You won’t find stomach butterflies in any entomology textbook, but that doesn’t mean they’re not real. Just ask any football player.

I’ve talked to many over the years who have described the nerves that often overtake them prior to a game. The buildup, the waiting, is the hardest part. A scene in the movie “Invincible” illustrates the phenomenon perfectly — as coach Dick Vermeil and receiver Vince Papale of the Philadelphia Eagles encounter each other in the bathroom after both undergoing a pregame cleansing of vomiting.

Then kickoff arrives — and the nerves subside. It’s football. You’ve played the game before.

In a slightly different, yet very real way, I can empathize with these players. For many members of the sports media, the buildup to football season results in one of the most stressful stretches of the year. There is much work to be done, and it requires long hours and a healthy endurance. A kind of nervous energy is pervasive. Deadlines are ever looming.

Then kickoff arrives — and we chill out a bit.

Fortunately, kickoff is coming in a matter of days. And with it, here at the Tribune-Herald, the publication of two of our most ambitious endeavors of the year: our 48-page Big 12 Preview Magazine and our 24-page 2017 Central Texas High School Football Preview Section. Both will hit newsstands and driveways on Thursday, the opening day of the high school season and two days before Baylor’s opener against Liberty.

In the sports department, we’ve poured a lot of time and energy into these products. And it is our utmost hope that you, the reader, delight in the fruits of our labor.

Here’s a teaser of what you’ll be able to sample:


of New Blood

Baylor’s Matt Rhule, Texas’s Tom Herman and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley step into some prickly situations, each with their own respective challenges, but the young trio of first-year coaches isn’t short on confidence or enthusiasm.

Playoffs? You’re Talking Playoffs?

In two of the three seasons of the College Football Playoff, the Big 12 has been left out in the cold. What’s it going to take for that to change?

Traditions Never Die

We examine 10 of the conference’s college football traditions, one for each school, and what makes them special.

Also, we’ll have team-by-team feature stories for all the programs in the Big 12, as well as schedules, preseason predictions and a look at our preseason All-Big 12 team.

Oh, and for those of you Central Texans who may be a fan of Texas A&M (or other non-Big 12 schools), please don’t storm the newspaper office and gig us. We plan to include previews and game coverage of the Aggies (and others) in our daily editions.

Then, as you flip your attention to the high school section, here is just a sampling of the well-stocked menu:

Brain Power

We take a look at how concussion awareness has grown in Texas high school football over the past six years, since the passing of legislation mandating that coaches and athletic trainers go through training sessions every two years.

Pride of the Panthers

Midway quarterback Tanner Mordecai was a breakout star in his first year as a starter in 2016. Now he’s established as one of the best QBs in the area.

Closing the Gap

Waco High lost by three points to Temple and one point to Bryan, and missed the playoffs last year while those teams qualified. What do the Lions need to do to clear the hump?

The Streakbuster

University hopes that new football coach Rodney Smith can create a new legacy of winning for the Trojans.

Modoc Maulers

La Vega’s defense has been a strength the past few seasons, and should be again.

The Playmakers

From shifty running backs to nimble receivers, Class 4A is well-stocked with guys who know their way to the end zone.

Here Comes Mr. Cub

Clifton will hitch its wagon to productive running back Marc Gutierrez, and that’s not a bad strategy.

Small Schools,

Big Rivalries

Some of the most intense matchups and feuds in Central Texas exist among Class 2A schools like Crawford, Bosqueville, Mart and others.

Just Keep Winning

Abbott will carry a state championship trophy into the 2017-18 school year, its first from the sport of baseball. But football is the school’s first love, so to speak, and the Panthers want to add even more hardware to the trophy case.

Home Sweet Home

Methodist Home doesn’t always know what its roster will look like heading into the season, but the Bulldogs have developed a consistent winner in the TCAF six-man ranks.

Additionally, the section will include previews and schedules for all 64 teams in the Trib’s coverage area, dozens of photos, some of the wittiest and sharpest answers produced from our annual player questionnaire, a look at the Preseason Super Centex Team, a rundown of all of the head coaching changes in the area, and much more.

Such projects require a lot of planning and work — everything from driving to schools and interviewing players and coaches, to snapping photos (in the summer heat), to transcribing interviews, to researching stats and history, to designing and editing the publications. Work that, as of this writing, is still ongoing.

Again, we hope you read and appreciate our preview products beginning Thursday, and that you’ll enjoy what we’re calling Kickoff Week, which will include football stories all week long in the Trib leading up to the action.

Ah, yes, the action. Not to be a butterfly killer, but bring on the games.

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