Football is back. After a long summer, America’s most popular sport has returned. There are three parallel storylines with both the NFL and the local high school teams that I will be keeping a close eye on this season.

First off, returning quarterbacks. In the NFL, all-pro and potential future hall of famers Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck get back on the field. Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone last year in week six, leaving him out for the season. Luck missed the 2017 season after having shoulder surgery on his throwing arm. Can they get their teams back to playoff form?

For the Warriors and Steers, what QB will lead them to the state championships? Warriors coach Damien Ocampo plans to run a two quarterback system with returning players Payson Hicks and Clint Wellbourne. Both can play multiple positions, but who will be under center in the fourth quarter of a tight game?

Couch Rodney Leal and his staff at Magdalena have yet to decide on a starting quarterback. Will it be Jaxson Mirabal or Andrew Lewis? Can either of them lead the group deep into the state championships?

Second, rookie players. Several high profile guys were drafted. QB Baker Mayfield went number one in hopes of turning around the Cleveland Browns franchise after having only one win in two seasons. The New York Giants picked RB Saquon Barkley second.

They’re running attack has been abysmal for a decade, and believe that Barkley is the answer. The cross town rival New York Jets took USC QB Sam Darnold at three. Being without a franchise QB since Joe Namath in the 1960’s, can Darnold right the ship?

Ocampo has hesitant optimism for his new Warriors players. “We are a little thin with our younger group coming in. They’re all competitors and have great heart. I just hope they’re ready for the battle ahead.”

Leal is more concerned about the mental toughness in his new players. “The X’s and O’s is what they need to get. They’re great athletes, but they need to read between the lines in game better.”

Finally, there is the ongoing issue of anthem protests. The NFL has implemented a rule that players must stand during the anthem or stay in the locker room.

The problem is, if a player decides to stay in the locker room, the national media will know exactly who is doing that. So it’s basically kneeling. Colin Kaepernick is clearly gone from the NFL at this point.

His former teammate, fellow anthem kneeler, top ten in the league cornerback and current free agent Eric Reid has yet to be signed by a team. Is Reid being judged solely on his political beliefs instead of his performance on the field?

Ocampo and Leal believe you should stand for the anthem. Neither are sure how they would handle it if a player protested. Some assistant coaches on their staff have military backgrounds. Both would want any player to come and discuss it with them in the locker room.

Players I have spoken to at both schools are split on the issue. Some think that you should always respect the flag and stand. Others feel like they understand what Kaepernick started, and it is your right to kneel.

We’ll see how these three storylines play out. Now let’s get out there and play some football!