FRISCO, Texas – The opening game of Saturday's Star Kickoff presented by Whataburger, an unprecedented Frisco high school football quadruple header, had just gotten underway when Dez Bryant walked through the Cowboys' new world headquarters into the Ford Center at The Star to watch a few plays and take pictures with a few awestruck students. Later, more Cowboys players stopped by coming off their third of four preseason games.
This is the vision Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones had when the organization first developed plans for The Star.
Ford Center at The Star, the 12,000-seat, 510,000-square foot indoor athletic facility, wouldn't just be a practice site for the Cowboys. It would be a shared venue with the City of Frisco and Frisco ISD's eight high schools – taking the rich tradition of Texas high school football and the Dallas Cowboys and "joining them at the hip together," Jones said on ESPNU.
"These kids – amateur, high school – to be involved in this, they know in a little way they can do it, too," Jones said. "And that confidence thing is maybe as important as that speed or size out there.
"To walk in here and have these great crowds here celebrating amateur sports, if you will, high school football, is frankly a dream."
That vision was realized Saturday with all eight Frisco ISD high school teams – Reedy, Independence, Lone Star, Heritage, Liberty, Wakeland, Frisco and Centennial High School – participating in the Star Kickoff. Tickets to the event sold out roughly one month after being available to the public. Tickets went on sale June 2 to Frisco ISD students, parents and employees and became available to the general public June 20.
Three of the four games are nationally televised on ESPNU and NFL Network.
"It's heartwarming to come in here and see what we envisioned work with the City of Frisco and the Independent School District," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "At the end of the day, our partnership with Ford Center and what it was going to be all about with kids, with students, and not just student-athletes -- with academia, with the band members, with the pep squads, with the cheerleaders, with the dancers -- everybody in this community is going to be a part of this.
"Hopefully we've raised the bar. Our future's right here out on this field as far the NFL, our grassroots, our student-athletes. We're going to show the world that this can be the safest place to play football and that kids want to come out here and they can play the game safely and have a great experience and create great excitement in a community."
On Aug. 19, the eight Frisco high school teams toured Ford Center at The Star and got a sneak peek at the field, the locker rooms and their Nike-designed uniforms. Jones has described it as a "championship venue" that, through partnerships with Ford, Nike, the Texas Lottery, Whataburger and Panasonic, will provide an enriching experience athletically and academically for students. Saturday, the schools took the field for their actual games.[embeddedad0]
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett recalled his experiences as a student sharing a sports venue with a professional team.
"I remember years and years ago when we played a high school basketball game at the Richfield Coliseum before the Cavs played the Lakers. I'll never forget it for the rest of my life," Garrett said. "Magic Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar walk past you while you're going to the locker room. Those experiences are things you remember forever.
"It's such a privilege to play high school football to begin with. To play in this kind of environment and to have so many people want to make it feel so special for you, they'll never forget this. Great opportunity for them."
The Frisco community and beyond will have another chance to see The Star following the Aug. 27 event when the Cowboys host The Star Community Day presented by Tostitos on Sept. 18. Admission will be free for guests with exact details of what the day will entail to be announced at a later date.
A look at The Star Kickoff, the inaugural event at the Ford Center featuring four Frisco ISD football games.