforsaken place."

His gut was correct! Well his gut, a willingness to believe in a group of kids no one else would and a football mind that was way ahead of his time. In fact, many credit Coach Russell with laying the groundwork for what today is know as the spread offensive. He didn't have a name for it, he simply implemented an array of plays, formations and shifts that had the mindset of 30s and 40s football "experts" scratching their heads.

Russell is a great example of a culture changing leader: Vision, belief in those he leads and a willingness to design outside the box strategies. I want to be more of a "Russell" leader. How about you?

1 comment:

David Worthington said...

Necessity is the mother of invention. That's the way it was for Mr Russell and that's the way it was for the Mighty Mites. In all frankness I don't believe they had any more vision than any of us have. I think the reality of their lives just stripped away all the distraction and gave them a focus obvious to them but nebulous from others point of view.

For the record, Opal Worthington's fathers name was not Charles, it was Samuel and she DID have a brother. His name was Charles and he was my father. The power of Mr Russell and the Mighty Mites came not from what they were recognized for but in the inner courage that no one would see or know about, but that's just the way I see it.

David Worthington