BRADENTON – It's the usual Thursday practice at Manatee High School for coach Joe Kinnan's team. “As much of a routine as what we're used to,” he says.
But it's not a usual Thursday, it is Thanksgiving. And these players are thankful they must practice, because it means that their season has reached the second round of the state playoffs. “It's like a privilege because other teams don't get this far,” says defensive lineman Marquis Dawsey. “Some people don't get this far in their whole four years of playing football.”
“I'd rather be out here than anything,” says offensive lineman Thor Miller. And for about 25 of the last 30 years, they have. It might not look like a traditional way to mark the holiday, but they aim to make it that for them.
“We like it to be a tradition,” Kinnan says.
And if it's custom to spend Thanksgiving with your family, coaches and players here say that, in a sense, they are. “This is like my family. They're like my second family,” says Dawsey.
“That's good if you can that across to them that we're here for them, that we've got each others' back, and we care about each other,” Kinnan says.
Kinnan moves the workout to mornings on Thanksgiving. And before he lets them join their “other” families after practice, the football family shares a meal outside the school, a post-practice pancake, egg and sausage brunch, to which the team invites area residents. The undefeated, defending state champions hope that in some ways, this is just another Thursday along the way to another special season.” My ultimate goal is to win states, get another ring on my hand,” says defensive lineman Derrick Calloway.
Another Thursday that includes a holiday custom for a football family. It is a great feeling,” says Miller. “The community comes out, has a good time. We celebrate as a Manatee High School family.”
Manatee finished the 2012 regular season ranked #1 in the country in all the national polls.