Ask anybody from Alabama and they'll tell you there are only two things in life of any consequence God and football; it's up to the individual to decide in what order they rank. This philosophy is at the center of Jerry Jenkins' new novel, Hometown Legend, an inspirational look at a small town where faith and football converge. There are few authors better qualified to tackle the subject. Jenkins is the co-author of the best-selling Left Behind series, as well as a score of sports biographies. He's a former newspaper sports reporter; he writes the nationally syndicated sports comic strip Gil Thorp; and he helped Billy Graham with his autobiography.
In Hometown Legend, Jenkins' heart-warming story focuses on Cal Sawyer, a widower with a teenage daughter and a heavy burden of problems. His factory, the American Leather Football Company, is failing, and his hometown, Athens City, Alabama, is dying along with it. The local high school is scheduled to be closed, and its pitiful football team is facing a last, losing season. That is, until God and fate and Cal take a hand in changing the course of events. With the help of his daughter Rachel, his assistant Bev, a young loner named Elvis and a legendary coach who left town after the devastating death of his son, Cal tries to save the school, the town, his factory and himself. Though the book contains the requisite comebacks and miracle plays, Jenkins manages to avoid many sports book cliches to create a story that should charm his old fans and win many new ones. Already made into a film by Jenkins' son, Dallas, Hometown Legend is one of the first titles from Warner Books' new Christian line and is expected to have wide crossover potential for the general market. Jenkins writes with a down-home folksiness that brings to life his small-town characters hardworking, proud of their kids, sincere in their religious beliefs. It should not come as a surprise to learn that faith plays a big part in this book, but so does football. After all, it is set in Alabama.
James Neal Webb is a copyright researcher at Vanderbilt University.