An American Tradition / by Bill Frakes

Football. The South. An American tradition. I grew up in Nebraska where football was king.

In undergraduate school at Arizona State, we had a big, powerful program -- during my time there, we were always among the nation's best.

But then I moved to the South, and I found the mother lode.

Before Friday Night Lights was a thing. Before the SEC ruled the land with seven straight BCS Championship wins. Before 39 cable channels were devoted to the sport.

Before all of that. Every small Southern town, seemingly every conversation not specifically related to religion or food, and every childhood and young adult sports fantasy, all revolved around a powerful high school football tradition.

It's then, it's now, and it always will be much more than a game. It's pride in community and hard work. It's the culture.

Working for Sports Illustrated as a staff photographer, I've spent a lot of time on the sidelines of football games of every stripe. SI through the years has covered the game better than anyone. I'm not sure that any of the images shot close to the action in stadiums big and small said as much about how I think of a life around football than this image, made with a Nikon P7800, when I dropped my 12-year-old daughter off at her school yesterday morning.