Friday Night Lights


Buzz Bissinger

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Friday Night Lights Characters

Buzz Bissinger

The author of Friday Night Lights, Bissinger is present in the text as he interviews players, coaches, and fans, and describes what life is like in Odessa, Texas. Bissinger maintains an objective stance throughout… read analysis of Buzz Bissinger

Gary Gaines

Coach of the Permian Panthers, Gary Gaines is tagged by some in the community as “too soft” to lead his team to the ultimate goal—a state championship. Although Permian loses to Carter in the state… read analysis of Gary Gaines

Boobie Miles

A talented African American running back on the Permian squad with dreams of playing Division I college football, Boobie injures his knee in a preseason scrimmage and must sit out much of the season. When… read analysis of Boobie Miles

Mike Winchell

Permian’s quarterback, Mike Winchell is a talented passer with a love for the game. But Winchell, whose father died when he was a young boy, is often beset by worry when he is on the… read analysis of Mike Winchell

Jerrod McDougal

A utility defender for the Panthers, McDougal’s family has lost a great deal of money in the oil bust of the late 1980s, and McDougal is frustrated by what he considers the two major emphases… read analysis of Jerrod McDougal
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Ivory Christian

A gifted middle linebacker, Ivory Christian is “ambivalent,” as Bissinger describes it, about football, and wants, after high school, to become a Christian preacher at a local church in the African American Southside of Odessa… read analysis of Ivory Christian

Brian Chavez

The valedictorian of his class, Brian Chavez is also a strong and methodical defensive end for Permian. Chavez, unlike many of the other players, has clear plans after high school: he wants to go to… read analysis of Brian Chavez

Don Billingsley

A running back for Permian, and a “rabble-rouser” who drinks and fights on the weekends, Don Billingsley is known as one of the most attractive boys at Permian High, and his attentions are sought after… read analysis of Don Billingsley

Charlie Billingsley

Don Billingsley’s father, Charlie, too, was a running back for Permian, arguably more talented than Don—but Charlie shares Don’s propensity for drinking, womanizing, and fighting. By the end of the football season, Charlie has… read analysis of Charlie Billingsley


Boobie Miles’ uncle, LV, dreamed of being a football player as a young man, but could not because his segregated high school did not have a team. LV, by his own admission, invests a… read analysis of LV

Laurence Hurd

A prominent black preacher in Odessa, who spoke out in the 1980s against segregation in Ector County schools, Laurence Hurd is convicted of burglary and sentenced to prison, tarnishing his reputation (and similarly to that… read analysis of Laurence Hurd

Aaron Giebel

A businessman interviewed by Buzz Bissinger about his role in the boom and bust of the 1980s, Aaron Giebel talks about the enormous wealth he accumulated during the oil boom, in oil prospecting. Giebel ended… read analysis of Aaron Giebel

Gary Edwards

A high school football player at Carter, and very gifted both on offense and defense, Gary Edwards became famous in the state for his Algebra II grade, which was determined, eventually, by a state supreme… read analysis of Gary Edwards

Will Bates

Gary Edwards’ algebra teacher, Bates initially awards Edwards a failing grade, which causes the chain of court rulings resulting in that grade being lifted to above a 70. Bates, for his part, is “moved” to… read analysis of Will Bates
Minor Characters
Chris Comer
A junior running back, Chris Comer has a breakout season after Boobie Miles’ injury, taking the starting job from him and from Don Billingsley, another senior.
Nate Hearne
An African American assistant coach at Permian—one of the very few—Hearne convinces Boobie to stay on the team early in the season, after Comer has taken Boobie’s job in the starting lineup.
The Panthers’ athletic trainer, Trapper believes that Boobie puts himself before the team, and that, after his injury, Boobie refuses to play through the pain of his knee injury.
Coach Belew
An assistant coach for the Panthers, Belew accompanies Coach Gaines on their trip to the coin flip against the two Midland High Schools.
Shawn Crow
A former Permian star during the 1987 season That year, Shawn Crow leads Permian to the state semis, playing through pain. After that season he was hobbled by a herniated disc, which causes him to miss the first season of his college career.
Billy Winchell
Mike Winchell’s father, who dies of injuries sustained during a work accident when Mike is a boy. Billy Winchell encourages his son to play football, and to do in dedicated fashion, without complaint.
Lanita Atkins
A secretary at a local oil company, Lanita Atkins is a prominent liberal spokesperson on white-black issues, and activist in Odessa, a town not known for its liberal political views. Bissinger interviews Lanita to hear her views regarding football in West Texas, and its impact on local communities.
Willie Hammond, Jr.
The first black city council member in Odessa, Willie Hammond, Jr., is later convicted of arson for a complicated plot to burn down a building in town, one he and others wished to redevelop.
Pastor Hanson
A pastor at Ivory Christian’s church in Odessa, Pastor Hanson encourages Ivory to preach while playing football, but cautions him against giving up the game entirely, since Christian is so talented.
Odell Beckham
An extremely talented running back for the Marshall High football team, Odell Beckham is one of the primary reasons Marshall defeats Permian early in the season, prompting some in Odessa to call for Coach Gaines’ firing.
Sharon Gaines
The wife of coach Gary Gaines, Sharon Gaines is often sick with worry during the football season, since she knows that one or two losses could doom her husband’s career, and spark the outrage of community members throughout Odessa.
Hugh Hayes
The superintendent of Ector County, in which Odessa is located, Hugh Hayes worries that football, though important, has been given too much attention in the local schools, to the detriment of their educational performance.
LaRue Moore
An English teacher at Permian High, LaRue Moore, like Hugh Hayes, worries that perhaps football has warped the school’s academic mission, tilting everything toward performance on the field, rather than in the classroom.
Tony Chavez
The father of Brian Chavez, Tony Chavez worked his way through university and law school to become a prominent Latino lawyer in the east side of Odessa, Permian’s home base and a community dominated by white middle-class families.
John Wilkins
The former coach of Permian, winner of a state championship in 1980, John Wilkins is the Ector County athletic director, and is known as “Darth Vader” for the grimness of his demeanor during athletic contests.
Derric Evans
Another star player for Carter, Derric Evans dominates Permian on offense and defense. Evans and Edwards, who both receive D-1 football scholarships, are arrested and sentenced to significant jail time for their role in armed robberies in the spring of 1989, destroying their college careers before they begin.
Jerry Hix, Joe Bob Bizzell, and Daniel Justis
Three former Permian players, whom Bissinger interviews during the state semis. Jerry Hix, Joe Bob Bizzell, and Daniel Justis talk longingly about their time on the field for the Panthers, even as they admit that football has ravaged their bodies, and left them with life-long injuries.
Nicole Gaines
The daughter of Gary Gaines and Sharon Gaines.