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First responders joining The Eagle's annual Prognosticator Panel this season

First responders joining The Eagle's annual Prognosticator Panel this season

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Are you ready for some football?

I don’t know about you, but I swear I’ve heard Hank Williams Jr. bellowing that out over and over and my answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

There will be three high school games in town Friday night and the Aggies kick off the season Saturday at Kyle Field. And there will be fans at all those games.

Many of us had doubts if this weekend would happen, but we’ve been winning the battle against COVID-19 and big kudos to first responders. With that in mind, we’ve decided they should be this year’s guest pickers on The Eagle’s 24-mammal Prognosticator Panel.

So without further ado, here are local heroes:

Eric Buske, Bryan police chief — Buske has been chief 11 years after spending 25 years with the Omaha Police Department, holding every rank in that department and retiring as chief.

Patrick Corley, Brazos County 9-1-1 district executive director — Corley has worked in emergency communications at Brazos County 9-1-1 for 22 years in a variety of roles, the last eight as executive director.

Billy Couch, College Station police chief — Couch was recently promoted to chief after being assistant chief since 2013. He started his career in 1997 and has served as a drug investigator, a SWAT member, a traffic sergeant and a patrol lieutenant.

Tom Hardey, TEEX fire school instructor — Hardey trains fire fighters in a 12-week program that includes hands-on training at Brayton Fire Training Field.

Rick Hill, Brazos County Justice of the Peace Precinct 3 — Hill is in his second term as JP. He worked 22 years for College Station ISD, the last nine as Cypress Grove Intermediate principal. He’s probably more known for being the voice of Olsen Field for 28 years.

Mike Johnson, Texas A&M police chief — Johnson, an Aggie graduate, started in law enforcement in 1993. He’s also a deacon at New Bethlehem Baptist.

Melissa Kendrick, St. Joseph Air Med 12 — Kendrick is a flight nurse with more than 20 years service, the first at CHI St. Joseph Health to hit 20 years.

Chris Kirk, Brazos County sheriff — Now in his sixth four-year term, Kirk started at the Brazos County sheriff’s office as a jail officer in 1980 while going to school. He’s a past president of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas and past president of the Western Sheriffs’ Association.

Richard Mann, College Station fire chief — Mann had 31 years of service as assistant fire chief in Houston before coming to Aggieland. He helped handle emergency operations for events ranging from Hurricanes Ike and Harvey to Super Bowl LI.

Jeff Saunders, Texas A&M Task Force 1 — The 35-year veteran of emergency services coordinates the readiness and response of Texas A&M Task Force 1’s Urban Search and Rescue Team.

Clarence Sefcik, Caldwell volunteer firefighter, training coordinator — Sefcik and chief David Pevehouse are two of the town’s more recognizable citizens for their decades of service.

Don Sowell, Grimes County sheriff — The former Navasota athlete who is in his sixth term has been a peace officer for five decades. He’s a past president of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas and was Crimestoppers’ officer of the year in 1999.

David Thorne, Brazos County game warden — Thorne has been at the forefront of the state’s highly successful K-9 program. Gus, his partner who retired last year, was among 10 dogs who became official state K-9s and commissioned as Texas game wardens in 2015.

We’ll give them kudos and salutes this week, then we’ll start ripping them next week if they struggle to pick winners. If they have any problems, they can all 9-1-1, but only if it’s an emergency.

They’ll be out to beat the infamous Mr. Tuggles, our football dog, who returns along with Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle, Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com and SportsTalk’s Chip Howard, an eight-time Prog Panel champion. Back for a second year is Zach Hester, Caldwell Country Chevrolet general manager. Brice Jones is a newcomer and picking for his father, insurance agent Brac Jones, who was the highest bidder for an auction item to benefit Voices for Children.

The Eagle pickers are topped by publisher Crystal Dupre, who was last year’s winner. Editor Darren Benson, managing editor Rob Clark — who came up with idea of honoring first responders — sports editor Robert Premeaux Jr. and yours truly round out this season’s panel.

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