Rod Marinelli: Coach Presents Twelve Mighty Orphans to Players at ‘COWBOYS U’
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli launched a book club during a 5 Points Blue podcast on February 15th with “Twelve Mighty Orphans” as his first reading selection. The informal club is a fun way for Coach Marinelli to share his love of learning, reading, and history with all Cowboys fans. On Thursday, he expanded the reach of the club by presenting books to the 192 high school football players that attended COWBOYS U at The Star in Frisco.
COWBOYS U is the team’s annual football camp for deserving student-athletes. The 192 players participating this year represent 44 high schools from 11 different districts in North Texas. The student-athletes were selected by their respective high school football coaches and athletic directors.
In addition to a round-robin 7-on-7 football tournament in which the entire Dallas Cowboys football team serve as coaches for the student-athletes, there are Life Skills and Character Activity Sessions in which Cowboys players share inspiring messages about topics such as overcoming adversity, teamwork, and perseverance.
During the Life Skills session, Coach Marinelli spoke to the student-athletes and presented each one of copy of “Twelve Mighty Orphans”, written by Jim Dent, which chronicles the amazing story of hard-scrabble kids during The Great Depression that overcame the harshest of obstacles and provided one of the most inspiring stories in sports history.
“This book is about 12 orphans that lived in Ft Worth, it’s a true story,” said Marinelli. “None of them had played football. Well, at the orphanage, a new teacher arrived and did a terrific job in starting a new football team. They had nothing. No equipment, nothing. He put a team together of these orphans. They went on to compete for state championships in Texas, those Twelve Mighty Orphans. .
“Two of those kids on the Mighty Orphans went on to play in the NFL. One (Hardy Brown) of those two is considered the greatest hitter to ever play in the NFL. The other 10 orphans went on to success in professions other than football.”
In addition to the books, generously provided for each COWBOYS U student-athlete by the Gene and Jerry Jones Family Foundation and the Texas Lottery, Coach Marinelli also included a self-addressed stamped postcard. There were specific instructions regarding the postcard.
“There’s a piece of paper in each of the books, a postcard,” noted Marinelli. “After reading the book, they’re going to make some notes on the piece of paper about what you learned from the book. I’m going to get those notes because we want to see what was learned.
“We’re asking to read the book and take two skills with it. The first skill, which was taught here at Cowboys U today, is ‘to finish’. If you open to the first page, you finish it until you’re done. It’s not just physically, it’s mentally. It’s a commitment to something.
“The second is that most people become what they repeatedly do. That’s not just physically, it’s mentally. Put good stuff in your mind. Build your armor: body armor when you lift weights, and mental armor that will carry you any place you want to go.”
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was happy to allow extra time during the Life Skills session for Coach Marinelli to present the books.
Garrett says he is “all in” with Coach Marinelli’s passion to share lessons of history, leadership, and perseverance through the book club. Garrett hopes that all Cowboys fans, not just the COWBOYS U players, take advantage of Coach Marinelli as a resource.
“Rod’s one of the most special people I’ve ever been around because each and every day he has a positive impact on all of us, players and coaches alike,” says Garrett. “Any time we can give him an opportunity to get in front of a group of people, we know he’s going to make a difference in their lives.
“He read this book and the book was important to him. He talked to our team about it a lot. The defensive unit really rallied around this idea of being an ‘orphan’, not lauded and maybe overlooked. There are so many great life messages that he shared that he pulled from the book.
“He shares these types of life messages daily. So, using our time today at Cowboys U to give the high school players a copy of the book and having Rod speak to them was a great opportunity to share the message and make a difference in their lives.”