The author of the phenomenal Left Behind series and eight New York Times bestselling titles, Jerry B. Jenkins is one of the most widely read and deeply admired novelists of our time. With HOMETOWN LEGEND he has written an inspirational tale placed firmly in the nation's heartland, where football, family, and faith are everything, and where for one town the greatest contest has begun.
Athens City, Alabama, has fallen on hard times. The town's leading employer struggles for survival. The Athens City Crusaders, once a powerhouse high school football team, are in disarray--as is the school itself, targeted for closing. When an old, familiar figure returns to Athens City after a twelve-year absence, everything begins to change. Former football coach Buster Schuler, who left town following a tragedy during a championship game in 1988, has returned for one last chance to lead the Crusaders to glory. But he soon discovers the challenge is overwhelming. Outmanned and outsized, the Crusaders enter a make-or-break season, and other lives are caught up in their quest:
- Cal Sawyer, who tells the story and who is desperately trying to save his company as he raises a teenage daughter on his own. Hand-picked as Buster's assistant, he discovers things about himself that will change his life.
- Elvis Jackson, gifted athlete, who sees Athens City as his last hope--only to find that his most difficult test lies far from the playing field.
- Rachel Sawyer, Cal's daughter, who becomes an example of faith to the entire town.
- Bev Raschke, Cal's assistant, who fights a personal battle that reveals more about her, and Cal, than they ever dreamed.
As the Crusaders head for a final confrontation with their most powerful rival, this last drive for victory mirrors the struggles of everyone in Athens City to recapture the heart and soul of their town.
The author of the blockbuster apocalyptic Left Behind series scores points here in his first novel for Warner's new Christian line, penning a homey, feel-good story about a small town's former championship football team. Athens City, Ala., is gasping for breath businesses are closing, people are leaving in droves and Athens City High is playing its last football season before the school is consolidated. Assistant coach Cal Sawyer narrates most of the book in a comfortable, rambling drawl. He's raising his teenage daughter, Rachel, alone, while engaged in an uphill battle to keep the American Leather Football Company afloat. When Rachel befriends player Elvis Presley Jackson, she finds herself forced to address questions of faith and loss that she has only glossed over in the past. Jenkins relies more on dialogue than descriptive settings, but his trademark ability to bond readers with characters is in strong evidence here. Loose ends are wrapped up into a happy, made-for-the-big-screen ending albeit with a bit of a twist which should appeal to Left Behind readers who enjoy knowing that the end of the story is pretty much a foregone conclusion. The short epilogue, however, is anti-climatic. While there's nothing here that will pull readers out of their comfort zones, this is a pleasing read that should nimbly cross over between the general and Christian markets. (Sept.)Forecast: The Left Behind series hasn't sold 40 million copies for naught this stand-alone novel will be promoted to the hilt. Print advertising is planned for USA Today, People, Sports Illustrated, Southern Living and various Christian magazines. Guideposts plans a direct-mail promotion to 1.6 million homes, and Jenkins Entertainment has filmed a movie version that will have its theatrical release this fall.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 01, 2001
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Excerpt from Hometown Legend by Jerry B. Jenkins
Name's Cal Sawyer and I got a story starts about thirteen years ago when I was twentyseven. Course, like most stories, it really starts a lot a years before that, but I choose to tell it from Friday, December 2, 1988, when I'm sitting with my kindergarten daughter Rachel in the stands of my old high school. We're watching the state football championship in Athens City, Alabama, almost as south as a town can be without being ocean.
Estelle, Rachel's ma and my wife, is in the hospital dying of the colon cancer. I'm hoping Rachel doesn't know while knowing that she does and wondering what in the world I'm gonna do when the time comes, if you know what I mean and I think that you do. Rachel's about to see something just as bad, and even one tragedy is an awful thing for somebody her age. But don't let me get ahead of myself.
By the time we were sitting there, I was already a brokendown ex-football player with a blowedout knee who nobody remembered but me. Well, maybe not exactly nobody. I suppose some recollect that I played three years under Buster Schuler, the coach out there that night. I played on one of his state champ teams, made allstate, and even rode the bench for Bear Bryant at Alabama before tearing up my leg and coming back to marry Estelle Estes.
Yeah, that Estes. Her grandpaw Benton Estes founded the American Leather Football Company in Athens City. I came back hoping to assistant coach with Schuler, but when you marry into a factory family you work there and coach junior league football if you have time, which is what I did.
But I never missed watching a high school game. Not with Buster Schuler on the sidelines. He says I was the best he ever coached. I don't know if that's true or he just says it but I know hewas the best I ever played for, including the Bear (but they might as well have been twins). Buster played at Bama years before I did, only he didn't get hurt and he did well and all he ever wanted to do after that was be just like Bryant.
This was one of those big rivalry games against Rock Hill from up the road. We'd beat em for the state championship at their place the year before and were fixing to do the same that night at home. Rachel had her little good luck plastic souvenir football that American Leather passes out to everybody who tours the place, and I had more hair than I've seen in the mirror since.
I love these games. The night air, the concrete stands, the rickety light poles, the ambulance that stands waiting but had been used only for the broke arm of a visiting player two years before, the band, the cheerleaders, the banners, the scoreboard with "Home of the Athens City Crusaders" underneath it in white on red.
Schuler wore his trademark fedora, sports coat, and tie. He was smoothfaced with dark, thinning hair and a black mustache, and this was his sixteenth season as head coach.
All around us sat moms wearing corsages and elementary school and junior high boys whose dream was to play for Buster Schuler and wear the crimson and white of Athens City High. Coach Schuler's wife was behind us too, but she always sat alone. I never saw Helena so much as clap, let alone cheer.
Now here's why sometimes I think Buster's only saying it when he says I was his best. Everybody knows he'd lived for the day he could coach his only son, Jack--his starting quarterback now for three straight years. Number 7 was a beautiful specimen of a football player, a tick under 6'4", about two hundred pounds, and faster than a wait to face the principal. He could also throw the ball through a wall, but course he hardly ever got the chance. The whole time every game, Buster would run the Bama wishbone offense--that's where the quarterback runs with the ball until he has nowhere to go and then pitches to one of his two trailing running backs and commences blocking for him.
Going into that game the Crusaders had lost only once each season with Jack at QB. Oh, the boy could run, and he was a leader, but everybody knew that if ever there was a kid who resented that ancient offense and challenged the old man's authority, it was Buster's own son.
And Daddy wasn't happy. Jack would behave himself for the first quarter or two, long enough for Athens City to roll up a big score. But there was no corraling that colt, and Buster would wind up slamming his hat to the ground, benching his own son, and stomping up and down the sidelines like he was losing instead of winning.
Next game Buster would start the backup quarterback, they'd struggle till Jack was out of the doghouse, he'd come in and get the big lead, start improvising, and get himself benched again.
Somehow it all worked anyway, but Buster would say, even in The Athens Courier, that his son was no example of how he expected his team to play.