STOCKTON - From his decades of high school football coverage, Mark Tennis has many stories to tell.
Last month, a collection of some of the best hit bookshelves across the country.
Tennis, the editor and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports, was the featured guest on Episode 7 of the Best of Preps podcast.
Tucked under the longtime Stockton resident’s arm was “High School Football in California”, his recently published book detailing the sport’s history in the state, as well as some of the greatest players, coaches and teams to play under the lights on Friday nights.
The book has been No. 1 in the world on Amazon’s list of top sellers in the teen and young adult football category. Tennis will be doing an author’s appearance at the Stockton Barnes & Noble store Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m., where he’ll be signing books and leading an informal discussion about California and local high school football.
Tennis was approached by Skyhorse Publishing of New York about writing the book, something Tennis said the likes of which haven’t been written before in California. He was given some guidelines, but largely had his choice of direction.
Tennis said he didn’t want it to be a record book, and he didn’t want to follow a dry, decade-by-decade retelling of history. He wanted to find some of the most interesting aspects of football history in the state.
“I wanted to jump around, topic-to-topic,” Tennis said. “I wanted to have interesting topics that maybe the general public might find interesting.”
In various chapters, Tennis includes former Pacific quarterback Tom Flores as a Super Bowl-winning coach from California, as well as a passage featuring Pete Morelli about a referee making the move from high school to college to the professional level.
One of his favorite chapters, Tennis said, was titled “Salute to Service” a part of the book dedicated to high school football greats that later went on to serve in the military. He found one of the subjects of the chapter by chance, meeting WWII veteran Jack Ferrill at the Lions All-Star football game in 2016.
Ferrill, who was 91 at the time Tennis interviewed him, played at Stockton High in 1943 and went on to coach in the Brentwood area for a number of years. Tennis was able to tie Ferrill’s story in with the late Pat Tillman, who starred at Leland High in San Jose and went on to play with the Arizona Cardinals before he was killed in action after enlisting in the U.S. Army.
“That whole chapter turned out pretty well, with how it began and ended,” Tennis said. “That was a really cool story within the story.”
Tennis said the most rewarding part of the project was seeing the finished product in his hands for the first time, noting the cover looked just like he imagined. As for prospective readers, Tennis said he hopes the book puts a spotlight on some of the greatest individuals to play the sport in the state of California.
“To tie it all together in one place,” Tennis said, “you want people to go ‘gosh, I did not think our state was that great.’ And it really is.
“I wanted people to be inspired when they were finished.”
The next episode of the Best of Preps podcast welcomes Cat Ebojo-Vaughns, the first-year head coach of the Tracy High volleyball team.