As much fun as it may be to step onto the football field each and every week under the Friday night lights, Eldon coach Shannon Jolley said one of his favorite days of the year actually takes place before the season starts in the summer.

It is the day of the annual Father-Son Barbecue where each player on the team brings a father or any positive role model or influence they may have in their life to Jolley’s house to enjoy some barbecue, fishing and games. Relationships are formed, bonds are strengthened and a unified team just simply makes the program stronger.

“I think it has been big for me and our coaches because it is an opportunity for us to build some personal relationships,” Jolley said of the annual event. “It creates an opportunity for us to visit, for them to get to know us and I think the most personal thing you could ever do is visit someone at their home. My wife and I are fortunate to have some space at our house and some land so it is just an awesome opportunity for us to welcome people to our home and create a relationship that goes beyond the football field.”

While coaches may have the opportunity to get to know their players better, it is also an opportunity for the players themselves to get to know each other better as well besides the trip to team camp.

“The Father-Son Barbeque is really special for all of us. We all get together in fellowship and it is really nice just to get out as a football team and do something together,” Eldon junior Isaiah Parsons stated. “It is awesome to introduce the freshman coming in and get to know everybody.”

At the same time, it also gives the players some perspective. With players having different upbringings than others, it creates the desire and need to be there for each other.

“Some people on our team and everywhere just don’t have a father figure so the barbecue helps us all get together,” Eldon junior Jakob Krantz pointed out. “You have so many people there to be a father figure to you and a positive role model… I’ve always had a positive father figure in my life, but I know some people are not as fortunate so I think it is a really good opportunity for some other guys to have that opportunity as well.”

This tradition has been taking place for seven or eight years now at Eldon, but the idea of it came from a place called Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Iowa approximately 337 miles and six hours away. Jolley and his staff made the trip up north for a clinic with Coach Ed Thomas, who ran the Wing-T offense the Mustangs have run for years now and had the brother of one of Jolley’s former players on the staff. Thomas, who helped produce four NFL linemen, had amassed a record of 292-84 in his 37 seasons at the helm coaching Iowa high school football.

“I always like to ask a couple of questions at the end like, ‘What is one of the best things you guys think you do to build your program that maybe not everybody does?’ Coach Thomas gave me the idea of the Father-Son Barbecue and that is one of the first things we brought back that first summer and immediately put in place in our program,” Jolley recalled. “We had approximately 100 kids out at my house that day and the kids fished and barbecued. It is just an awesome day.”

Players like junior Dawson Brandt are certainly glad the coach made the choice to implement it all those years ago.

“Growing up playing football you are close to your coaches, but not as close as say us with Coach Jolley. he is like another dad to us and he makes sure we are on the right track and doing the right thing,” Brandt noted. “I think that is why the Father-Son Barbecue is such a big event in our program, it brings everybody together.”

And if the successful season the Mustangs have put together so far is any indication, it certainly seems that the event has achieved its intended goal of unifying the team.