Brandon Robinson still dreams about Friday night lights. He's just standing in a different spot.
Robinson, who held the since-broken state career rushing record when he graduated from Heritage High School in 1999, is coaching at the school now.
Fridays still bring nerves to his stomach, and he tosses and turns later.
“Before I coached, I had dreams about myself playing football,” Robinson said. “Now my dreams are of these kids playing football.”
Football dreams are churning these days.
Robinson is temporarily filling in as Heritage's head coach while Dean Lehrman recovers from hip surgery. New coaches are on the sidelines at Bishop Luers, where Kyle Lindsay takes over, and at Churubusco, where Paul Sade steps in, just to name two of the prominent places.
New players will take their turns in the spotlight for real about a month from now.
Better get ready, football and fall is well on its way.
As the area's coaches and players gathered Friday at North Side High School for a “media day” session, everyone was undefeated and feeling prep football fast approaching.
“We see our kids every day regardless,” Carroll coach Doug Dinan said. “The difference between January and February and August and September is you have that carrot in front of you every Friday night. You have that end prize, that light at the end of the tunnel you're competing and playing for.”
Carroll is among the teams expecting big things this fall, after getting a nice ego bump by having its star player, Drue Tranquill, commit to Purdue. Dinan has built a winner, and one that might have the goods to knock off perennial champion Homestead in the Northeast Hoosier Conference.
“Nothing short of an undefeated regular-season and conference championship and then press in the postseason,” Tranquill said of the team's goals/dreams. “We have a group of talented guys who are going to invest in what needs to be done.”
In other conferences, the powers are reloading, including Snider, Bishop Dwenger and North Side in the Summit Athletic Conference and Leo, Heritage and Garrett in the Allen County Athletic Conference.
But there are tons of question marks, too, including how Lindsay will fare in taking over the vaunted Luers program built by his father Matt, while moving up to Class 3A in the post season.
"We lost 19 starters to graduation," Lindsay said, "so we have a lot of new faces. But things went very well in the summer and we're ready to get started."
Sade takes over after 11 years of Lee Etzler leading Churubusco to 2A heights that always seemed to end with a loss to Luers. Sade, a Busco alum who played for Etzler early on, has been a defensive coach for five years.
“We have so much community support,” Sade said. “Elementary kids are going to football games on Fridays, they're seeing good football players on Friday and as those kids come up the system, they have expectations.”
Sade, incidentally, is pronounced the way it looks, rhyming with “made.”
"I've heard it pronounced Sad, Sad-ee and Shah-day,” Sade said.
He hopes they call him a winner.
“If anybody took over, we knew it'd be Sade,” Churubusco senior defensive tackle Brient Hicks said. “He'll work hard and be a good coach. I don't think we'll change much.”
It's interesting that all three new coaches – Sade and Lindsay at the helm permanently, Robinson as an interim – were players who couldn't get the game out of their system. Very rarely will you find a coach who didn't dream of football from a very young age.
Robinson credits his college coach at Southern Illinois – current Minnesota coach Jerry Kill – with inspiring him to become a coach.
“I played arena football and blew out my knee, so after that I thought, what are you going to do next to enjoy the sport?" Robinson said. “I coached a little at Northrop for a few years and the last two years at Heritage.
“It went full circle for me last year,” Robinson said. “We lost to Jimtown my senior year. Last year, we had the honor of beating them up pretty good on our homefield.”
Now that's the stuff prep dreams are made of.