Will Tyler can fly on a football field. He may not be the biggest running back around, but no one can touch him when it comes to hitting the hole and finding the end zone. And no one can match his love of the game. When Will has a football in hand, he may as well be flying for real because life can’t touch him – his dad isn’t so defeated, his town isn’t so poor, and everyone has something to cheer for. All of which does him no good if the football season is canceled. With no funding for things like uniforms and a cared-for playing field, with seemingly every other family moving to find jobs, there simply isn’t enough money or players for a season. Unless one kid can rally an entire town and give everyone a reason to believe . . .
- Will’s dad tells him that it is not about getting knocked down; it’s how you get back up. What are some of the biggest knock-downs (obstacles) Will, Hannah, Mr. Tyler, Toby, and Mr. Keenan encounter and how does each of them overcome these stumbling blocks?
- Compare and contrast Mr. Tyler and Mr. Keenan.
- Do you think that Mr. Tyler should have the knee replacement surgery? Why?
- On page 167, Mr. Tyler says, “…because I didn’t see how we lost anything with Chris Aielo at QB.” However, Lupica writes, “It wasn’t true. Will knew it and his dad knew it, because they’d talked about it. But he was trying to pump up his quarterback…” and boost the team’s morale. Do you think that it is all right to tell “little white lies”? Discuss your reasons.
- Do you think Mr. Tyler is the right person to coach The Bulldogs? Find specific examples of his coaching style to support your opinion.
- To you, which is the most exciting game or moment in the story? Analyze this scene and discuss how the author manages to keep the readers engaged.
- On page 192, we learn that the “big players” (not just in size) are supposed to make everybody around them better. In what ways are Will, Hannah, and Mr. Tyler big players?
- There are quite a few conflicts in the story and several characters find creative ways to resolve them. Identify two such conflicts and discuss how they are resolved.
- Will never wants an unhappy ending in movies, or in his own life story. Do you feel the same way? First describe your reactions to the ending of The Underdogs. Then, based on what you’ve come to know about Will and Mr. Tyler, predict how they will act and feel if the outcome of the championship game is the opposite. Also imagine how you, as a reader, will feel if this happens.