HENRYETTA, Okla. — Troy Aikman's inaugural "Highway to Henryetta" music festival is scheduled for Saturday to serve as a benefit for the Pro Football Hall of Famer's high school hometown of Henryetta.
"The years I spent in Henryetta had a real impact on me. I feel like a lot of what I am and who I am today is from those years," Aikman says.
Aikman was 12 years old when his family moved to Henryetta from California.
"We moved 7 miles outside of town on a dirt road. We had a working farm. I hauled hay. I did the chores in the summer; I fed the pigs, the goats, horses and cows, and everything before school. I think a lot of those things really gave me my work ethic and carried me through once I got out of Henryetta, and into college, and of course on to the Dallas Cowboys," says Aikman.
In fact, Aikman tells 2 News Oklahoma's Julie Chin that moving to Henryetta was a gamechanger, especially when it came to football.
"I thought baseball was going to be my sport when I was younger, that I would play baseball in college, hopefully then onto the Major Leagues. But once moving to Oklahoma, there's obviously a lot more emphasis on football in this part of the country, so that's the route I ended up going."
In 1980, No. 10 joined the then-Henryetta Hens as quarterback.
"He started as a freshman, and the rest was history," says Rick Enis, one of his coaches.
Dutch VanDenBorn was also on staff during that time.
"We could tell he was going to be something special; obviously, we didn't know how far he would go," says VanDenBorn.
Aikman invited both coaches to join him when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006 in Canton, Ohio. "That's something neither of us will forget. Not everyone gets to do that," said Enis.
"What you see is what you get with Troy. I'm involved in a scholarship program that Troy puts out every year. It's a $10,000 scholarship for one of our students through a selection process. We've been doing it 15-20 years, and it's made a difference for kids in Henryetta," says VanDerBorn.
Both men added that when Aikman was in school in Henryetta, he was an outstanding student. He was valedictorian of his class and even the county typing champion. Coach Enis was there that day. "They named the third place, second place winner, and then the first place.. and it was no more than Troy Aikman," says Enis. Aikman laughs, "One of the best things I did when I was in high school was take typing because it's now computers and keyboards and everything else. It served me well."
That's why academics and athletics will benefit from Aikman's Highway to Henryetta music festival presented by AT&T. Aikman hopes the whole town will also see a boost.
"It would have been really easy to just write a check, but I thought there was a better way of going about doing it. So we've been able to really rally around the community and in addition to that with the economic impact that it will have on a lot of businesses in town," says Aikman.
Aikman told 2 News Oklahoma he needed a big headliner to make the festival a big success. So he reached out to another one of Oklahoma's favorite sons, Country Superstar Blake Shelton.
"He said yes within a matter of minutes. I don't know that this would've happened if it hadn't been for Blake and his willingness to get involved.
he is certainly proud to be from Oklahoma, as I am, and wanted to do anything he could to help me and Henryetta and all the people of Oklahoma."
The daylong music festival has an extensive lineup of country performers, from Pat Green to the Josh Abbott Band to Tulsa's own Mikayla Lane. Aikman will be on stage too. "You'll see me on stage. I just don't know about singing," he says.
You'll find the "Highway to Henryetta" along a two-lane road in Nichols Park. It's a field of dreams where a small-town kid named Troy once played and now returns to inspire the next generation.
"I think the message is that through hard work and perseverance and determination that all things are possible. I hope for those that are not only in Henryetta but other small towns, and sometimes they feel like their dreams are too big for where they're located, but that's not necessarily the case, and I'm proof of that, and so are other people," says Aikman.
Tickets are still available for Highway To Henryetta. You'll find more information here.
You can also hear Aikman's full interview with Julie Chin, where he shares more memories of his hometown, reveals more festival details, and talks about his new beer here: