In Texas, football is king, and Houston’s North Shore High School Mustangs wear the crown.
As reigning state champions, the Mustangs have a lot to show and prove—from their performance on the field to the way they look walking down the tunnel. Under the tutelage of head coach Jon Kay and his staff, North Shore’s varsity players are more than just teammates, they are brothers. The Mustangs’ success both on and off the field hasn’t just earned them nationwide recognition, it led to a relationship with long-time sponsor Adidas, who’s provided the team with grassroots support through its Friday Night Stripes [FNS] program. FNS is Adidas’ innovative and inspirational way of championing high school sports by highlighting and livestreaming games from six of the best football teams in the country, and Coach Kay is proud to know his squad is included.
“I think they take a great deal of pride in not only winning and being competitive, but also doing it the right way and making sure that it's a great representation of this community,” says Coach Kay.
Forty-eight hours before one of the biggest games of the season—a matchup against Beaumont’s Westbrook Bruins, a top 20 state team—the Mustangs walked into the locker room expecting another grueling workout. Before beginning the excruciating six-hour day, Coach Kay authoritatively blew his whistle and told the team to listen up because practice was going to be a little different today. Recognizing the team’s hard work and dedication, Adidas flew in celebrity sneaker and cleat designer Troy “Kickasso” Cole to meet the players.
Kickasso doesn’t just personalize footwear for some of the biggest athletes in the world, he makes sure to stay involved in the community and loves giving back whenever he can. When Adidas tapped the Kickasso Kustoms CEO to help surprise the nationally-ranked football team with tailor-made cleats, he jumped at the opportunity.
“My motto is look, good, play good. Adidas is definitely the creators brand. They really allow creators like myself to use their skills and accentuate their products,” says Kickasso. “Adidas coming to me for this project means a lot because I really like helping kids. To have a big brand see that and be aware of it, and then ask me to help with the [Mustangs]...it means a lot.”
Using the Adizero—the lightest cleat in football—as his canvas, Kickasso spent the next several weeks hand-painting 76 pairs for the Mustangs’ big game. Speaking to the team’s mascot, and red, black, and white colorway, Kickasso channeled his gritty, graffiti-style vibe to create a one-of-a-kind Mustang surrounded by red and black paint splatter, a black upper lining, and red paint to accentuate the brand with the three stripes.
When Kickasso and Adidas arrived at North Shore’s fieldhouse, players didn’t know what to think. Senior linebacker Corey Flagg said the team was expecting new jerseys, but opening a box of custom cleats changed the game. After watching a room full of high school players erupt with joy, senior running back Zach Evans said the Mustangs’ tailor-made Adizeros will make everyone stop and look, especially their opponents.
“Most teams come out there with their Jersey numbers and stuff…[now they’ll be] trying to look at us instead of worrying about they self,” Evans confidenty says.
As their high school’s trendsetters, players say it won’t take long before the rest of North Shore High School is trying to stunt a fresh pair of custom-made shoes, too. “Everything we wear, everybody wears,” Flagg jokingly says. “Everybody gonna see the mustang and try to put their logo on [shoes].”
When it comes to the performance and durability, senior cornerback Upton Stout says, “They’re comfortable cleats. They allow me to cut up, break, and do everything I need.” Flagg agrees, and added, “They're great cleats. They don’t take too long to break in; they protect my ankles; and I like ’em real light.”
While the team’s appearance and conduct on the field are key in reaching their goal, which includes taking home every indubitable win possible, Stout says how he feels stepping onto the field is just as important in reaching success. For him, Adidas’ Adizeros makes him feel invincible.
“When I put on my Adidas cleats, I feel fast,” says Stout with a smile on his face. “I feel like every time I lace them up can’t nobody stop me—like I’m unstoppable.”
After watching his team test out their new cleats, Coach Kay reminded the Mustangs’ is was time to handle business on the field, and finish preparing for another big season game. North Shore’s A squad hit the field, then the weightroom, then the field again. But the team doesn’t mind, because at the end of the day, they know they’re working for something not everyone can have.
“We sacrifice a lot to be a part of this Mustangs program,” says senior cornerback Marcus Cockrell. “It's not for everybody.”
Stout adds, “It's an awesome privilege to be a member [of the Mustangs]...knowing you're doing something everybody can’t do.”
For Coach Kay, it all comes down to one motto: relax, focus, and ball.
“I want them to, to relax. I want them to focus on and then trust their training and then just go play,” he says. “When we've prepared and we've had a great week of practice...I believe that they're gonna relax and they're gonna focus on their assignment and they're just going to go out and do what they do.”
After another week of hard work in the books, the Mustangs’ traveled 90 minutes east to face off against the “well-prepared” Bruins. With the FNS lights beaming across the stadium and hundreds of people watching in the stands, Adidas livestreamed the three-hour-plus matchup to millions as the Mustangs were determined to show the country why they’re the No. 1 in Texas. By the end of the night, North Shore held their state title, adding another win to their record with a final score of 54-25.
Until the next game, it’s like Coach Kay says, relax, focus, and get ready to play some football.