Valdosta Daily Times

June 13, 2013

“Must Win” continues to captivate readers

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Drew Jubera has been pleased with the reaction to his book “Must Win.”

“Must Win,” which chronicles the 2010 Valdosta High football season — the first year under current head coach Rance Gillespie — describing the Wildcats’ run to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals, hit stores last September and has been well received throughout the state.

“It has been humbling, both in Valdosta and far outside of Valdosta,” said Jubera, when reached by telephone. “The reviews have been great. The reaction I get from people, the kind of folks that read it are the kind of folks that have never really heard of Valdosta before and are just intrigued in the place.”

“I spoke to an all women’s book club that read the book, and when I walked in the first thing I bet half the women said to me was, ‘I really hate football, but I love your book.’ To me, that was the highest compliment.”

While the book chronicles the Wildcats season, it focuses on Gillespie’s inner determination to turn around America’s all-time winningest football program, which had been in a decline for years.

Through his book, Jubera shows the adversity that Gillespie faced on the field, but also off the field, like having to move a player out of an abusive household the night before the Wildcats’ clash with crosstown rival Lowndes.

Within the first page of reading, it is clear that the book is much more about life and “A Season of Survival for a town and its team,” just like the book’s cover reads.

That story that Jubera was able to share through his 300-plus page book has captivated readers.

“I’ve had my editor at the publishing house from New York, and a friend in Los Angeles, and some other people, they have all e-mailed me about making a road trip to Valdosta,” Jubera said. “People are interested in the town and the football team.”

When asked how many books have been sold, Jubera didn’t have a hard number, but did say he has made back his advance that he received from the publisher.

“The feeling is, it did well,” Jubera added. “Where it sold the most was, obviously, in Georgia and the south. Georgia has really been, Georgia in general, not just Valdosta, has been good for it.”

Valdosta’s story isn’t just being read by adults and book clubs., though. Jubera said the book is also being read and talked about throughout other high school football locker rooms.

“I was invited to speak at the Atlanta Athletic Club and they bought 60 books to hand out to their members,” Jubera said. “I spoke there, and everyone was really wrapped to listen about it. While I was there, there was a coach, I think his name was Terry Chowder, he had given all his seniors this past year a copy of “Must Win.” And they taught it; they had some leadership class, and they had taught it in that class.”

Now, as Jubera and the publisher prepare to release the book in paperback edition this September — nearly an exact year after the book’s hardback release —  a movie based off the book could be in the works, but nothing is guaranteed.

“There is a chance,” Jubera said. “What is happening is there is a business man up (in Atlanta) negotiating for the book rights. There is a man negotiating for the book rights to sell those rights to a movie. As to what happens, what the future is, it is in the pipeline.

“The movie thing is in development, but there are like 8 million things in development.”

As for who Jubera would like to see betray Gillespie in a major motion picture?

“Have you ever seen the show ‘Justified’?” Jubera asked. “The lead character (Timothy Olyphant).

There is something about him. He is capable of giving that stare that Gillespie has. He is capable of shooting arrows out of his eyebrow.

Until a movie is negotiated, which may never come or could come sooner than later, Jubera said he is focused on selling more copies of his book and sharing Valdosta’s story with the nation.

“This book, if you’re a football fan in South Georgia, or know someone that is, this is it,” Jubera said. “There are real stories in there, of fathers and son. Stan and Jay Rome are featured in the book. And then there are kids featured in there that don’t have fathers and then there was Gillespie, who become this father figure for all these kids.”

“The players would tell me that he worked them harder than any coach they had, but they respected him for it. That he had become this father figure for them. That says something about him.”

Currently, “Must Win” is available in countless book stores throughout the south. It is also available online at The hardback edition is listed for $18.21.