ROBINSON, Texas — This past January, the Robinson Rockets named Mike Ludlow as their next head football coach.
It was before that announcement that the former DFW-area coach drove down to Central Texas and interviewed for the job.
In his pickup truck, he noticed something unique about the small town.
"All of a sudden as I pull into town, I started seeing Rocket Flags, the Rocket Cleaners, the Rocket Café," he said.
That's when he knew.
Ludlow is from Beckville, Texas. A small town in East Texas, the coach was transported back to his roots as he saw the businesses that clearly supported the high school and adored the Rocket name.
Brittney Fikes is the owner of the Rocket Café, a business she bought during the COVID-19 pandemic because she didn't want to see it close down.
“Seeing all the kids and all the parents packed in here before the game, it makes it all worth it," Fikes said.
Her café is packed before home games on Friday nights. Her clientele includes parents, students, and other fans who are about to head to the game.
She and 'The Rocket' are big supporters of the team, but the same can be said for many of those other businesses that Ludlow passed on his way into town.
"We’re the Robinson Rockets and everyone says Rockets never quit," Fikes said. "It’s a name that if they’re gonna open something they’re gonna have it deal with the rockets."
The coach's love at first sight mentality has even opened up the eyes of natives, like principal Kati Dietzman.
“Growing up here, I never thought any different his perspective changed mind, there’s something special about, because of that many kids are cared for and protected," Dietzman said.
Packed stands, crowded cafes, and dozens of Robinson flags make it obvious that there is plenty of spirit in the community. While that's evident before the games at Rocket Café, it's also apparent after the games when the players, students, and parents all return once the whistles have been blown for the final time. They come to celebrate a win or pick each other up after a loss.
“I did it in one game and it was crazy, both sides were packed, we were here for two hours trying to serve everybody, and they were like you gotta do it from now on," Fikes said.
The Rockets won three games in 2022, it was their best season since 2019. With a determined coach and a support system in place, this program could eventually reach new heights.
“When you get a group of people united working on the same deal - it’s hard to stop," Ludlow said.