A LIFETIME OF MEMORIES: Spartans' Success a Family Matter for Rankins
NASH RANKIN’S FAVORITE STORY COMES FROM WHEN HE WAS IN THE SIXTH GRADE.
Rankin’s football career was in its infancy, and his father, Todd, was then an offensive coordinator at North Shore.
“We were out in the front yard, throwing,” Nash recalled. “It was nighttime. And I broke his finger.”
It is one of many memorable front yard tales between father and son. Moments of throwing the ball around long into the evening, light at a precious premium. Moments that led into conversations more important than football, like life and future aspirations.
“I’d gotten home from practice, driving in from North Shore,” Todd said. “I wanted to see him throw. It was getting darker and darker, and I just didn’t see it well. So, yeah. Nash loves to bring that up.”
“Even now,” he continued, “he’s looking at me, laughing about it.”
Still, that story pales in comparison to what the two accomplished together at Stratford in the 2021 season.
Todd, in his fourth year as head coach of the Spartans, and Nash, in his first year as starting varsity quarterback as a junior, helped lead Stratford to its best season since 2015.
The Spartans went 10-2 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2017, eventually losing to State Semifinalist Katy in the Area round.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound signal-caller completed 63.5-percent of his passes for 2,742 yards and 26 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, while also rushing for 200 yards and six touchdowns.
“We’ve been doing this football thing together for a long time. To finally be on the same field together this year is hard to express in words how special it was,” Todd said. “Being able to look at him, read his mind, know what he’s thinking. The talks on the sideline and the game preparation through the week, watching him prepare for opponents. It was a lot of fun.”
Nash said the 2021 season brought the father and son closer.
“It’s pretty cool,” Nash said. “If I have a question and we’re at home, I can go right over and ask him. I don’t have to text or call. I thought there’d be a little more arguing, but we really had a pretty good year.”
As the season went on, Nash’s confidence grew and grew.
“One of the biggest things for me was learning how to lead a team and an offense,” Nash said. “Being a younger guy and not being a senior, that can be hard. I had to adjust to a faster game, making stronger and harder throws. I learned that you can’t get down on yourself.
“In the first two series of the Oak Ridge game, I threw two interceptions. We had to move on to the next play, keep playing. We came back and won the game.”
Nash has always been an accurate passer who could also beat defenses with his legs. But it was how he acclimated to everything else that Todd was most impressed with.
“The game was always easy for him at the low levels,” Todd said, “but to see him get to this level and adjust to the speed of the game, the throws and to watch him work and how he rises up to challenges behind the scenes.
“As far as relationships with players and keeping guys focused … to watch him against the demands of playing high-level football was something we’ll talk about for years and years,” Todd said. “It’s exciting.”
Next year could be even better for the Spartans. Stratford’s junior class this season—including unanimous all-district, firstteam talents like Nash, tight end Hawkins Polley (Baylorcommit), defensive linemen Cooper King (Defensive MVP) and Hunter Jones, and offensive lineman Hudson Perroni, among others—will lead the way. It will be their team.
Those juniors went undefeated as freshmen and sophomores on subvarsity teams and lost just two games in 2021 to Jersey Village and Katy, teams that went a combined 25-2.
It’s a class of players, Nash said, that focus on football and winning. That’s why, to them, the success of 2021 was expected.
It’s why 2022 will be even better, a swan song for the Rankins as the final season Todd and Nash will share the field together.
“I really have thought about it a lot,” Todd said. “His whole class that will be seniors are guys that are over at our house all the time and eat burgers and play basketball. We shuttle them around to 7-on-7 games. There are sleepovers.
“Not just Nash, but I feel like all of those guys are my kids. Next year will be hard for me to fight back some of the emotions. I’m excited about the year, because it’s a group that finds ways to win. But from an emotional side, it’s a special group, too.”