Being part of the John Tyler football team goes beyond enjoying a passionate fan base, a real connection to current NFLers and college football players that still care about the program and winning consistently.

It takes grit to survive in this program.

Did you know about 20 John Tyler players work jobs in the afternoon after morning football practice, classes and ahead of homework in the evening? Did you know John Tyler's valedictorian last year was part of the football team and that he also signed a football scholarship with the University of Houston?

That's part of why we don't think John Tyler received a death sentence when it was promoted to Class 6A, the state's largest classification. Rather, we think it is mentally tough enough to endure its challenging district and make a respectable run in the 6A playoffs afterward.

The Lions will begin the season ranked first in the ETSN.fm Class 6A/5A Poll. They are ahead of No. 2 Lufkin, No. 3 Marshall, No. 4 Longview, No. 5 Tyler Lee, No. 6 Texas High, No. 7 Nacogdoches, No. 8 Hallsville, No. 9 Lindale and No. 10 Whitehouse.

With the addition of John Tyler, all local 6A teams are ranked. They're in the order of the Lions, Lufkin, Longview and Tyler Lee.

Marshall leads the local 5A classification and is followed by Texas High, Nacogdoches, Hallsville, Lindale and Whitehouse. So, those are the top six 5A schools in the area.

John Tyler took some beatings through the first three games of last season and then took one more in the area round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs a season ago to a Mansfield Lake Ridge team that went on to make an appearance in the state championship game.

That should be over for a while with 14 starters returning from last season's team. The list includes Houston quarterback commitment Bryson Smith, Texas receiver commitment Damion Miller and UTSA cornerback commitment Javontavius Mosley.

Junior defenders Tre Allison and Dekalen Goodson hold Mississippi State offers right now.

Those guys will headline the team into District 11-6A against Lee, Longview, Mesquite, Mesquite Horn, North Mesquite, Rockwall and Rockwall-Heath. But only after good non-district games against Plano West, Ennis and New Orleans Warren Easton.

If there are any weak links around this Lions team, they will be exposed early and there will be time to try to figure out some better answers.

Rockwall appears John Tyler's biggest regular season threat. It returns 15 players from a team that reached the 6A Division II regional championship round.

None of the other teams are slouches.

It's going to take a lot to win a district championship, let alone reach the playoffs, but John Tyler's grit should come in handy.

Talent is always nice as well.

2016 John Tyler Lions Football Schedule

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ETSN.fm Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll