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Jim Dent, author of the New York Times bestselling The Junction Boys, returns with his most powerful story of human courage and determination. More than a century ago, a school was constructed in Fort Worth, Texas, for the purpose of housing and educating the orphans of Texas Freemasons. It was a humble project that for years existed quietly on a hillside east of town. Life Jim Dent, author of the New York Times bestselling The Junction Boys, returns with his most powerful story of human courage and determination. More than a century ago, a school was constructed in Fort Worth, Texas, for the purpose of housing and educating the orphans of Texas Freemasons. It was a humble project that for years existed quietly on a hillside east of town. Life at the Masonic Home was about to change, though, with the arrival of a lean, bespectacled coach by the name of Rusty Russell. Here was a man who could bring rain in the midst of a drought. Here was a man who, in virtually no time at all, brought the orphans' story into the homes of millions of Americans.       In the 1930s and 1940s, there was nothing bigger in Texas high school football than the Masonic Home Mighty Mites--a group of orphans bound together by hardship and death. These youngsters, in spite of being outweighed by at least thirty pounds per man, were the toughest football team around. They began with nothing--not even a football--yet in a few years were playing for the state championship on the highest level of Texas football. This is a winning tribute to a courageous band of underdogs from a time when America desperately needed fresh hope and big dreams.       The Mighty Mites remain a notable moment in the long history of American sports. Just as significant is the depth of the inspirational message. This is a profound lesson in fighting back and clinging to faith. The real winners in Texas high school football were not the kids from the biggest schools, or the ones wearing the most expensive uniforms. They were the scrawny kids from a tiny orphanage who wore scarred helmets and faded jerseys that did not match, kids coached by a devoted man who lived on peanuts and drove them around in a smoke-belching old truck.       In writing a story of unforgettable characters and great football, Jim Dent has come forward to reclaim his place as one of the top sports authors in America today.       A remarkable and inspirational story of an orphanage and the man who created one of the greatest football teams Texas has ever known . . . this is their story--the original Friday Night Lights.   "This just might be the best sports book ever written. Jim Dent has crafted a story that will go down as one of the most artistic, one of the most unforgettable, and one of the most inspirational ever. Twelve Mighty Orphans will challenge Hoosiers as the feel-good sports story of our lifetime. Naturally, being from Texas, I am biased. Hooray for the Mighty Mites.'' --Verne Lundquist, CBS Sports   "Coach Rusty Russell and the Mighty Mites will steal your heart as they overcome every obstacle imaginable to become a respected football team. Take an orphanage, the Depression, and mix it with Texas high school football, and Jim Dent has authored another winner, this one about the ultimate underdog.'' --Brent Musburger, ABC Sports/ESPN   "No state has a roll call of legendary high school football stories like we do in Texas, and, admittedly, some of those stories have been 'expanded' over the years when it comes to the truth. But let Jim Dent tell you about the Mighty Mites of Masonic Home, the pride of Fort Worth in the dark days of the Depression. Read this book. You will think it's fiction. You will think it's a Hollywood script. But Twelve Mighty Orphans is the truth, and nothing but. It is powerful stuff. Some eighty years later, the Mighty Mites' story remains so sacred, not even a Texan would dare tamper with these facts. And Jim Dent tells it like it was." -- Randy Galloway, columnist, Fort-Worth Star Telegram


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Jim Dent, author of the New York Times bestselling The Junction Boys, returns with his most powerful story of human courage and determination. More than a century ago, a school was constructed in Fort Worth, Texas, for the purpose of housing and educating the orphans of Texas Freemasons. It was a humble project that for years existed quietly on a hillside east of town. Life Jim Dent, author of the New York Times bestselling The Junction Boys, returns with his most powerful story of human courage and determination. More than a century ago, a school was constructed in Fort Worth, Texas, for the purpose of housing and educating the orphans of Texas Freemasons. It was a humble project that for years existed quietly on a hillside east of town. Life at the Masonic Home was about to change, though, with the arrival of a lean, bespectacled coach by the name of Rusty Russell. Here was a man who could bring rain in the midst of a drought. Here was a man who, in virtually no time at all, brought the orphans' story into the homes of millions of Americans.       In the 1930s and 1940s, there was nothing bigger in Texas high school football than the Masonic Home Mighty Mites--a group of orphans bound together by hardship and death. These youngsters, in spite of being outweighed by at least thirty pounds per man, were the toughest football team around. They began with nothing--not even a football--yet in a few years were playing for the state championship on the highest level of Texas football. This is a winning tribute to a courageous band of underdogs from a time when America desperately needed fresh hope and big dreams.       The Mighty Mites remain a notable moment in the long history of American sports. Just as significant is the depth of the inspirational message. This is a profound lesson in fighting back and clinging to faith. The real winners in Texas high school football were not the kids from the biggest schools, or the ones wearing the most expensive uniforms. They were the scrawny kids from a tiny orphanage who wore scarred helmets and faded jerseys that did not match, kids coached by a devoted man who lived on peanuts and drove them around in a smoke-belching old truck.       In writing a story of unforgettable characters and great football, Jim Dent has come forward to reclaim his place as one of the top sports authors in America today.       A remarkable and inspirational story of an orphanage and the man who created one of the greatest football teams Texas has ever known . . . this is their story--the original Friday Night Lights.   "This just might be the best sports book ever written. Jim Dent has crafted a story that will go down as one of the most artistic, one of the most unforgettable, and one of the most inspirational ever. Twelve Mighty Orphans will challenge Hoosiers as the feel-good sports story of our lifetime. Naturally, being from Texas, I am biased. Hooray for the Mighty Mites.'' --Verne Lundquist, CBS Sports   "Coach Rusty Russell and the Mighty Mites will steal your heart as they overcome every obstacle imaginable to become a respected football team. Take an orphanage, the Depression, and mix it with Texas high school football, and Jim Dent has authored another winner, this one about the ultimate underdog.'' --Brent Musburger, ABC Sports/ESPN   "No state has a roll call of legendary high school football stories like we do in Texas, and, admittedly, some of those stories have been 'expanded' over the years when it comes to the truth. But let Jim Dent tell you about the Mighty Mites of Masonic Home, the pride of Fort Worth in the dark days of the Depression. Read this book. You will think it's fiction. You will think it's a Hollywood script. But Twelve Mighty Orphans is the truth, and nothing but. It is powerful stuff. Some eighty years later, the Mighty Mites' story remains so sacred, not even a Texan would dare tamper with these facts. And Jim Dent tells it like it was." -- Randy Galloway, columnist, Fort-Worth Star Telegram

30 review for Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football

  1. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Fanning

    When my uncle first recomended this book to me, I never really thought that I was going to be able to get into it. I figured that I already hear enough about Texas high school football attending CHHS and definetly don't need to read a book about it. With that being said, 'Twelve Mighty Orphans' turned out to be the most exciting and inspirational sport book that I have ever read. This non-fiction told the story of a tough underpopulated orphanage's football team who against all odds became one o When my uncle first recomended this book to me, I never really thought that I was going to be able to get into it. I figured that I already hear enough about Texas high school football attending CHHS and definetly don't need to read a book about it. With that being said, 'Twelve Mighty Orphans' turned out to be the most exciting and inspirational sport book that I have ever read. This non-fiction told the story of a tough underpopulated orphanage's football team who against all odds became one of the best Texas football teams in the 1930s. Lead by head coach Rusty Russel, whose ingenious idea of the spread offense aided the team greatly, the orphans unique sense of family and determination made it so that all readers could not help but cheer for these underdogs. Even thought this band of brothers usually consisted of around 12 players who were all outweighed and had much worse equipment than their opponents, they always found a way to claw themselves deap into the playoffs. The football games in this book were so intense and gripping that I had very little trouble completing it over the time span of a week. I greatly enjoyed this book and it made me feel as though I can do anything I set my mind towards.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Keene

    This book is very special to me because one of those kids, Abner McCall, eventually became president of Baylor University and he signed my college diploma. Also, I have a fraternity brother whose parents are good friends with the couple who twice married.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    This story covers the football program - and by extension life of the students - at the Fort Worth Mason’s Orphanage from the late 1920’s to the early 1940’s. It is essentially the Hoosiers story but on the football field over many years. It essentially follows a tiny school of tough-nosed orphans as they routinely beat schools ten times their size. This is all despite some terribly difficult childhoods. I had little idea that football was so popular in Texas during the Depression. The Mighty Mit This story covers the football program - and by extension life of the students - at the Fort Worth Mason’s Orphanage from the late 1920’s to the early 1940’s. It is essentially the Hoosiers story but on the football field over many years. It essentially follows a tiny school of tough-nosed orphans as they routinely beat schools ten times their size. This is all despite some terribly difficult childhoods. I had little idea that football was so popular in Texas during the Depression. The Mighty Mites routinely drew more than 10,000 fans to their games and some of their playoff games drew three times this number. 5 stars. Jim Dent is a phenomenal writer who colors his stories with the right mix of detail and passion. I also loved the Junction Boys by Dent but this book is even better. This is in large part because coach Russell is so likable as opposed to Bear Bryant. That and the orphans’ success was so improbable.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Janet Rose

    I saw this book was being made into a movie set in Fort Worth. I had never heard this story. The result of Jim Dent’s writing is a treasure. His writing is so rich that it reads like a screenplay. May be my favorite book this year.

  5. 4 out of 5

    G.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'll occasionally venture into sports writing, when the story is irresistible. This is true of Twelve Mighty Orphans. Mighty is the right word to describe these boys. They seemed to be courageous and incredibly tough. It's heartbreaking what life asks of us. Hardy Brown saw his father shot in front of him when he was four. The means of coping he adopted, as did many of the boys, was anger and insecurity. I fear we've only slightly improved our responses to traumatized children. That's one thing I'll occasionally venture into sports writing, when the story is irresistible. This is true of Twelve Mighty Orphans. Mighty is the right word to describe these boys. They seemed to be courageous and incredibly tough. It's heartbreaking what life asks of us. Hardy Brown saw his father shot in front of him when he was four. The means of coping he adopted, as did many of the boys, was anger and insecurity. I fear we've only slightly improved our responses to traumatized children. That's one thing I came away with. Dent did a decent enough job of telling this story. He brought it to light, and that is significant. Only one member of the 1932 team survived when Dent wrote. He did a good job of letting the aftermath stories lie where they would. Not all the boys came to happy ends. Many did not. And they didn't win state. It's essentially a sad story. Dent did well to let it be. Overall, I recommend this book. More care could have been taken. But it's readable and colorful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cara

    I thought about giving this book 3 stars, but I just couldn't do it. The orphan boys were just too special and deserve more than that. What a remarkable bunch of guys! And, what about that Rusty Russell? What an amazing man! Without him, I can only imagine where these guys would have ended up. This was a really good example of an underdog success story. I also really enjoyed learning some interesting and off the beaten path Texas history. I am not a football fan at all, so the fooball play by pl I thought about giving this book 3 stars, but I just couldn't do it. The orphan boys were just too special and deserve more than that. What a remarkable bunch of guys! And, what about that Rusty Russell? What an amazing man! Without him, I can only imagine where these guys would have ended up. This was a really good example of an underdog success story. I also really enjoyed learning some interesting and off the beaten path Texas history. I am not a football fan at all, so the fooball play by play bored me at times. I also thought the writing lacked a little. But, the story of the Mighty Mites is one I won't soon forget!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

    This is a true story about orphans at a Masonic home in Texas during the Depression. It's absolutely amazing and a must read for everyone! It's not just a sports story, but a story of the human spirit and what the Mighty Mites endured and overcame with so little during a harsh time in our nations history. These boys are awe inspiring. You will find yourself cheering out loud for the Mighty Mites! This is a true story about orphans at a Masonic home in Texas during the Depression. It's absolutely amazing and a must read for everyone! It's not just a sports story, but a story of the human spirit and what the Mighty Mites endured and overcame with so little during a harsh time in our nations history. These boys are awe inspiring. You will find yourself cheering out loud for the Mighty Mites!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Miles

    What an amazing story! The author wove together a very interesting account of multiple lives merging to form a winning team against all odds. I am a Baylor Bears fan so learning that Abner McCall was one of the Mighty Mites had special meaning to me. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a good sports story. Warning: some portions regarding abuse are disturbing and the cruelty of some of the boys. The heroes of this story are those who poured their lives into helping these boys wh What an amazing story! The author wove together a very interesting account of multiple lives merging to form a winning team against all odds. I am a Baylor Bears fan so learning that Abner McCall was one of the Mighty Mites had special meaning to me. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes a good sports story. Warning: some portions regarding abuse are disturbing and the cruelty of some of the boys. The heroes of this story are those who poured their lives into helping these boys who had literally nothing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Deanna Perkins

    I was surprised I loved this book as much as I did. I am not a football fan and read this book because it was a book club selection. Not sure I would have picked it up otherwise. I couldn't help become a fan of the Mighty Mites! A very special book! There are many pictures so you might want to read a real book. Some of my book club members didn't get to see them on their e-readers. I was surprised I loved this book as much as I did. I am not a football fan and read this book because it was a book club selection. Not sure I would have picked it up otherwise. I couldn't help become a fan of the Mighty Mites! A very special book! There are many pictures so you might want to read a real book. Some of my book club members didn't get to see them on their e-readers.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Really probably 3.75. It is a great story, but the book is a bit all over the place. I really enjoyed learning about the coach and many of the players. Also, the retelling of several of the games kept me on the edge of my seat.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    Twelve Mighty Orphans is the story of the football team at the Masonic Home in Fort Worth, Texas. The time period is the Great Depression. The old Masonic Home and School of Texas opened in 1899. It closed in 2005. The school was its own school district. The home cared for orphaned and displaced children. The children were those born to Masonic members. When the book begins the story of Hardy Brown is told. The Brown siblings were notable characters at the Masonic School and on the football team. Twelve Mighty Orphans is the story of the football team at the Masonic Home in Fort Worth, Texas. The time period is the Great Depression. The old Masonic Home and School of Texas opened in 1899. It closed in 2005. The school was its own school district. The home cared for orphaned and displaced children. The children were those born to Masonic members. When the book begins the story of Hardy Brown is told. The Brown siblings were notable characters at the Masonic School and on the football team. The football team at the Masonic Home was called the Mighty Mites. The second chapter introduces us to coach Rusty Russell. Twelve Mighty Orphans shares stories of the individual lives of the characters, the school's history, the football games, rival teams, and the strength and power of the Masons. When I began reading this story, I knew little about this history...and I live in Fort Worth! This is a feel good story. A story of an against the odds football team versus wealthier, larger schools. The story reminds me of other stories where sports is a main theme and the team wins big. I enjoyed reading about the individual lives of the football players and the coach. The kids came from dire circumstances. Football was a healthy escape from their painful pasts. It gave them a chance to participate and be disciplined by a sport. It gave them a chance to be apart of something big. Playing football made them feel better about their situation. A secondary character in the story, but by no means least, an African American man named, Moses. He was "a self-appointed good luck trainer."

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara Strasser

    Twelve Might Orphans tells the inspiring story of a group of orphans growing up in the Masonic Home during depression-era Texas. I was fully prepared to dislike this book, as Texas football culture is not exactly my thing, but I actually thought this book was fantastic! Even if you are not into football, or even sports in general, this is a truly inspiring story. The book begins with a man, Rusty Russell, who decides to create a football program at the Masonic Home for Orphans. The school does Twelve Might Orphans tells the inspiring story of a group of orphans growing up in the Masonic Home during depression-era Texas. I was fully prepared to dislike this book, as Texas football culture is not exactly my thing, but I actually thought this book was fantastic! Even if you are not into football, or even sports in general, this is a truly inspiring story. The book begins with a man, Rusty Russell, who decides to create a football program at the Masonic Home for Orphans. The school does not have a single football and the children do not wear shoes for six months of the year. His players are always smaller, fewer in numbers and play without the proper equipment. However, Mr. Russell was none-the-less able to create a team that made it to four state championships. The fact that they were never able to win the Texas State Title ends up being a minor point in the grand story. The team quickly became the Cinderella story of depression-era Texas. They had tens of thousands of fans across the state rooting for them. During a time when the whole country was looking for something to celebrate, the small football team from the orphan home became just that. “Football stadiums in the thirties did not mirror the grim conditions of the Depression. Fans wore their finest clothing to the big games and some of the women showed off expensive jewels. Most men wore a pressed gabardine suit and a fedora; practically every female on the Highland Park side donned something fashionably French from Neiman Marcus” (p. 117). The story of Mr. Russell’s Mighty Mites (as they were called by their adoring fans) provided an escape from the reality of the times. It should be also noted that the story is far from picture-perfect. The children have all lost either one, or both parents. Many of their parents were killed, and many of the children bore witness to the crimes. The book begins with the story of Hardy Brown, who was probably the best football player to ever pass through the Masonic Home. He entered the home after his father was brutally murdered in front of him and his mother ran off in fear of the men who murdered her husband. Physically abuse was also rampant in the home, and life was nothing short of hard. But as sports often become an outlet for the struggles faced by many youth, the football program at the Masonic home did just that. While some of the men were never able to leave behind the demons that came with them into the home, many were able to grow into successful and happy individuals. Through the extraordinary guidance from Mr. Russell, the young men gained self-esteem and pride that carried well beyond the football stadium. “Everyone has heroes. At least everyone ought to have heroes in his life. They serve as models. They inspire us to be better than we would be otherwise. Mr. H.N. Russell was one of my heroes. Our team was just an ordinary group of boys, and only half of us weighed as much as 140 pounds. We were not bigger, stronger, or better than our opponents. What made the difference for us was Rusty Russell, a most extraordinary man. But the genius of Rusty Russell was in this ability to make every boy a giant in his own eyes. His memory will remain fresh and green with us. We acknowledge again our debt to you this day” (p. 261). This was a statement made by one of Mr. Russell’s former players, Abner McCall, at Mr. Russell’s funeral. Mr. McCall became the president of Baylor University. Even if you are not a football fan, or even a sports fan, I highly recommend this book. It is an inspiring story about a very different place and time in our history. It tells a very interesting and amazing story of a group of young men who beat the odds.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kev Willoughby

    I didn't want this book to end. It was charming, inspirational, funny, historic, heart-breaking, and impossible to put down. After I turned the last page, I couldn't understand how something so definitively well put together as a book thirteen years ago, chronicling events that happened 60-70 years ago has not yet been made into a movie. This is an epic story. We need more stories like this. These are the true stories of a generation of orphans who grew up together in Depression-era Texas at the I didn't want this book to end. It was charming, inspirational, funny, historic, heart-breaking, and impossible to put down. After I turned the last page, I couldn't understand how something so definitively well put together as a book thirteen years ago, chronicling events that happened 60-70 years ago has not yet been made into a movie. This is an epic story. We need more stories like this. These are the true stories of a generation of orphans who grew up together in Depression-era Texas at the Masonic Home. This establishment was built using the annual dues of 400,000 Texans who belonged to the Freemasons. Each year, they were responsible for paying 50 cents to keep up their membership in good standing. The organization used the $200,000 to build the campus of the boarding school that would change the lives of countless young people for decades to come. One of my favorites was the story of a new resident named Opal. Her story illustrates the charm of a bygone era of discovery and innocence that no longer seems to exist in our technologically advanced and hyper-connected modern world. On her way by car (as a first-time passenger) to the Home, Opal, the oldest of three siblings who had recently lost their father, was asked by the driver if the girls wanted to stop and get some pop. The following conversation ensued: "What is 'pop'?" Opal asked. "Kind of like Coca-Cola, I guess." None of this registered. But Opal smiled anyway. "Why, yes, sir, we would love to have some pop." They pulled into a gas station outside of Ranger and the three girls peered into a large steel box filled with bottles of many flavors. Each one pointed to a bottle with red liquid--strawberry. Opal had never tasted anything so sweet in her life and was not sure she liked it. But she drank it out of politeness. Her sisters downed theirs in a matter of seconds and smiled to reveal red teeth. Two hours later, the Packard approached Fort Worth and Opal marveled at a skyline that was beyond the imagination. They traveled east on Highway 287 before turning off onto a dirt road that passed a creek and wound up a hill. The girls could see the orphans playing beyond the fence. "What's that thing they are kicking?" Opal said. "That's a football." "I think I want to play football." "You'll get to play tennis." "Oh, goody. What's that?" At the moment, the orphans were kicking and throwing, chasing each other, tackling each other, and punching each other in the mouth. "Is there a school here?" she said. "Of course. You'll go to school every day." "That's exactly what I'd been hoping for." Opal watched the children playing and then felt the sun on her face. This was the most exciting scene she had ever set eyes on. Then she spotted the red brick road. "I want to walk on the redbrick road," she said. "Go right ahead, little girl," the man said. She followed the redbrick road straight to the little girls' building, where her dorm mother was waiting. She turned again and watched the kids playing in the sunlight. She soaked up everything. "I am in heaven," she said. This was a girl whose father had been murdered just days before, leaving her world shattered. And though Opal's optimism was not typical of the orphans when they first arrived at the Home, most of them grew to love the family atmosphere and the new companions and lifelong friends they discovered during their time there. Juxtaposed to Opal's experience, the boys in the home had somewhat of a tougher time on a daily basis. Hardy Brown was the toughest resident of the Home, and even went on to be considered by many to be the meanest NFL player of all-time. Here's an excerpt from the daily life in the boys' dorm: As the boys gathered in the dining room for the evening meal, Brown looked across the table to Crazy Moseley. "Crazy, he said, "Tonight you are going to fight Dewitt Coulter right after dinner. Got it?" Crazy, who rarely spoke, simply nodded. Still chewing his mashed potatoes, Dewitt looked up from his plate and glared at Hardy. "Oh, so you want to fight me, do you, Dee-Witt?" Dewitt held up a big paw like a stop sign. "Hold it, Hardy," Dewitt said, his mouth full of potatoes, "I'll fight Crazy." Snoggs Roach laughed. "Hell, Dee-Witt, I could beat you up," he said. Hardy said, "How big are you, Snoggs?" About a hundred and thirty pounds?" "That's what the football program says. I'm more like a hundred and twenty." Dewitt Coulter was the biggest kid to ever hit the orphanage. At 210 pounds, he was a giant, compared to most of the Mighty Mites, a team that had averaged 147 pounds per man the previous season. After dinner, all of the boys walked down to the water tower, and as the sun was setting over the eastern hills of Fort Worth, Dewitt Coulter and Crazy Moseley squared up to fight. Fists began to fly. Giving up almost sixty pounds, Crazy waded in and popped Coulter three times on the forehead, raising red welts. Two more shots and the big boys' eyes were swelling shut. Dewitt now whaled wildly at the air as a right uppercut caught him on the chin and knocked him to the ground. "Get up, you big sissy," Hardy hollered. Dewitt staggered to his feet just as Remmert came around the corner with paddle in hand. "Y'all stop picking on poor Dee-Witt," the dean hollered. "You know he ain't nothing but a big sissy." Fortunately for Dewitt, that is where the fight ended. Dewitt Coulter also went on to a successful career in college football and the NFL. It was amazing how many of the young people who grew up at the Masonic Home in just the one generation covered in this book went on to success in other areas of life, whether in sports, academia, scientific research, or other areas of renown. One thing that I never got used to throughout the book was the adversity the orphans faced as they traveled across Texas to play high school football. They were constantly ridiculed and teased because of their status as orphans. Even opposing administrators tried to create extra adversity, never giving up their efforts to take the football program away from these young men. To think that their peers and opponents would consistently mistreat them and make fun of them simply due to the fact that their parents were dead is mind-boggling. Where I live in Alabama, the Masonic Home would be the equivalent of a 1A school (the smallest classification based on school size) taking on 7A schools (the largest high schools of the major cities in the state). Yet over and over, the young men of the Mighty Mites football team earned the respect of their opponents and usually the victory on the scoreboard as well by the end of the game. The central figure to the success of the school and the young people in it was the football coach, Rusty Russell, who later also became the school's principal. Russell was already a hot prospect among the coaching ranks when he inexplicably took the job at this small school, which barely had enough young men to even form a football team. He gave up the prime years of his career to pour his life and leadership into the young people who had no other father figure in their lives. And he made his time there count immensely. Although he later went on to coach in major college football and was eventually elected to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Texas High School Sports Hall of Fame, he always considered his time at the Masonic Home to be his favorite part of his career. Decades after his time at the school, one of his former players spoke these words at Coach Russell's funeral: "Everyone has heroes. At least everyone ought to have heroes in his life. They serve as models. They inspire us to be better than we would be otherwise. Mr. H. N. Russell was one of my heroes. Our team was just an ordinary group of boys, and only half of us weighed as much as 140 pounds. We were not bigger, stronger, or better than our opponents. What made the difference for us was Rusty Russell, a most extraordinary man. But the genius of Rusty Russell was in his ability to make every boy a giant in his own eyes. His memory will remain fresh and green with us. We acknowledge again our debt to you this day." I wish there were more stories written and recorded like those of Rusty Russell and the kids at Masonic Home. We need these stories. This is the perfect book for people who claim they are just not a reader. This is the kind of book that can change that.

  14. 5 out of 5

    David

    BACKGROUND It is the story of Coach Rusty Russell and the football teams he coached at the Masonic Home. He build a football program that gave orphans something to have pride in, a steady source of income for a poor and building school and with smaller and fewer players he consistently won and made the state playoffs for ten years. The story spends little time on x's and o's and it is more about depression era Texas, the home and the people that ran it. My Dad spent 11 years at them home and pla BACKGROUND It is the story of Coach Rusty Russell and the football teams he coached at the Masonic Home. He build a football program that gave orphans something to have pride in, a steady source of income for a poor and building school and with smaller and fewer players he consistently won and made the state playoffs for ten years. The story spends little time on x's and o's and it is more about depression era Texas, the home and the people that ran it. My Dad spent 11 years at them home and played for Coach Russell. I wish it had been written ten years ago so both Dad and I could have read it and talked about it. Dad used to talk about how big, precise and detailed the playbook was. We would watch highlights and he would say, "we had that play at the home." He would talk about Coach Russell drawing plays on napkins and anything he could find. BAD Dent is not a history writer. He relies on too few sources and he doesn't fill in all parts of the puzzle. For example his first team had just 12 players and they were always out manned and smaller but they did get more players. I think my Dad's senior class had 15 boys. I have a program of the 1940 team and it lists 30 players ranging from 14 to 17. At least 4 got College scholarships and two, maybe all four played pro ball. I wish he had mentioned other sports programs (Dad ran track and played baseball) and that they managed to give a quality education. I wish Dent should have had a list of all the boys that played for Russell and maybe even box scores from the games. But maybe that would make his book appear weaker as it would bring forth the question, "why didn't he talk to any of those people." GOOD Okay given that, there is a lot to like about this book. He gives you a good picture of Fort Worth and Texas in the Depression. You don't get all the answers but he gives you some of the parts of the puzzle. Coach Russell and a small group of educators made the home a special place in the middle of the depression with poverty everywhere they took some of the poorest and gave them a chance to build a life. That sounds overblown but I know my Dad always called it, 'the home.' He, his little brother and everyone I ever met at reunions said it with love. With the story of every season you will find yourself rooting for the Mites to win State and for Russell to again refuse job offers from Highland Park. Rich, spoiled kids--screw 'em. ODD I read some stories Dad had told me over and over from a different point of view. The mean Dean that drown. Not wearing shoes until the weather got cold. I heard that story since I was six but I didn't 'hear' it with an adult's I see on imdb.com that it might be made into a movie.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex Gonzalez

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Alex Gonzalez Twelve Mighty Orphans is a book about an Orphanage that starts a football team. They were a bunch of little that no one ever gave a winning chance. All the Orphans come from families were one or both of the parents are dead. These kids all have come to know one another because they were the only people they would be around. So they are pretty much a big family. When the Orphans start their football team they player better than what everyone thought they would. My favorite characte Alex Gonzalez Twelve Mighty Orphans is a book about an Orphanage that starts a football team. They were a bunch of little that no one ever gave a winning chance. All the Orphans come from families were one or both of the parents are dead. These kids all have come to know one another because they were the only people they would be around. So they are pretty much a big family. When the Orphans start their football team they player better than what everyone thought they would. My favorite character was Hardy Brown because he was like the captain of the football team. He always was making sure everyone was staying in place doing their best job. Hardy was never afraid to point out what people did wrong, if they messed up he would kick them in the butt and yell at them to try and make them do better. This book was very good at keeping you on the edge go you seat especially during the football games. The best part of the book is during the football games because they were always super intense and you never know what is going to happen. The worst part of the story is the beginning because it talks about how the kids lost there parents. It is very sad because most of the parents die or run away. Also most of the kids have never even seen there parents. If they have seen there parents then they were really young and most don’t remember what there parents look like by the time they leave the orphanage at 19-20 years old.. I gave this book a 4 star rating because this book has a ton of good parts and a few bad parts. This book was very good and was very exciting it definitely keep you turning the page. If you are looking for a good page turner this book is one of the best.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Erich Haux

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I truly enjoyed the book from front to back. I feel that it's a suiting book for anyone and everyone who is old enough to comprehend the harsh upbringings of the orphans of the Masonic home during the 1930's. The book depicts creatively and at times grotesquely real images of the children and their life experiences before and during their childhoods at the orphanage. It is a tale of extreme adversities, and the ability for the gallant, battle-hardened boys of the orphanage's football team to d I truly enjoyed the book from front to back. I feel that it's a suiting book for anyone and everyone who is old enough to comprehend the harsh upbringings of the orphans of the Masonic home during the 1930's. The book depicts creatively and at times grotesquely real images of the children and their life experiences before and during their childhoods at the orphanage. It is a tale of extreme adversities, and the ability for the gallant, battle-hardened boys of the orphanage's football team to defy the astronomic odds against them. Though they lose the state final, the team was never expected to win a game, and proved that a group of underweight, threadbare kids can compete with the best schools in the state. I found the side story of coach Russel's life to be by far most fascinating. He is the genuine hero image, with a calling to lead the team to glory, and teach them to be kids along the way.

  17. 5 out of 5

    jennifer

    the mighty mites are an inspiring lot. what is most admirable about the whole true story is the example and stewardship of their football coach, rusty russell. how one man led a bunch of orphans through their parentless-childhood with the sport of football. through his acceptance of and devotion to his players, he taught them both directly and indirectly that football is a place to work out their aggression and in turn gain a belief in themselves. oh - if their were more coaches like this for ki the mighty mites are an inspiring lot. what is most admirable about the whole true story is the example and stewardship of their football coach, rusty russell. how one man led a bunch of orphans through their parentless-childhood with the sport of football. through his acceptance of and devotion to his players, he taught them both directly and indirectly that football is a place to work out their aggression and in turn gain a belief in themselves. oh - if their were more coaches like this for kids who have been dealt such a bad hand! written more like a series of newspaper articles than a narrative, yet still profound in recounting the incredible bond that sports can provide for young boys and a community that cheers them on.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    This book is based on the true story of an orphans football team in Texas. I must admit that I am not much of a sports fan & just stumbled on to this book. This is a MUST READ! I am only on the 3rd chapter & it is a REMARKABLE story about ordinary people who are real HEROS! I met the author & some of the people that the book is based on in June 2008 @ the Mansonic Home class reunion where my mother in law grew up & attended school. Jim Dent was very excited about this story that he was able to b This book is based on the true story of an orphans football team in Texas. I must admit that I am not much of a sports fan & just stumbled on to this book. This is a MUST READ! I am only on the 3rd chapter & it is a REMARKABLE story about ordinary people who are real HEROS! I met the author & some of the people that the book is based on in June 2008 @ the Mansonic Home class reunion where my mother in law grew up & attended school. Jim Dent was very excited about this story that he was able to bring to life in a book. He said that a movie version was in the works and would be out in Dec. of 2009. Looking forward to seeing this remarkable story on film!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dee

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a wonderful story on so many levels...orphans making something of themselves through hard work, the impact one man can make on the life of children, good history giving, and more. I thought the author kept football plays and jargon to a minimum so the book was enjoyable for a woman, and the story line was so interesting. I felt like I knew these orphans. To add special interest, I came to find out that my mother in law and Ray and Dewitt Coulter are cousins, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a wonderful story on so many levels...orphans making something of themselves through hard work, the impact one man can make on the life of children, good history giving, and more. I thought the author kept football plays and jargon to a minimum so the book was enjoyable for a woman, and the story line was so interesting. I felt like I knew these orphans. To add special interest, I came to find out that my mother in law and Ray and Dewitt Coulter are cousins, so that was fun. I would highly recommend this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I would give this book a ten if I could. It is the story of the football team at the Fort Worth Masonic Home created by Rusty Russell in 1928 - that and so much more. So much flavor of early Fort Worth permeates the story; all of North Texas is in it for that matter. You don't have to be a football fan to enjoy this book. You will fall in love with the scrappy little orphans who never gave up in spite of everything being against them. I immediately started flipping through the beginning again to I would give this book a ten if I could. It is the story of the football team at the Fort Worth Masonic Home created by Rusty Russell in 1928 - that and so much more. So much flavor of early Fort Worth permeates the story; all of North Texas is in it for that matter. You don't have to be a football fan to enjoy this book. You will fall in love with the scrappy little orphans who never gave up in spite of everything being against them. I immediately started flipping through the beginning again to read a few more details about the Mighty Mites of the Masonic Home.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Blake Curl,

    I previously wrote a short review of the wonderful book and forgot to mention that one of the reasons this book was of such interest to me is that I played against three of the Masonic Home teams in the 50's. Their glory days were over but the aggressiveness and hard-nosed football of past teams portrayed in this book were very much ingrained in their unique style of play. Great read and brought back many good memories. I previously wrote a short review of the wonderful book and forgot to mention that one of the reasons this book was of such interest to me is that I played against three of the Masonic Home teams in the 50's. Their glory days were over but the aggressiveness and hard-nosed football of past teams portrayed in this book were very much ingrained in their unique style of play. Great read and brought back many good memories.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Paula

    Historical account of the "Mighty Mites" - the amazing Masonic Home of Ft Worth orphans that pulled together as a state football team with Coach Rusty Russell during the 1920's - 1940's. Historical account of the "Mighty Mites" - the amazing Masonic Home of Ft Worth orphans that pulled together as a state football team with Coach Rusty Russell during the 1920's - 1940's.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    I enjoyed this book - even more so because I've seen a lot of the locations where the story took place. The personal stories of these players and the childhoods that they had to deal with around the time of the depression were difficult for me to imagine. So many people put their kids in orphanages just because they couldn't afford to feed them...I can't even imagine that! I enjoyed this book - even more so because I've seen a lot of the locations where the story took place. The personal stories of these players and the childhoods that they had to deal with around the time of the depression were difficult for me to imagine. So many people put their kids in orphanages just because they couldn't afford to feed them...I can't even imagine that!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Lee Murray

    As a fan of Texas high school football, I enjoyed this book immensely. It was an unknown chapter in history for me and was a highly entertaining read. If you’re a fan of Texas high school football, you’ll love this book. Jim Dent (Junction Boys) is an outstanding writer and the book is thoroughly researched and well written. It’s a great read!!!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I am not a sports fan. I loved this book. It was funny. My favorite part was the glass eye. It was also heart rending and shocking. This back has a little bit of everything. And even the football games were enjoyable. This is a really great book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leslie aka StoreyBook Reviews

    This was such an amazing story and while nonfiction it reads like fiction. I found myself rooting for the Mighty Mites and didn't want the story to end. This was such an amazing story and while nonfiction it reads like fiction. I found myself rooting for the Mighty Mites and didn't want the story to end.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Meridith

    Great for men or women. If you are a football fan you will love the story. If you are looking for a heartwarming story you will love it too.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin James

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. There were times when this book was a little tedious and then there were times when it was inspiring! Over all, I enjoyed reading this book and I learned so much about the city I now call home! Here are my 2 favorite quotes from the book...and yes, they are spoilers! When Hardy finally went down, half of the Amarillo defense was lying on top of him. His momentum died just two feet from the goal. The Mites had lost 14–7. “It was a valiant effort,” Cy Leland told his radio audience. “But there wil There were times when this book was a little tedious and then there were times when it was inspiring! Over all, I enjoyed reading this book and I learned so much about the city I now call home! Here are my 2 favorite quotes from the book...and yes, they are spoilers! When Hardy finally went down, half of the Amarillo defense was lying on top of him. His momentum died just two feet from the goal. The Mites had lost 14–7. “It was a valiant effort,” Cy Leland told his radio audience. “But there will be no state championship, once again, for the Masonic Home Mighty Mites.” A silence that seemed surreal fell over Butler Stadium. The Amarillo fans should have been cheering their hearts out for the best high school team in the state, possibly the greatest ever in Texas. Instead, twelve thousand fans remained silent in their seats. When Hardy Brown stood up, pulled off his helmet, and walked slowly toward the sideline, it finally began. “Mighty Mites! Mighty Mites! Mighty Mites!” The chant would continue for several minutes. The orphans looked into the stands and could not believe their ears. For all of their lives, they had been degraded and called “Orphans!” Now they were being cheered and honored by a bunch of strangers. Standing in the bright Amarillo sunshine on a cold December afternoon, the end finally came. The era was over. The Mighty Mites had come so close—reaching the state semifinals three times and the finals once—yet they had never won the big one. It was their last chance and everyone knew it. What they had accomplished was to become Texas’s second-greatest team of the decade, just behind Amarillo. More important, the orphans became a symbol of inspiration for every man and woman during the Depression. They were the most popular team in Texas in the thirties, with a cult following that stretched from New York to the West Coast. They were a reason to live. They were Seabiscuit and Cinderella Man rolled into one fighting little football team. They were devotion, hope, and the belief that winning lives within the heart. Teams would come and go. But no one would ever forget the Mighty Mites.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Hendricks

    This was a great book. It is a true story. The research the Author did in order to write the book was outstanding and it is very well written. This book is about the Mighty Mites who ruled football in the 1930s. However to look at them nobody thought they would be the powerhouse they turned out to be. They were orphans who lived in an orphanage in Fort Worth, Texas run by the Masonic Lodge. They were a ragtag bunch of boys who had very little. They were smaller than the teams they played and the This was a great book. It is a true story. The research the Author did in order to write the book was outstanding and it is very well written. This book is about the Mighty Mites who ruled football in the 1930s. However to look at them nobody thought they would be the powerhouse they turned out to be. They were orphans who lived in an orphanage in Fort Worth, Texas run by the Masonic Lodge. They were a ragtag bunch of boys who had very little. They were smaller than the teams they played and they would old hand me down uniforms. They only ever had enough people to field a team. And they played both sides of the ball. Each boy played both a defensive position and an offensive one. So even though the book centers around the game of football. It is really a book about the heart. The friendship that these boys developed was very strong. They were like brothers. These boys played with heart. These boys had hard lives. They lived through the Great Depression which was a hard time for everyone at that time. But most of the children had lost fathers and sometimes Mothers too. Many of the children had actually watch their Fathers die and in some cases violently as this was also the time of prohibition. If the Mothers were living often they were institutionalized too as they were unable to take care of themselves or their children. This football team had a following that extended not only across Texas; but from New York to California.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Wesley Coburn

    This wasn't a bad book, but it should've been much better. The action on the field is presented in cinematic detail, but the chapters felt disconnected and basic facts didn't quite add up, especially considering that the author was a sportswriter. If you liked Friday Night Lights, the spirit and history behind Buzz Bissenger's book is here, and the characters of Matt Saracen and Tim Riggins from the TV show are here as well. Read at the same time or near Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" and "Unb This wasn't a bad book, but it should've been much better. The action on the field is presented in cinematic detail, but the chapters felt disconnected and basic facts didn't quite add up, especially considering that the author was a sportswriter. If you liked Friday Night Lights, the spirit and history behind Buzz Bissenger's book is here, and the characters of Matt Saracen and Tim Riggins from the TV show are here as well. Read at the same time or near Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" and "Unbroken" and Daniel James Brown's "The Boys in the Boat" and you'll get a good picture of the role of sports during the Great Depression.

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