A San Francisco Bay Area coach is promoting a new twist on an old high school football tradition of players giving their girlfriends their jerseys to wear on game days.
This year, before home games, Fremont High School Coach Jake Messina has been asking his players to instead give their away jerseys to a teacher, one who has had made a difference in that player's life.
"I had no idea it would take off like it did," Messina, who first tinkered with the idea as a coach in Merced, said.
Longtime Fremont teachers say Messina's new jersey tradition is just one way in which he has brought the football program, once isolated from the rest of the student body, closer to the entire school.
"I was touched," Fremont teacher Beth Villa says of when Afa Prescott, a senior, asked her to wear his number 64. "I thought, 'Oh, wow, maybe he didn't hate me as much as I thought he did," she adds with a smile.
While wearing Afa's jersey, Villa went to her first Fremont football game in her 13 years of teaching there.
"I really reflected on how much she helped me," Afa says of giving Villa his jersey. "It was one of my best memories I have here at Fremont."
"It's just mind-boggling as a teacher," says Tanya Misfeldt who has been given jerseys twice this year to wear.
"To get that feedback of, "You made a difference in my life," is just huge!" says Misfeldt.
It hasn't hurt the team's image around the school that they have upped their performance on the field as well. Staff members commented this week that they've never seen so much school spirit, both around campus and at the football games.
They began the season winning nine straight games, the best start in the history of the school. Their only regular season loss came in the final game of the season to rival Sunnyvale school, Homestead.
While disappointed by the loss, Messina is adamant that helping his players succeed off the field is his number one goal.
"What I feel has started to happen is that we're going to produce some guys who will be able to go out and give back to the community," Messina says."That's the goal in doing this job."