Many Sons to Glory by Ken Bissell

My friend Ken Bissell published a book called, Many Sons to Glory. The book is the story of John Prock, “his life and influence on a thousand young men.”

I started Harding about Prock ending his coaching career. My cousin, Brooks Davis, played football, and I lived on the “football wing” of the freshman dorm. So I knew many of those named in the book in this era, making it a fun and personal read for me.

In addition, I worked for Ken Bissell in the Public Relation-Sports Information Office. We worked the Bison football games. Before computers, Ken and I announced the official play by play to the media in the press box. I have to admit, I don’t think I was the greatest at this job, and sometimes I would get confused figuring a punt from line of scrimmage, where it was received, then the return and the net yardage gain or loss. We had to do this pretty instantly and record it on a big spread sheet, and Ken would announce to the media in the booth what the official play yardage was, who ran it, who tackled who. It’s crazy, and it’s what happens behind the scenes of bigger, high stakes games televised, but it all comes out pretty smooth when we see it on TV.

With that background, I was able to see how diligently Ken works, and I know he put his heart and soul into this book. It shows. Ken tells the story of John Prock growing up in a hard scramble Oklahoma town with less than ideal circumstances in his family. Complete with lots of photos, which heightens the interest of the book, Ken brings readers up through Prock’s high school days and details how he made it to Harding as a coach in the 1960s as one of the coaches to re-establish the football program that had been discontinued at some point before.

Prock coached three decades and I was struck at how he influenced so many lives. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I look at my life as a preacher and wonder if I have had the kind of influence on 1,000 men like Prock has had. Story after story in the book shows how boys came to be men under Prock’s program. A large portion of the book is ten feature profiles of men whose lives have been changed under Prock, both players and coaches. Over and over men say things like, “If it hadn’t been for John Prock, I wouldn’t be coaching young men today.” Imagine, he didn’t just influence 1,000 men. If only 100 of those became coaches and have the same kind of influence, he influenced 100,000 young men!

Ken also mailed out more than 600 letters to former players, and received back stories from seventy-five of them! Ken placed these stories in full in the book in the order they came back in. The stories are touching, funny, and say the same thing over and over: Prock was one of the best Christian men I ever knew. Stories of coach and his wife caring for sick football players in their dorm by taking them chicken soup when they had the flu, inviting the team over, having “football church” on Wednesdays, humor and sayings, and ways the coach confronted players, apologized when he was wrong.

I want to close by saying that Ken Bissell’s Many Sons to Glory is a great book to stock up on for Christmas gifts to people like my dad, who loves biographies. I will order more copies now. Here’s how to order yours. Go to www.manysonstoglory.com and click the top link labeled, “Buy Now.”

 

Super quote

“I’m proud to be the first African-American coach to win this,” Dungy said during the trophy ceremony. “But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord’s way. We’re more proud of that.”–Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy following last night’s 29-17 Super Bowl win over the Bears and protege Lovie Smith, Chicago Bear’s head coach.

AP story by Steven Wine

Boise State

Last night’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl with Boise State vs. OU was a forehead bopping surprise, mouth open wide unbelief game. I’ve followed the Sooners since von Schamann’s “the kick” in 1977. Even got to watch the 2000 undefeated Sooners play FSU when we were in Uganda, via satellite.

But I don’t want to talk about the Sooners this morning. I saw a Boise State Broncos team that executed plays so well that it was a pleasure to watch them. The former junior college with the blue field and no respect came to win and did it with style and class. They played excellent defense and were able to move the ball on Oklahoma with running game and passing game. Ian Johnson, a sophomore, was an inspiration leader and a mature running back who ran patiently behind his blockers, then he proposed to his head cheerleader girlfriend after the game on national television. Standout quarterback Jared Zabransky said, “I’m sure it probably wouldn’t have been as romantic if we would have lost.”

The Broncos kept the lead through the first half and as expected by most people, the Sooners more than just made it a game but tied it. With a minute and a half to go the Broncos had one last chance to re-take the lead they’d held all game. But Zabransky immediately threw an interception and the Sooners ran in for a score. The air went out of the Broncos, now down by 7 with a minute left . . . Zabransky said his coaches and fellow players said they believed in him and the offense and they went back on the field and moved down the field then scored on a play that we used to call “the OU special,” a pass then pitch play that was beautifully executed.

The game went into overtime and OU immediately scored. Then Boise State, back against the wall again (not that OU’s wasn’t at times, but remember I want to write about Boise State!), came to fourth down and scored on a play that had Zabransky in motion left and a backup quarterback throwing right into the end zone.

Then came the amazing and gutsy play that shows the difference between champions and “also played” teams: everybody went right and Zabransky faked a pass right then handed the ball behind his back to Ian Johnson who sprinted left and scored and was never touch and had no blockers in front of him. The play was ingenius and the line blocked well to pull it off.

I recorded the game so my kids could see it, and they’re watching it now. I think I’ll go watch it again. Jacob will be from here on “doing the Zabransky” handoff behind his back after he sees this. I know he will . . . because I’ll be teaching it to him.

ESPN: Johnson pops the question after wild Fiesta Bowl win