Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.


If hope does spring eternal, and if change is the only constant in life, and if ‘better’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy like they say, then let’s hope high school football can withstand the changes to make it better.

Over the years I made it a habit to notice, and consider, the changes in how we do things, and how things work.  Maybe you do, too.

Obviously, if you’re reading Press Pros and other media sources like it you might not take the morning paper anymore.  You read the news online, as I do.  I haven’t paid a subscription for anything in a decade.  I even dropped Sports Illustrated.

I know a lot of people who buy their groceries online now, which is ironic, because many of them who could use the exercise of walking the aisles and pushing a cart.

I know that online banking is popular, but it’s not for me.  I still write checks and have my check book balanced each month.  There’s just some things I don’t trust, and TRUST is a huge thing with me.

And for the past month I’ve observed changes in football, especially changes relative to making the game safer for the sake of head injuries and the concern over concussion and CTE.  Do I believe?  Well, I believe in science, and sometimes it’s hard not to believe that science and coincidence seem to go hand in hand.  Something caused Muhammed Ali to have Parkinson’s, and yet I know many others that have had the disease that never took a punch.  Just like I know a lot of healthy, former football players.

But what I’ve noticed about football is that the game is safer because kids have gotten the message from coaches about better, safer, methods of tackling.  You don’t see anyone leading with their head anymore.  Coaches ARE teaching to tackle with your head behind the runner, instead of in front.  You see a lot of wrapping up around the legs now, and you see ’em dropping the shoulder to absorb the initial impact.

But I also see some tip-toeing around the play, as well, particularly through the half dozen scrimmages that I observed before last Friday’s official opener.  I saw kids that were “thinking” about how to tackle (hit), instead of just hitting.  It’s called instinct, it’s an important element of any sport you play, and my observation leads me to say that we’ve taught so much about safety now as to have taken the instinct out of football.

Raiders coach John Gruden said this very thing on Saturday, referencing the new NFL rule pertaining to a player dropping, or leading with his head, while making a tackle.  If you do it it’s a 15-yard penalty.

Says Gruden:  “I’m all in for making the game safer.  But I don’t want to confuse these football players.  This is tackle football and I’ve been coaching a long time.  I’m totally into players’ safety.

“But football is a game of aggression and contact, a game of hit or be hit.  And if you wait to be hit it’s more likely you’re going to get hurt than if you hit first.  So you have to play with the instinct of hit first.”

Former player, coach, and current coach at Arizona State, Herm Edwards, once famously said the same thing.  “You have to play the game,”  said Edwards.

And I don’t know if I’m seeing that.  I thought Friday’s game between Minster and Fort Loramie was a pretty good example of typical football.  I didn’t see any tip-toeing.  And many area coaches asked have already told me that the changes are good for the future of the game, and kids – that they’re not concerned.  That the game will be fine.

But others quietly take the Jon Gruden and Herm Edwards stance that football without instinct is not football at all.

“We’ve taught safety so much that there’ll be a time this year when they’ll miss a tackle that results in a touchdown that costs them a game,”  said a retired coach last month.  “Safety is fine, but it’s going to take a while before safety and instinct come together.  And until that happens I’m not sure it’s going to be football.”

It’s taken me a few days to come to an opinion about the Urban Meyer statement(s) from this week’s press conference.  I’ve been asked numerous times, even in Columbus, where Press Pros is becoming a regular read in some parts.

And in a word, I found what came from Thursday’s meeting …troubling.

Troubling, because obviously people in a situation like Meyer’s use selective truth, as it benefits them best.  And I know it happens in Alabama, in South Carolina (Clemson), and Texas (Baylor).  It’s all the same game.

And, you always question when a high profile figure like that is caught…whether he gets the same punishment you or I would get if we were in his shoes.  Don’t you?

But mostly, I came away with the feeling that Ohio State football is so important to so many that our priorities about everything else are just simply skewed.  Without going into all the variables of people, and character, and police, and reporting, and timelines…at the conclusion of it I had the sense that more people cared about how they would beat Oregon State, Rutgers, and TCU than they cared about the what the decision hinted about the character of Ohio State University.

We now know that there is no such thing as embarrassment.  If you work at it you can read anything with a straight face.  And it’s apparently OK to discount integrity, because we’ve become conditioned.  We live with it everyday on CNN and Fox.

So, raise your hand if you still have more questions than answers.  And nod your head if you’re thinking…did it take three weeks to teach us what I think we already knew – that Urban Meyer would ultimately be back?

Or, raise your hand if you now understand, as I do…what “Lucky Buckeye” really means!

Finally, this weekend marked a significant change in how Press Pros Magazine works when you call it up on your computer.  It’s more powerful, quicker, more efficient, has better color, and you’ll probably notice some subtle changes in fonts and graphics.  We’ve made some changes.

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the overall look of the site…because many have said they like it just the way it is – that it’s easy to navigate.  But it’s still a work in progress and soon there will be some changes in the look of the site, changes that you will notice and like.

The biggest thing was the necessity to make the site better for people who view and read with mobile devices, and you have that now.  Fully, better than 70% of our readership get their Press Pros on a phone.  They’re not like me, sitting at a desk with a monitor while I balance my checkbook.

So I won’t ask if you like the changes, because you probably haven’t noticed anyway.  You’re just getting what you don’t notice quicker, and better.  Like I said at the top, the one constant in life is change and the hope that it makes life better.  Having said that I’m out the door to Krogers.

I need the exercise.

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