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View from the Press Box: Dion Clisso 4/25Photo Credit: Dion Clisso

What was your first introduction to football. Was it a Chiefs game on TV? Was it a youth football game of a friend or older brother? Was it hearing your parents cheer on their college team on a Saturday.

For me it was a high school game when I was 5. My family was living in Grain Valley in 1976 and I was in kindergarten. My sister was in fourth grade and Grain Valley was a very small town at that time. On Friday nights in the fall the big thing to do was to go to the high school game.

I can remember sitting in the stands and watching the game. It’s been more than four decades but the bright lights, cheering crowds and raucous atmosphere made an immediate impression on me. I began playing football in the second grade and I’ve been in love with the sport ever since.

As much as I love the Chiefs and spend ever Saturday watching college football from morning until midnight it is high school football that feeds my passion for the sport.

During the pandemic I didn’t get out to games. My first sideline experience after a year was a playoff game at Lee’s Summit North. The Broncos hosted Raymore-Peculiar and just the lead up before kickoff was thrilling.

I think the reason I love high school football is it is the most attainable level of football for the most people. As the draft takes place this week there could be as many as five or six local players drafted. A few more might get free agent contracts and get to play in the NFL this upcoming season.

Think about that. PrepsKC covers around 120 high schools. Those teams have on average 30-100 players on each team. That means every year there are more than 2,000 players taking the field on Friday night.

This year six might make the NFL.

Ok that’s a small number. Let’s look at college football. On an average year 400-500 players might go on and play college football. That’s a great achievement for those who make that level but it’s not attainable for most.

High school football on the other hand is a goal that most can achieve. Will you be a star, maybe, but can you go out for the team and be a part of something bigger than yourself, definitely.

Some think you need to start playing football as young as possible and then specialize as soon as you can. That’s crap and anyone who tells you differently is lying to you or don’t know what they are talking about.

My radio partner Harold Wambsgans who coached for more than 40 years in this town and won a state championship at Shawnee Mission West in 1985 has told me over and over “go make yourself an athlete and come see me when you are a freshman, I’ll make you a football player.”

High school football is the ultimate sport because it combines so many things: Hard work, sacrifice, community and being the front porch for your school.

Other levels of football are great but high school football is simply the best.