Sitting in the football coaches’ office at Bishop Kelly High, surrounded by more than two decades of memories, Jack Parker began to tear up about a bucket of rocks.
“When we started this thing in ’96, we had no clue it was going to go as far as it has, and have the impact on kids that it’s had,” said Parker, the offensive line coach who got emotional thinking about last fall when a former player stopped by for a visit, rock in hand.
An off-the-cuff idea Parker came up with 20 years ago while walking through a torn up parking lot has matured into a cherished tradition for the three-time defending state champion Knights.
Every varsity player has his own gold-painted rock which bears his name, jersey number and goals for the season. The rocks are chosen in August from the BK campus and placed in the bucket as a physical representation of a player’s commitment to the team and their strength as a unit.
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“One rock you can throw around, you can kick around, but when you’ve got a bucket of 45 or 50 rocks, it’s heavy,” BK head coach Tim Brennan said.
With seven state championships and a potential eighth on the way, the Knights’ success has carried the tradition forward. Choosing that first rock is a privilege.
“I’ve got two of them in my room at home,” senior linebacker Daniel Cantrell said. “Those just kind of help me remember what I’ve played for and the different teams that have meant so many different things to me.
“But just because the season is over, it doesn’t mean the rock isn’t important. It still helps me to remember what’s important now.”
The bucket of rocks will accompany the Knights to Albertsons Stadium on Saturday.
Players also carry a smaller rock with the word win — “what’s important now” — written on it. They’re expected to have that rock at all times, and must be able to produce it for a teammate or coach when called upon.
If a player doesn’t have it, he must drop and do 20 push-ups on the spot.
Many of the lessons learned in football can be applied later in life, which is why coaches encourage players to take their rocks home at the end of the season.
“Obviously right now football practice is important,” Brennan said. “But maybe on a Saturday night or 10 years from now, it’s not about football, it’s about something else in life.”
State championship matchups in the Valley
▪ 5A: Mountain View vs. Capital, noon Saturday, Albertsons Stadium
▪ 4A: Bishop Kelly vs. Skyline, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Albertsons Stadium
▪ 3A: Fruitland vs. Shelley, 4 p.m. Saturday, Middleton High
▪ 1A Division II: Salmon River vs. Kendrick, 1 p.m. Saturday, Middleton High