Although he did not attend high school there, Rusty Dunn was born in Odessa, Texas, and decided to return to his hometown when he became a Chick-fil-A Operator in 1999.
Odessa, Texas, may ring a bell. That’s because the town’s devotion to high school football was featured in the book “Friday Night Lights” nearly 25 years ago. A movie and a television show by the same name followed in 2004.
Because of Rusty, the Chick-fil-A Cows are enjoying the “Friday Night Lights,” too. Seven years ago, the Cows starting appearing on the sidelines with the cheerleaders or in front of the entrance to the field where fans line up to buy tickets.
“Every time the Cows come out, they are basically rock stars,” says Rusty.
Odessa’s school colors are black and white, so Rusty had black and white miniature footballs made for cheerleaders to throw to the fans at halftime. Rusty notes that it isn’t unusual for people to risk breaking an arm or leg to get one of these prized team souvenirs.
“It’s about more than football and fanfare for me – it’s about making Odessa a great place to live.”
According to Rusty, when football was at its height of popularity in Odessa, about the time the book published in 1990, it was rumored that some of the biggest fights among divorcing couples were about who would get the season football tickets.
That’s some serious football. For Rusty, however, the best part of operating a Chick-fil-A in Odessa is the opportunity to be involved in the community.
One year, the restaurant sponsored a contest between the two high schools’ bands to see who could raise the most money for a local charity. Rusty decided to match the amount raised and gave it back to the schools.
“It’s about more than football and fanfare for me – it’s about making Odessa a great place to live,” he says. “That just makes me feel awesome.”