By Eddie Griffin
Monday, February 08, 2010
When I read this morning’s Star-Telegram newspaper, there was much abuzz about the Super Bowl commercials. (See “Super Bowl prices are eye-popping, but the ads are just so-so”). But there was no mention of Fort Worth’s own Windell Middlebrooks, the folksy down home African-American country boy playing the Miller High Life delivery guy. In this commercial, he surveys the nation in search of the common man who deserves the high life… at a reasonable price.
The Fort Worth native is a very familiar face in the High Life commercials. In fact, this was his second Super Bowl feature. Some may also remember him as the Dr. Pepper football player. But it is the Miller commercial character for which he is most remembered. It is a signature role that has won him a television cult following as a hard working beer truck driver fighting for the common man against the excessive elitists.
“Eleven-fifty for a hamburger? Ya’ll must be crazy,” quipped some Milwaukee fans, mimicking Wendell’s most famous tagline. Obviously, Miller town never heard a genuine down home black Texas country boy.
Middlebrooks describes the likeness of his character to himself in a 2007 article:
"Although this is a certain persona of the working-class man, I don't feel like I'm putting on a persona. This is my uncles, my grandparents. This is my family, who are just simple people and down to earth folk.
“I come from the hard-working people; the common man. It's not about the material things. You can get a quality product not paying a high price. Somewhere, it got lost that in order to get goods, you have to pay a lot for them. I come from 'No, you don't. You deserve the quality product at a reasonable price.”
Who is Windell Middlebrooks and where does he come from?
Middlebrooks grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and for a husky junior high schooler, that meant one thing: football.
“I played sports when I was in middle school, but I knew that this is not the passion I have, “he said. “If you're going to give your best, you've got to love it. I went to a high school, Trimble Tech High School, that had majors. I started out as a business major and hated it. I was sitting in accounting and the teacher wanted me out of the class because I hated going.”
Then, the theater called. “I started working the spotlight. Next year, I auditioned for a show and that was it. I went home and told my parents,” Middlebrooks said. “They didn't tell me until years later they just said on the bed and said ‘Oh, my God. He wants to be an actor.’”
Eddie Griffin was PTA president at Trimble Tech High School during the time that Windell Middlebrooks became a star in his own right as a youth, not in football, and not in the arts, but as a leader among his peers. He led a mass student walk-out at Trimble Tech in protest of the school district’s plan to shut down their athletic program.
One day the whole student body walked out of class, down the street, and across the Mile-Long Bridge over the Trinity River, to the Farrington Field. Hundreds, if not a thousand or more, made the trek, with Middlebrooks in the lead.
It was this inspiration that lead me to run for the PTA presidency, and to try and save the kid’s athletic program. In the end, we saved the program, only to discover other neglects. Thus, we wrote the Trimble Tech High School Improvement Plan.
Windell’s father became PTA president after my tenure, to see the plan take effect, and is still active in the Fort Worth Independent School District’s Community Action Team (CAT).
If his family and community had such a lasting impact upon Windell, then surely he has had an equally as great an impact upon us in the Fort Worth community.
Yet, while the entertainment section of newspapers and commercial replay video of Super Bowl attention, one folksy burley African-American kid, speaking on behalf the common man who deserves the High Life at a “tasty price”, missed the cut in today’s local news. Even in the minute-by-minute recount, the 30-second shot was not included.