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The Taylors

    Coach Eric Taylor
Played by: Kyle Chandler

The head coach of the Dillon Panthers in seasons 1-3, and the East Dillon Lions in 4-5. Happily Married to Tami Taylor, and father to Julie and Gracie Belle.

  • Beware the Nice Ones: Coach—along with his wife Tami—is probably the nicest person on the show and serves as the town's moral touchstone on many occasions. That being said, if you EVER hurt his wife, his daughters OR his players, Coach will make you sincerely sorry (often without actually speaking), and even the toughest man will find himself apologizing profusely by the time he's done talking to him. The best part? When he's angry, he manages to be terrifyingly intimidating without crossing any moral lines. (Again, he is the show's moral center.)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Usually when responding to the antics in his family, but also occasionally as a coach.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Occasionally veers into a very downplayed version of this trope when he's frustrated with his players. But ultimately he's about positive reinforcement and the value of teamwork.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": More often than not, he will be referred to as Coach and not Eric.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Despite winning the state championship 1-2 years before (depending on if Season 2 is canon), he gets fired for losing by a field goal in Season 3.
  • Innocently Insensitive: While he and Tami are one of the most iconic Happily Married TV couples, they do have their tiffs, often as a result of Eric neglecting to tell her something that may disrupt her day in a big way.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: His motivational speech to Luke about figuring out a way to balance his responsibilities on the farm with school and football results in Luke running himself ragged, getting severely injured, abusing pain meds, missing half the season, and consequentially missing out on college recruitment opportunities.
  • Nice Guy: There's a reason everyone in town wants him to be their confidant.
  • Papa Wolf: To his daughters and his team. Even more terrifying, when Julie comes home from college and confesses to having an affair with her married TA, and said TA shows up at the Taylors' house, Coach silently strides out and physically chases him back into his car and actually smashes the taillight as the car pulls away. Doubles as a HUGE instance of Beware the Nice Ones.
  • Parental Substitute: Most notably to Matt. He has shades of this with Vince and Smash as well.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He's often put in a position where he has to enforce school policies, but behind the scenes he gives candid advice to members of the team and attempts to support them both on and off the field.
  • Rousing Speech: Gives one before and/or during almost every game.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: With the booster club, and pretty much anyone who interferes with his ability to coach his team his way.
  • Tranquil Fury: While he's not above shouting on the field or in the locker room, someone is really in trouble when he lowers his voice and tells them exactly what they're going to do to make things right.
  • Verbal Tic: Calls his players "son" very often, showing that he thinks of them as family.


    Tami Taylor
Played by: Connie Britton

The coach's wife who is not content to be just the coach's wife in a town crazy about football. The guidance counselor and then principal at West Dillon High, and mother of Julie and Gracie Belle. Eminently quotable.

  • Honor Before Reason: She'll tiptoe around school policies to help students, which results in her career taking some hits.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Learns of her pregnancy with Gracie just when Coach is debating taking a job at TMU.
  • Mama Bear: To Julie and to some of the other girls at the school, especially Lyla, Tyra, Becky and Epyck.
  • Parental Substitute: Acts as this to Tyra; whose mother neglects her.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When the school's budget can't cover necessary academic expenses, she allocates the jumbotron funds towards programs and teacher salaries. She prioritizes the needs of the teachers and students over a frivolous purchase for the football field. However, given that football is Serious Business in Dillon she faces repercussions for this.
  • Silent Snarker: In the pilot episode, the scene where the gossipy wives invite Tami to join them for a book club meeting and act in a way that can only be described as transparently "fake nice," Tami's facial expression says it all, before she replies "Uh-huh, yeah! Sure."

    Julie Taylor
Played by: Aimee Teegarden

The teenage daughter of the Taylors. Starts out as a freshman in high school; is through her freshman year of college when the series ends.

  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: She suddenly becomes this at the beginning of Season 2, though later episodes mitigate this. Otherwise she is often mature, level-headed and kind.
  • Genius Book Club: She excels in English class, and speaks to her love of reading and stories in her college interview. She also aces a literary question in an academic quiz bowl competition; while Trying Not to Cry after Matt leaves.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Julie's upbringing was a lot more stable and loving than many of her peers. She sometimes doesn't understand their perspectives or inadvertently insults or undermines them due to her naiveté.
  • Odd Friendship: With Tyra at first.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: She originally had no interest in Matt because he's a football player. Once she gets to know him better and realizes he isn't a typical Jerk Jock, she falls for him and dates him.
  • Snark Knight: She has a sarcastic comeback for any situation she finds unreasonable.

Dillon High School / The Dillon Panthers

    Jason Street
Played by: Scott Porter

The former star quarterback of the Dillon Panthers. Suffers a severe spinal injury in the pilot episode that leaves him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

  • The Ace: Introduced as this in the pilot episode; he's the star QB, handsome, well-liked, in a loving relationship, and a School Idol. Much of his Character Development relates to regaining his sense of self and purpose after his accident.
  • Back for the Finale: Scott Porter came back to film an alternate scene for the ending montage. It wasn't used in the show nor is it on the DVDs, but a screenshot of it can be found on the Season 5 set.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The first episode builds him up as the most prominent of the football players in the main cast, then his injury happens, leading to Matt taking his place. He does remain a major character, however.
  • The Determinator: Particularly when he has a son, and will do anything to provide for his family.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: At the beginning of the series, he's dating (and planning on marrying) Lyla, and Tim is his best friend. The two of them begin an affair while Jason is recovering from a devastating accident and lost his ability to walk.
  • Nice Guy: He consistently shows benevolence and kindness in his actions. Notably, there's not a shred of bitterness when he learns Matt has assumed his role on the team, and he compliments him to Coach Taylor. Jason also forgives Lyla and Tim for their affair.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: After his accident, although difficult to blame him, especially in light of Tim and Lyla's betrayal (though they eventually resume their friendships).
  • Joisey: Moves there when he becomes a sports agent (his job is in the Big Applesauce though).
  • Out of Focus: He was initially a main character but left towards the end of season three to work in New York.
  • Papa Wolf: There really isn't anything he won't do for his son.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: He can a real jerk to Tim (Not without cause) but They do really care about each other.

    Lyla Garrity
Played by: Minka Kelly

Cheerleader and girlfriend of Jason Street when the series starts. Comes from a McMansion family barely holding together at the seams.

  • Academic Athlete: Cheerleading captain and straight-A student.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Her adulterous father who seems to care more about football than his own kids definitely qualifies.
  • Birds of a Feather: With Jason; two wholesome, popular, football-loving teenagers.
  • Brainy Brunette: She's smart enough to get into Vanderbilt; however, she first says she's going to follow Jason to Notre Dame in Season 1 and then, after Jason follow Tim to San Antonio State at the end of 3. She doesn't do either.
  • Career Versus Man: She generally prioritizes proximity to her boyfriend over her own goals and interests. After some Character Development, she chooses a college that is right for her, rather than following Tim.
  • Church Lady: For a brief period following her affair with Tim, proselytizing at every opportunity and cohosting a Christian radio call-in show for teens.
  • Foil: To Tyra. Both are involved with Tim; but have had vastly different upbringings and outlooks on life.
  • Girl Posse: Zig-zagged; when she's on the squad she has cheerleader friends, but she doesn't seem to have many female companions after leaving.
  • The Idealist: Lyla is an optimist, a Go-Getter Girl, and it takes her a long time to accept that Jason's paralysis is permanent.
  • Slut-Shaming: Becomes the victim of in-person and online bullying after her affair with Tim becomes public knowledge.
  • Stepford Smiler: After Jason's accident. She tries to convince everyone, including herself, that he'll walk again and they'll be able to follow through on all their plans. He won't, and they don't.
  • Turn to Religion: Becomes a born-again Christian in season 2.
  • Uptown Girl: To Tim Riggins.

    Tim Riggins
Played by: Taylor Kitsch

  • The Alcoholic: You could probably take a shot every time Tim isn't in the middle of drinking a beer and finish the series without even feeling tipsy.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: He is rarely ever short lady attention regardless of their age.
  • Birds of a Feather: With Tyra; both are from the Wrong Side of the Tracks, drink and party, deal with Parental Abandonment, and insecurity in their own abilities. Ultimately, They Do.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: He's an excellent player and a pretty good student but has very little ability to apply himself to anything. He ends up quitting college after getting halfway through the first period of his first class
  • The Casanova: Tim can have his pick of the ladies.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Probably the most sarcastic character in the series.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: It's safe to say that none of his love interest's fathers are huge fans of him.
  • Disappeared Dad: Tim's brother Billy provides for him, as his dad is a neglectful and self-centered jerk who walked out on them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Went to jail to protect his brother who had just become a father.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Jason. Even after their huge rift, they reconcile and continue to support one another.
  • High-School Hustler: Generally when someone is looking to break the rules, Tim is who they go to for help. A notable example of this is him setting up Luke with painkillers.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He can be be a real jerk at times but has a very sweet and warm heart underneath. Most notably when he starts acting as a mentor to younger players like J.D. or consoles his friends like Matt or Becky.
  • Troubled, but Cute: He is a brooding loner with a ton of issues and has a drinking problem but has a good heart and still handsome.
  • Urban Legend Love Life: Tim has a reputation as a notorious and prolific womanizer. Even the adults seem aware, with parents cringing at the thought of Riggins taking an interest in their daughters. In contrast to his reputation, throughout the series, we see him engaged in long-term, albeit extremely tumultuous, relationships with just three women (Lyla, Tyra, and Jackie) and he is genuinely distraught when each woman breaks up with him. While we see him flirt with rally girls, the only actual one-night stand we see him engage in is with Cheryl Sproles who makes it clear that she would welcome a repeat performance, but the age difference (she is over ten years Tim's senior) and her neediness make Tim uncomfortable and he refuses. He also serves as a protective older brother figure to some of the younger female characters such as Becky and Julie. He refuses their blatant advances, tries to redirect their interests to more age-appropriate companions, and generally tries to keep them out of trouble recognizing some of the bad intentions of the guys they encounter.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Jason and his brother Billy. Most of his friendships qualify due to his sarcastic nature.

    Tyra Collette
Played by: Adrianne Palicki

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: She's drawn to Tim Riggins, a rogue cowboy named Cash, and a businessman with a girlfriend. Her attraction to Nice Guy Landry comes on much more gradually.
  • Broken Bird: Seems well on her way to becoming this when we first meet her, even more so after we meet her mother, who is a full-fledged, pill-popping Broken Bird in a string of abusive relationships who doesn't want her daughter to go to college. Ultimately averts it; gets out of Dillon and goes to UT.
  • Brutal Honesty: Tyra doesn't mince words when she's upset or frustrated with someone. She tells Jason how frustrated she is that Tim won't visit him in the hospital, and she more-or-less screams in Landry's face that she's more attracted to Cash than him.
  • Cool Big Sis: Plays this trope to Julie in Season 1.
  • Generation Xerox: Is afraid of turning out like her mother and older sister; two women who never left Dillon and depend on validation from men. She goes to college, but ultimately returns to Dillon and reunites with Tim Riggins.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: She's been caught drinking on school property, and starts the series dating Tim, who is a regular drinker. Her Character Development focuses on her desire to go to college and realize her potential.
  • Opposites Attract: Finds an unexpected connection with Landry; a nerdy musician.
  • Poisonous Friend: At first to Julie, inadvertently getting her arrested even.
  • The Resenter: Admits in her college application essay that she used to be this for Jason Street and others who had more potential to succeed in life. She also despises Lyla even before her involvement with Tim; due to Lyla's wealth, popularity, and academic success.
  • She's Got Legs: And everyone knows, including Tami, who takes advantage of Tyra's height to boost up the floundering girl's volleyball team.
  • Small Town Boredom: Hates Dillon and is desperate to leave.
  • Student Council President: In Season 3 - despite using some unconventional methods to win votes.

    Brian "Smash" Williams
Played by: Gaius Charles

  • Big Brother Instinct: He's very protective of his sister, and horrified when racists start threatening her.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: By far the most vocal member of the Panthers.
  • Butt-Monkey: Despite all of his talents; his college opportunities are consistently thwarted by events outside of his control.
  • Disappeared Dad: His died in a car accident when he was younger.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Came back from a confidence-shattering injury to end up earning a spot with Texas A&M. As of the end of the series, he is the only Panther or Lion to have successfully transitioned to college football.
  • The Heart: After Jason's injury, he becomes the key motivating force for the Panthers.
  • He's Back!: Takes some time to regain his physical strength and confidence after an injury but ultimately regains his focus and self-efficacy; and scores a college scholarship.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Under his cocky exterior, he does care about his family, friends, and teammates.
  • Justified Criminal: When he starts taking steroids in season one, he is only doing so to improve his chances of going to college and getting his family out of poverty. Subverted when his mother finds out, and reports him. She makes it clear that she doesn't want out of poverty if they can't get there legally.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: When someone calls him "Brian", it's a sign of something important.
  • Put on a Bus: Thanks to Gaius Charles wanting to quit acting to become a minister, though he's since returned to it.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Had his moments but Coach Taylor was always quick to bring him back down to earth.
  • Third-Person Person: Enjoys referring to himself as "The Smash"; particularly when talking to teammates or women.

    Matt Saracen
Played by: Zach Gilford

  • Always Someone Better: J.D. McCoy. Though Matt is later called upon to fix J.D.'s mistakes, implying that Matt really was the better player all along.
  • Butt-Monkey: If something terrible is going to happen, there's a good chance it will be to Matt.
  • Closet Geek: While he is a QB, he likes to draw and watch fantasy movies in his spare time.
  • Disappeared Dad: His dad joined the Army and Matt believes he was a much better soldier than he was a parent. He even goes so far as to encourage his dad to go back to Iraq after he suggests his grandmother go to a nursing home. His father dies in combat in Season 4.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Matt is first shown sitting on the bench during practice, as he's the reserve player for Jason. His next scene shows him practicing at home, demonstrating that although he's overlooked by the team, Matt is a very dedicated player.
  • Missing Mom: She comes back in season three and tries to make amends.
  • Parental Substitute: Sadly, due to his grandmother's dementia and his father's absence, Matt is Grandma Saracen's primary caregiver, which is a lot for a teenager to handle. Nevertheless, Matt clearly loves her and would do anything for her, and despite his difficulties dealing with this role he manages to ensure that she's well cared for throughout the series.
    • Coach Taylor becomes this for Matt himself. Given Matt's father's years of absence and emotional detachment, it's desperately needed.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Matt's the Sensitive Guy to Riggins's Manly Man (actually, he's also the Sensitive Guy compared to Smash and a lot of the other players on the team too). But Matt is also the Manly Man to Landry's Sensitive Guy.
  • Significant Sketchbook: A sign of his Hidden Depths; Matt is no Jerk Jock. He's thoughtful, observant, talented, and at the end of the series has retired from football and is attending an art college in Chicago.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: He's never been shy about making fun of Landry though he obviously cares about him a lot.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Lacks the raw physical talent of a J.D. McCoy or Voodoo Tatum, but is a shrewd tactician who knows every play and route in the book.
  • When He Smiles: He has a pretty sweet nerdy grin that comes out on the few occasions he's happy. It's always nice to see.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: It mostly comes from being forced to look after his ill grandmother at only sixteen.

    Landry Clarke
Played by: Jesse Plemons

  • Accidental Misnaming: Coach Taylor never seemed to stop addressing him as "Lance".
  • Actor-Shared Background: Jesse Plemons is one of the few cast members who is also from Texas and who did play high school football.
  • Back for the Finale: Shows up for one final scene with Matt.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: It took him no time at all to beat Tyra's would-be rapist to death.
  • Butt-Monkey: In Season one. After that, it mostly wears off. By season four, he is possibly the most competent character on the team.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He's not shy about pointing about other people's stupidity.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Landry is unlucky in love; with his girlfriends taking interest in other men and in one case, realizing she is a lesbian.
  • The Heart: Of the Panthers and later the Lions.
  • The Insomniac: Supposedly. Matt says he's one in the first episode, but it's never followed up on.
  • Nice Guy: Definitely one of the nicest in the series.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: With Tyra after their split; though they're not dating, he does everything he can to make sure Tyra gets into college. He also has this with Devin and Jess.
  • Rule of Creepy: In season 1, to Tyra. He constantly follows her around and pushes himself on her when she is very clearly not interested.


    J.D. McCoy
Played by: Jeremy Sumpter

  • Abusive Parents: His dad to the point that he beat him for being justifiably angry at him and tried to ruin his relationship with a girl.
  • Broken Ace: He's athletically talented (particularly for a high school freshman), but also very messed up emotionally. His controlling and abusive father berates and humiliates him, and J.D. struggles to connect with his peers.
  • The Bully: In Season 4, he needlessly taunts and harasses other students in Dillon.
  • Butt-Monkey: Much of the team treats him as this early on in season three.
  • Jerkass / Took a Level in Jerkass: In Season four. He becomes a full-on Jerk Jock; and loses many of his sympathetic traits from Season 3.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Comes from an incredibly wealthy family; and has a number of resources and opportunities readily available to him. However, he doesn't seem to have any real friends (in Season 3) and Coach Taylor has to prod Tim to hang out with him.
  • Put on a Bus: Leaves Dillon along with his father between Seasons 4 and 5, given only a passing mention.
  • The Resenter: He starts taking petty shots at Matt in Season 4; implied to be because he's humiliated about getting benched at state, and jealous of Matt's stellar performance.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: For a guy who choked at State the prior season, J.D. really does think the world of himself in season four.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: His dad keeps him searching for approval.

East Dillon High School / The East Dillon Lions

    Vince Howard

  • Broken Ace: He's an excellent football player, but his father went to prison and his mother is depressed and addicted to heroin.
  • Promotion to Parent: Due to his mother's aforementioned heroin problem, Vince is responsible for holding down a job to keep food on the table.

    Luke Cafferty
Played by: Matt Lauria

  • Determinator: In season four, to a degree that's almost painful to watch.
  • Nice Guy: Was fully prepared to help Becky raise their baby, before she had an abortion.

    Dallas Tinker
Played by: La Marcus Tinker

  • The Danza: Same last name as his actor.
  • Nice Guy: He is the only member of the team who shows up to help Luke and his dad build a fence, and he does it just because Luke looks tired at school.

    Jess Merriweather
Played by: Jurnee Smollett

  • Tomboy: A HUGE football fan - and she knows her stuff. She teaches Landry to kick a field goal.

    Becky Sproles
Played by: Madison Burgess

  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Subverted. After getting pregnant, she gets an abortion and is treated sympathetically by the show for doing so.
  • Stepford Smiler: Her optimistic attitude hides the broken fragile young girl beneath it.

    Buddy Garrity, Jr.
Played by: Jeff Rosick and Joey Trutty

  • Ascended Extra: Was a bit character in the first couple seasons, who we barely saw and merely served as a plot device, along with all the other Garrity kids other than Lyla. He returns all grown up in the final season after spending the last few years in California and joins the team.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: Buddy's mom's new boyfriend, a soccer-loving vegetarian Hipster, trains Buddy Jr. to hate football, even though he'd previously loved it as a kid (and part of it may have been Buddy Jr. seeking a way to lash out against Buddy Sr. for being a terrible father and husband) and he repeatedly insists that American football is a "barbaric" game upon his return from San Francisco. But after he returns to Dillon, Buddy Sr. helps Jr. regain his love of the game.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: He and the other Garrity kids start becoming this way after living with their mom's new boyfriend in San Francisco, who is very much a hipster. Buddy Senior makes it his mission to deprogram them from this, and actually succeeds.

    Hastings Ruckle
Played by: Grey Damon

Family and Friends

    Lorraine Saracen
Played by: Louanne Stephens

    Buddy Garrity
Played by: Brad Leland

    Joe McCoy
Played by: D. W. Moffett

    Mindy Collette Riggins
Played by: Stacey Oristano

  • Ascended Extra: Began Season 1 as little more than a background character for the guys to ogle at and Tara to be pissed at, but beginning with her engagement to Billy she began to have more involved role and a significant one in season 5.
  • Parental Substitute: Becomes this for Becky when her mother leaves and she is stuck living with her stepmom while her father on the road.

    Corinna Williams 
Played by: Liz Mikel

  • Almighty Mom: She's scary when she's mad.
  • Education Mama: As proud as she is of Smash's accomplishments on the field, she's equally committed to his academic success and encourages him to keep his eyes on a college degree.
  • Large and in Charge: A formidable physical presence at over six feet tall with a heavyset frame.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Has her share of Deadpan Snarker moments.
    Corinna: (to Tyra after catching her and Smash having sex) This to get back at Tim Riggins?
    Tyra: What are you a shrink?
    Corinna: Oh, I'd be nice. I work at Planned Parenthood. You probably haven't seen the last of me.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Raises Smash and his two sisters by herself after their father's death in a car accident.