BROOKSHIRE — Within the lobby of Brookshire Royal's cozy football fieldhouse, cluttered with gold trophies and framed pictures of past teams, a sign in red lettering awaits visitors to the left when they walk in.
"The PAYOFF'S The PLAYOFFS!!"
Success is in baby steps for the Falcons, and a playoff berth would be a huge step forward. Royal has not had a winning season since 2010 and has 16 total wins in the 10 years since. But entering the 2021 season, optimism has never been higher.
"Royal has a lot of things said about it," senior defensive back Kobe Lewis said. "People always talking down on us. But we're going to turn it around. We're ready. You can see all the hard work every one of us puts in. It's hot out here, we're putting in the sweat. It's just a new time around here."
Change is in the air, beginning with new head coach Theadis Reagins, defensive coordinator Lionel Cryer and offensive coordinator Brandon Middleton.
Reagins comes from North Shore, where he coached defensive backs for the two-time state champs. He played football at Central State University in Ohio, where he was a two-time national champion. He coached five defensive backs who went on to play in the NFL or college—Holton Hill (Minneapolis Vikings), Grant Delpit (Cleveland Browns), D'Shawn Jamison (Texas Longhorns), Anthony Cook (Texas Longhorns) and Upton Stout (North Texas).
"He brings a winning attitude," junior middle linebacker Justin Cryer said. "He's won basically everywhere he's been. He knows how to get the job done. He brings a passion for the game. He loves being around us and we love being around him."
Lionel Cryer, Justin's father, played linebacker at Grambling State and was Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Middleton played receiver at the University of Houston and five years in the NFL. He coached receivers at North Shore.
"You can already see a lot of change," senior outside linebacker A.J. Ball said. "This is really the first time I've seen all our guys come together and put in the work and show the commitment every day."
Reagins has quickly established values, initiating culture and standard. Principles to abide by, like accountability, discipline, pride, and effort.
"Those are some of the things missing in the program prior to me getting here," Reagins said. "I do see kids that have a blue-collar mentality. They put their head down and work. They don't complain. That work ethic and blue-collar kids were there at North Shore. You can win with that."
If kids are late, they run. If they make a mistake, they run. One thing Reagins said he took from North Shore head coach Jon Kay was the desire to "sweat the small things." They matter, and Reagins is ensuring his players believe it.
"We're no longer doing the same things we've done in the past," junior defensive lineman Jeremiah Robinson said. "When we make mistakes, we're listening. We're doing our best."
New Brookshire Royal head football coach Theadis Reagins.Dennis Silva II | VYPE Media
Lewis said players have had no problem buying in to Reagins' ways because they can see he has a genuine passion for them to succeed.
"The coaches here want the best out of us," sophomore offensive lineman Zechariah Robinson said. "They want everything to be right. Practice how we play. One hundred percent effort all the time."
The intangibles and direction appear right. On the field, it appears the talent is right as well.
The Falcons figure to have a fast, playmaking defense. The leader is the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Cryer, who already holds an offer from Florida State. Ball is stronger in coverage and has moved to outside linebacker.
The 6-3, 235-pound Robinson is more fundamentally sound. His technique is better rushing the passer.
"Out of all my three years, this is the best defense we've ever had," Ball said. "Our front is as big as our offensive line."
Offensively, Royal has do-it-all senior Trey McGill, who plays quarterback and receiver and whose talent has been unleashed thanks to Middleton, who has implemented an open spread offense predicated upon playmaking and speed.
"Coach Middleton has taught me so much already," McGill said. "It was him who put me all over the field, not just quarterback. He saw in me that I could help the team in different spots. I'm able to show my talent more because of him."
Junior receiver Antonio Page is dynamic on the perimeter and gives the Falcons a big-play threat they haven't had in quite some time.
Cryer and Page were starters last season at Katy Morton Ranch. Being standouts for a Class 6A program has brought a distinct leadership style and standard to 4A Royal.
"In 6A, it's tougher competition," Page said. "Tougher games. More intense. These guys here haven't worked out or trained like we did over there, so we're trying to show what it takes. It takes heart, determination and you've got to really want it. I really want it, but I want it most for the guys who've been here."
Reagins likes to talk about "small daily wins." That means being a better teammate, stronger effort in a drill, doing one more rep in the weight room. Incremental progress. Minor victories add up and mean everything as players seek any type of outcome, any type of result, from their sacrifice and work.
As practices got started Monday, the hope is those results come sooner than later.
"The challenge is, and I embrace it, the opportunity to get these guys from the level they were at to a higher level," Reagins said. "That's what excites me most about building a program. Not being the favorite. I like being the underdog. I'm excited for these guys to understand what they're up against. These guys have a chip on their shoulder, they're excited and they're trying to prove a lot of people wrong."