Cecil Reinke seems an unlikely curator of high school football in Oklahoma.
He lives in Oregon. He is a retired lawyer. He teaches college classes in conflict management and negotiations.
Doesn't exactly scream high school football historian, does it?
Yet, Reinke has a new book chronicling the All-State teams in our fair state. “Oklahoma All-State Football Teams of the Twentieth Century” is a compilation of the honor squads selected by our staff here at The Oklahoman. We named the first one in 1913 and continued every year since.
That means this season's team will be No. 100.
This is a milestone that we'll celebrate throughout the rest of the season. Starting in November, we'll have weekly packages commemorating past All-State teams.
“I realize football is not history like war and peace and all that,” Reinke said, “but it's still history. And I think that history includes the mundane, the ordinary everyday life.
“Sometimes to understand history, you'd got to understand what the ordinary guy was doing.”
“And ordinary football teams.”
But why was Reinke interested in ones in Oklahoma?
He is a native Oklahoman, born and raised in Clinton where Red Tornado football is king. He was a sophomore on a 1949 squad considered the first of many great teams at Clinton.
He remembers vividly the final game of that season. Clinton came to Oklahoma City to play in the state semifinals. It faced Capitol Hill, which had a student body six times bigger than Clinton's, and played at Taft Stadium.
“The biggest place I'd ever seen at the time,” Reinke said.
Reinke wrote a book about that season called “Red Tornado Football: The Team That Triggered the Tradition,” though he admits it wasn't because he had a big hand in the team's success.
“To be perfectly truthful with you,” he said, “I never got above third string.”
But he played throughout high school because that's what his friends did. He loved being with his buddies. He loved the camaraderie of the team. He loved everything about high school football.
That's why he has spent much of his retirement from the United States Army Corps of Engineers researching high school football. He was working on a long-term project on the history of Clinton football when he stumbled onto the fact that The Oklahoman picked an All-State team long before anyone else in Oklahoma.
“I just kept pulling them up to see how far back they went,” Reinke said via telephone from his home in Portland, Ore.
The more he looked, the more fascinated he became.
“Once I got started,” he said, “I figured I'd get 'em all.”
And we're glad that he did.
Reinke's book is a reminder of not only how our All-State team has endured but also how strong high school football is in Oklahoma. It's not just the stars who sparkled under the Friday night lights. It's not just the prepsters who later became legends. It's not just the stories that you'll read and the names that you'll recognize — suggestions and help are being sought on the Varsity page of our website — as we reprint every All-State team leading up to the unveiling of this year's squad.
It's also the Cecil Reinkes.
A vast majority of kids who play high school football in our fair state never make an All-State team, but many are forever changed by the experience.
The 79-year-old holds four degrees — a bachelor's from North Dakota, a master's from Houston, a juris doctor from North Dakota and a Ph.D. from Portland State.
“But if anybody asks me where I got my education,” he said, “I got it at Clinton High School.”
The experiences Reinke had there made him the man that he is today, and football was prime among them.
His name might not be on any of the All-State teams that are in his book, but he feels fortunate and lucky to have simply been a part high school football in Oklahoma.
The honor was all his.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. You can also like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.