Arrow Nation: A history of Clinton High School football

Originally published August 2017

Last year’s state championship win marked the dawn of a new era for Clinton Arrow football, and, thanks to Arrow fan Delvan Irwin, there is now a book that celebrates the journey. From origin to championship, Arrow Nation: Clinton High School Football 1920 to 2016 is the ultimate history of Clinton football that showcases those that have helped build the Arrow legacy to what it is today.

Arrow Nation is a chronological history of Clinton football that covers a total of 933 games throughout the years, along with game scores, summaries, and even quotes from past players or coaches from as far back as the 1940s. The book includes an index that lists every known Clinton football player and the years they played, as well as homecoming queens and cheerleaders. “There are 2,600 people mentioned by name in the book,” Irwin says. “I really tried to make it something the community would enjoy.”

Irwin and his family have lived in Clinton since 2000. “My son played at Clinton, my daughter cheered there, and I was on the Board,” Irwin says. “My son’s last year was 2015, but since Clinton won the championship in 2016, it seemed like a good place to stop.”

It took Irwin a little over a year to put the book together, which required extensive research. Irwin spent hours sifting through newspaper microfilms at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for game records. He also used articles from The Clinton News, The Clinton Courier, and The Clarion Ledger, as well as yearbooks from Clinton High School and Quisenberry Library.

But the history wasn’t always straightforward. Irwin had to search through newspapers from the towns that Clinton had played over the years to help fill in the gaps. “Sometimes it took scouring the social section to find out that someone went to a Clinton game and that we won,” Irwin says. “It’s like a big puzzle.”

Irwin says the human interest part of the research was what he enjoyed the most—putting a story behind a name. “You read everything about a past team, so when you are done writing about a year, you feel like you know those players,” he says. “You feel like you’ve watched them play or that you’re a part of the team.”

Past Clinton football players helped provide game details Irwin would never have known about, and thanks to their information, he was able to include players of the week and end of the year awards. “This is a fraternity,” says Irwin. “I think the people who paved the way for what the program is today should have just as much recognition as the ones who held the trophy last year.”

Danny Davis, who wrote the forward for Arrow Nation, was also a vital source. Irwin says, “If it weren’t for Danny, we would not have the details that we do in the book.”

Davis moved to Clinton in 1976 and has been involved with Clinton football for over 40 years. From being the “voice” of the Clinton Arrow games to writing articles about the team for The Clinton Courier, Davis bleeds black and red. “I’ve only missed two home games since 1980,” Davis says. “And I’ve been to about 90 percent of the away games.” Davis provided Irwin with all the articles he’s written about the Arrows since 1976, as well as game programs and photos. Irwin says it would have taken much longer to complete the book without Davis’ help.

“I’m a history buff myself,” says Davis. When he wrote for The Clinton News, he would dig up old sports articles for “Arrow Flashbacks.” Davis says high school football is a “passion” for him, and he’s excited that there is now a book celebrating a team he’s proud to call his own. “I didn’t go to Clinton High School, but I really fell in love with the team,” he adds. “The program is at a high level now, and I expect them to be good for a long time.” He says people have asked about him writing an Arrow football book, but he’s glad Irwin was the one to head up the project: “He did hours and hours of research, and I’m amazed he was able to compile everything so soon. I’m proud that he did this, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Irwin says he learned a lot through his research, including the origin behind the names of certain buildings or sports awards. “I think it’s interesting that people don’t really know the history of the program,” says Irwin. He adds that he’s had people tell him they never knew their mothers were homecoming queens or that their neighbors were football team captains until they read his book.

“It’s a must read for anyone that’s played football for Clinton or been a fan,” says Davis. “I think people are going to be very happy with it.”

The first 100 copies of Arrow Nation have been printed and will be available this month for $25. Irwin says past Clinton football players donated money to help cover the cost of the initial printing and profits from the first batch will help fund more copies. “I chose to self-publish the book through Amazon because it gave me the freedom and creativity I wanted,” Irwin says.

Irwin used to write humor articles for The Clinton News and last year he put together a book about the first 75 years of his alma matter, Saint Aloysius. He plans to do a book signing during a Clinton football alum recognition night in the fall, where part of the proceeds would go to Big Red Arrow, which supports the Clinton football team.

Irwin, who was a Big Red Arrow coordinator from 2012-2015, says he wants the book to get people supporting the team as a city. “I hope it makes them put Clinton football on their Friday night must-do list,” he says.

-Abigail Walker

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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