THE ANGELO FOOTBALL CLINIC is a three-day Mardi Gras for high school football coaches, an only-in-Texas operation featuring a never-ending stream of lectures and PowerPoints and question-and-answer sessions on the best way to prepare your big'uns to pick up a line stunt. The clinic is held in mid-June, in the basketball arena at Angelo State University, and to reach the stands it's necessary to pass through a mazelike trade show, a cubicled left-right-left haunted house of gimmicks and gear.
It's booth after booth of men and women hawking a better artificial turf, a better video system, a better helmet, a better ankle brace. They've got jerseys, letterman jackets and chin straps. There's a training tool that looks like a reverse straitjacket intended to keep a quarterback's throwing hand eternally above his waist. There's a new and improved blocking shield worn like a vest. ("Keep your hands free!") There's an enormous plastic cylinder filled with sand being marketed as a leg-drive trainer by former Texas All-American and NFL All-Pro defensive tackle Doug English, who says he was inspired to invent after watching his son roll round hay bales on the family ranch.
Into this windowless dungeon of earnest hucksterism strides Texas football coach Charlie Strong, flanked and followed by several assistants. Strong's Longhorn-orange polo is buttoned to the neck, just tight enough to leave no doubt about weight-room habits that produce forearms funneling from four-lane below the elbow to two-lane at the wrist. His shaved head shines brightly under the fluorescents, the Mississippi River of veins running from above his right ear. Barely 5-foot-8, looking 10 years younger than 53, Strong is the kind of man whose posture -- a chiropractor's dream -- seems to have its own personality.
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