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'Friday Night Lights' book star grows up to be unlikely hometown arrest

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friday-night-lights_l1Brian Chavez, the genius/tight end of the Permian Panthers in the book Friday Night Lights, was the last person in the book you expected to make his adult life in Odessa, Texas, and then get arrested there. And yet, both have happened.

A few hours after Permian lost 26-7 to crosstown rival at Ratliff Stadium, the often sold-out 19,000-seat field featured in Friday Night Lights, Chavez (No. 85, front and center on the book cover) was among four people arrested on burglary charges in Odessa. According to local news reports, Chavez and several others broke into a home and attacked an unspecified number of men inside it, with one man saying he needed stitches after he was beaten with statuettes found inside the home. Chavez was arrested at 1 a.m. Sat., Oct. 3.

In the book and movie Friday Night Lights, Brian Chavez is portrayed as the genius jock, one of the few players who seemed to have academic and life ambitions beyond the rough oil town of Odessa, Texas, after his graduation from Permian High School. Funny thing is, Chavez, who left West Texas for Harvard University, is among the members of that 1988 Permian team, chronicled by H.G. “Buzz” Bissinger, to live in Odessa, where he practices criminal defense law.

Chavez told the Odessa American in August that after graduating from law school at Texas Tech, he wanted to come back to his hometown to work in his father and brother’s law firm to get a little bit of experience before moving on. However, he stuck around because the law practice became so successful, with four offices in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, and because he liked living close to his extended family.

It sounds plausible, although you don’t hear a lot of Harvard graduates who decide to go to law school at Texas Tech and then go home to their small town to represent drunk drivers and sex offenders. When ESPN came to Odessa for a 20-year reunion of the Friday Night Lights Permian team, Chavez talked again of liking being back in his hometown, and that “other than gaining some weight and losing a little hair, I’m probably the same person I was back then.”

So why was Chavez arrested for a violent burglary? Details are still very sketchy as to motive. But more than motive, why would someone who seemed to have a happy, successful life ever even conceive of participating in something like this? (Assuming of course that he did.) There is bound to be an interesting story behind this, one that may well shock those who thought they knew Brian Chavez (the possibly shocked would include Bissinger, who told ESPN last year he is still close to him.)

And what about those arrested with Chavez? One was his brother, Jake. He is a lawyer, too, though not the brother listed on the Web site of the Chavez Law Firm with Brian Chavez — that is Adrian. Another was Rosemary Soto of Odessa. A Rosemary Soto of Odessa was quoted in local media talking about her brother, Steven, in June being shot to death with another man in what authorities called a drug-related hit. It’s not clear whether the arrested person is the same Rosemary Soto.

Finally, another person arrested has connection to Friday Night Lights. Stanley Wilkins was a teammate of Chavez on that 1988 Permian team, although he was a minor character in the book. ESPN, in its 20-year reunion story, described Wilkins as missing “those Friday Night Lights more than anything in the world. He often attends Permian games with his former teammates Brian Chavez to relive past glories.” Wilkins also is a football coach and physical education teacher at Bowie Junior High School in Odessa. Word late Sunday night from Odessa police, as reported by KOSA-TV, is witnesses saying that 10 to 12 people showed up at the home that was the site of the alleged break-in, and that the fight inside followed “several hours of verbal harassment by the suspects outside their home.”

Chavez has not commented on the case. I have sent him an email to try to get in contact with him. I also have sent an email to Bissinger, just to see what his thought are because of his professed closeness with the Chavez family, and because Chavez was the one player who for years vouched for the book’s accuracy when the rest of Odessa was ready to tar and feather him.

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