Nominated by their schools as some of the most enthusiastic, supportive fans in the stands – these high school football Superfans know what it means to have school spirit. From avid game attendees to statisticians, uniform repairers, field maintenance workers, Hall of Fame inductees, press box announcers, and more, these Superfans are super versatile and super dedicated to their teams!
By Katie Faulkner
Photography by Rich Smith
Gene & Eddie Etter
CS: How did you become Baylor fans?
GE: I taught and coached at Baylor for 47 years, and Eddie started work in the athletic department about 30 years ago. I coached baseball and was the defensive coordinator for football under my dad, E.B. “Red” Etter.
EE: I became a fan more around the time that Gene started working there. There was no one more dedicated. It’s a lot of long hours and late nights. When the baseball field got lights, I thought I’d never see him again!
CS: So you followed the sports that Gene coached and others?
EE: Yes, I would go to all his games. A little back story – when he was playing baseball professionally, we were actually married at a baseball game in front of 7,000 fans.
GE: She would come to our baseball games when I was coaching and sit behind home plate. She yelled encouraging things and lots of smart things – the types of things that coaches would yell. Not just “Come on!” or things like that.
CS: Did you both go to a lot of football games?
GE: Well, you know, I coached football for many of the years that I worked at Baylor. I was defensive coordinator under my dad, and then when he retired, I took a few years off, then got back into it as the offensive coordinator. But anytime I wasn’t coaching, Eddie and I would get together and go to other games. We went to as many games as we could, and we knew all the other coaches.
CS: Do you still follow all the sports?
EE: Oh yes! The athletic department is my home. I love to talk to all the coaches and see how their season is looking and how their players are. I am all about the kids though, and whatever they’re involved in is what I want to be a part of. We go to most all of the home games, but when we can’t make it, we watch the webcast of the game live on the computer.
CS: Do you have any superstitions or good luck charms?
GE: She has more than I do. There was a drain at our baseball field that was upside down, and she had a player turn it over. Afterwards we rallied and won! So the next week, when we played McCallie, she brought it to our pre-game huddle, and sure enough, we won that one too!
EE: I also always wear red on game days. And that means you wear a lot of red if you follow multiple Baylor sports teams!
Cornell & Maxine Beslin
CS: How did you both become Tyner fans?
C&MB: Our oldest son was on the football team in 1989, and our second son played basketball shortly thereafter. We began attending all the games and volunteering in different roles. Eventually I started announcing the football games from the press box, and Maxine spots for me. She keeps up with the scoreboard too. We took highlight videos at basketball games for the kids to have for recruiters, and in 1992 we started the first booster club for basketball. And we followed both of our sons, Marcus and Chris, on the track team as well. Since that first year, we’ve stayed involved.
CS: Do you remember your first Tyner game?
CB: It was September 1, 1989, at Bradley Central. It was a stormy night – I mean to tell you; it came down that night! We lost by a touchdown, but it was a really
MB: He keeps all the stats, news clippings, schedules, and info. He knows all the different coaches, number of wins per year, and total touchdowns. He knows all this stuff.
CS: How many games do you attend?
C&MB: Very little do we ever miss. We have a pass and always sit in the press box. We go to all the home games and all the away games. We go to the spring scrimmages and all the jamborees. The only times we’ve ever missed have been when we go back home to Louisiana, but even then, we try to schedule it for away games so that we don’t miss calling the game. I’ve been fortunate enough to call some games on the PA system at Finley Stadium for jamborees and other games.
CS: What does a typical game day look like for you?
C&MB: We try to get there an hour and half to two hours before the game. We like to open up all the windows for the box, make sure the PA system and scoreboard are working, and get it ready for the other team’s staff. We always wear our Tyner gear and try to speak to everyone.
CS: What do you think have been the keys to Tyner’s succes over the years?
C&MB: I think the consistency of Coach Turner has been key: the work he’s done with the kids, training the ones that come up from the middle school and other schools. He makes them believe that hard work is what counts, and nothing is going to be given to them. “You have to come and earn it!” – I’ve heard him say that to them.
Judge Russell Bean
CS: Do you remember your first Red Bank game?
JRB: I sure do. I was about 11, and my aunt and my dad brought me to Rankin Field to watch my older brother Crawford play in his first high school game. I followed him the rest of that year and the next few years until I was in high school at Red Bank. And since then, I’ve barely missed a game!
CS: What makes you a Superfan?
JRB: Well, I imagine they mentioned me as a Superfan because I’ve got most of them beat on longevity! But I do try to make it to every game, including away games. I take the son of one of my classmates to all the games with me as well. His name is Aaron Lewis, and he calls me each week to remind me to pick him up. We get there early to meet people and talk at the concession stand, then sit in the same place under the press box every week.
When my daughter was a cheerleader for the team, I used to rent the cheerleaders a bus to get to the away games. And I’ve called in to SportTalk radio so much that the guys gave me the nickname of “The Defender.” I think that might’ve had to do with the fact that I was a lawyer too.
CS: What’s the most exciting game you’ve ever been to?
JRB: I remember one time we traveled to Knoxville to play Farragut. My brother David and I went together and ended up sitting next to Johnny Majors! This was one of the first games where they had implemented overtime in high school football, and the game went into seven overtimes! And Red Bank finally beat them! So that was definitely an exciting game. Johnny said to us, “This is one of the best football games I’ve ever seen!”
CS: What do you think has been the key to Red Bank’s accomplishments in football?
JRB: They have had great coaches and a wonderful middle school program, so the players are well prepared when they get to high school. Skipper Fairbanks has done a wonderful job with the middle school program, and they just have a mentality for hard work from the younger grades up.
CS: What makes Red Bank so fun to pull for?
JRB: It’s a community. Some schools are involved in the whole city, but Red Bank is really a community. They rally around the team and have a parade in the spring called the Red Bank Jubilee. It’s just a good down-home atmosphere.
Pastor Chuck Patrick
CS: When did you become a Silverdale Baptist fan?
CP: Well, I was hired here 16 years ago to be a staff pastor at Silverdale Church, and I had always followed Chattanooga area sports. I’m just a sports nut in general. So, when I started working here, I began following all of the athletic programs and became really invested.
CS: What’s the most exciting Seahawks game you can remember?
CP: I would have to say last year actually, when we played Boyd Buchanan. We had never beaten them before. The team played so well. It was a great game and the first time we’ve beaten them since the school’s founding, 20 years ago. It was just an exciting atmosphere!
CS: What makes you a Superfan?
CP: I don’t really do anything too over-the-top, but the one thing that everyone comments about is my voice. It really projects, and so a lot of the kids will tell me, “I heard you yelling for me at the game!” and I like that. I mean, I would never want to distract them, but I yell things to support them and let them know I’m there for them. Things like, “Great pass!” or “Great play!” I always try to yell individuals’ names because, since I know they can hear me, I want them to feel good about it! I just want to encourage them.
CS: Coach Rogers (head football coach) says you’re one of the most encouraging people for him and his team. Why is that?
CP: I grew up in inner city Chattanooga without a father, so it’s how God wired me – to always be an encourager. I just want to take on that role for the kids and try to be an encouraging and supportive person in their lives. I had teachers, pastors, and coaches who were that for me. Without them, my life would’ve been very different. So, supporting the students and teams is a passion and drive of mine. Especially when they take a loss, I try to stay late and let them know what they did well, and that it’s just a game.
I really want to be that for all our kids, whether it’s a surrogate spiritual father or just a complement to their dad or grandfather. It’s giving back to them what others poured into my life when my home was broken.
CS: Do you have any game day superstitions or good luck charms?
CP: Not really. I just like to wear my “Big Green” Silverdale gear. I’m a Tennessee fan, so I’ve had to ditch all my superstitions by now!
Kellye Hicks Bender
CS: How did you become a Cleveland Raider fan?
KHB: When I was in the fourth grade, the girls’ basketball coach asked my parents if I could be the mascot for the Raiderettes (that’s what they were called before they became the Lady Raiders). I traveled with them; I even went to the state tournament with the team. And then of course, my oldest brother played football and basketball, and that was a big deal. We went to all of his games – that was our life, and I didn’t know it any other way.
CS: Do you still go to all the games?
KHB: Oh yes, my husband and I and most of our extended family, we all go to the football games. That’s what you do on Friday night! My husband, Andy, and I travel to all of the away games, and we do the same thing for the basketball teams.
CS: Do you have any traditions at the games?
KHB: Well, I’m known for ringing the bell. When Andy and I moved back to Cleveland in 1983, someone gave me this cowbell that says “Property of CHS Pep Club” on it. And working in the school system, I’ve had a lot of student athletes in my classes, and I always told them, “When you grow up and play for the Raiders, I’m going to be ringing this bell for you!” It’s just my way of letting the students know I’m here for them.
CS: What does a typical game day look like for you?
KHB: On game days, I try to make it over to the high school at some point during the day to check in. Then Andy and I arrive early and do a little tailgating. We try to provide any support the athletic department needs. I always bring the “blue bag” that has tiny bells and shakers for my nieces and nephew or any kids sitting nearby. Then at the end of every game, we make our way down to the field and stand there with the parents and players as the coaches share their feedback. I always find my former students and hug on them and love on them and tell them what a good job they did!
CS: Any good luck charms besides the bell?
KHB: Actually, yes. There is this terrible, ratty blue towel that I tie around the handle of the bell. I started using it in 1993. It went to the state championship games with us in 1994 and 1995. Plus, it helps keep me from getting blisters from ringing the bell!
CS: How did you become a Notre Dame fan?
BD: Well, I’m from up near Green Bay originally. I’m a huge Packers fan, and I love “big” Notre Dame too. I’m a Cradle Catholic, and the colors and traditions are all nostalgic for me. Then my son played football for “little” Notre Dame in the late 90s, and he was very good, I have to admit. I’ve enjoyed watching them ever since!
CS: What makes you love high school football?
BD: I suppose at first it was watching my son. I popped so many buttons off my shirt every time he made a touchdown! And then I kept going. It’s just the spirit of Friday night football – it grows on you. If I were to sit at home on a Friday night, it wouldn’t feel right!
CS: What does a typical Friday night look like for you?
BD: I get ready and go to the game a little early. A lot of my friends have had boys go through the football program over the years, so we would see each other at the tailgating and talk and eat a little. I’m not superstitious, but I do tend to do the same things. I stand on one side during the first half and then move to the other side during the second half. I’m always standing at the fence, walking back and forth. I don’t sit down.
CS: What’s one of the most exciting games you remember?
BD: My son, Mark, won Player of the Game at his last game in 1997. He had two touchdowns and the game-winning two-point conversion – that was exciting! And there was another game, which has become quite a laugh now. One day, we had a game in Calhoun, Mississippi, so I decided to drive. At one point, I know I was 19 miles outside of Calhoun. And then, as the drive went on, I crossed the Tennessee River, and I thought, “Something’s not right about this.” Well, I ended up in Florence, Alabama! The next day I had a physical therapist conference in Jackson, Tennessee, so by the time I got home from that weekend I had driven 719 miles!
CS: What’s your favorite Notre Dame tradition?
BD: I love the Fighting Irish stance; it’s my favorite. And then, often I sit with Father Mike Nolan. One time, we were up in Polk County, and it was a really close game. He was praying the rosery, and he said, “We’ll take one more trip around the beads!” And we did win that game!
CS: Anything else to add?
BD: I’ll just tell you what. One day before I die, I’d like to see Calhoun, Mississippi.
CS: How did you become a Raider fan?
CC: I remember following them in the 1980s – they were a force to be reckoned with. But the program declined a bit in the 90s. Then my daughter started school there in 1997, and she wanted to start going to the games her junior year. I went with her and noticed that the stands would clear out after the band’s halftime show – they were there for the band, not the boys. And that just broke my heart. So I decided to do something about it.
CS: What did you do to encourage more involvement?
CC: Well, it was very simple at first. I asked if it was okay to call some of the players and parents to tell them what they had done well at the game Friday night. I just volunteered to lend more support. And then, in 2000, I started going to all of the games and calling all the players I could find numbers for to give them some praise. I asked the coach at the time, “Can I bring candy Monday?” and since I said it all together like that, it quickly became a well-known thing. We call it “Candy Monday” now. So I would call, bring candy, and send birthday cards and get well cards for sick or injured players. It just evolved.
CS: How else have you come to be involved with the team?
CC: I’ve always told them, anything they need, anything I can do, I will. I bring water and Gatorade; sometimes I help bring snacks and post-game meals. When they lost their seamstress, I started taking the torn uniforms each week and stitching them up. I’ve walked with some of the boys for senior night over the years if their mom couldn’t make it. I always make a cake for the coaches each week because they work so late into the night watching film after a game. I also crochet an afghan for the team to sell chances on every year. Just whatever I can do, I do it!
CS: Do you have any superstitions or good luck charms?
CC: Oh yes! If I was wearing a particular shirt when we win, I will wear that same shirt every week until we lose. I have three bracelets that I always wear, and two necklaces. One necklace, a former player made for me, and it says “Mama Raider” on it. And the other one is my prayer box that I keep a special prayer for our games inside. I always eat spaghetti for dinner, take the assistant principal some candy and the athletic director beef jerky, and I take two packs of peanuts and one coke for myself. Every week!
CS: Why do you continue to be so supportive year after year?
CC: Because sometimes all anyone needs is a little love. And those boys deserve love and support. Even though my child doesn’t go to school there anymore, I may be planting a seed in another child. I may be inspiring them to keep going when they’re about to quit.
*Cody’s mother, Kim Cope, responded to the questions on his behalf.
CS: How did Cody become a Ridgeland fan?
KC: Well, when he started school there in 2009, he hung out with the football players a lot. He had always loved football but never played. And Coach Mariakis noticed that he liked hanging out with the players and gave him a jersey one day, and that’s all it took.
CS: What are some of the things that make Cody a Superfan?
KC: He wears his Ridgeland gear to every game, and we go to every single game home and away. And when they played at the Georgia Dome for the state playoffs, Cody had a pass and was right there on the sidelines. He even got a ring when they did. He has a pass to get in the gate at every game, and he always stands. He gets the crowd going!
CS: What does he do at games?
KC: He is standing at the fence cheering the players on, whether they’re winning or losing. If they score a touchdown, he runs from one end of the stands to the other, getting people on their feet. And he’s always trying to get the crowd pumped up – he likes to watch wrestling, and he incorporates some of those motions and theatrics to get the crowd on their feet! His catch phrase is, “You’re fired!”
CS: What does a typical game day look like for Cody?
KC: Oh, he starts talking about the game by Monday or Tuesday. And by Friday morning, he has his outfit laid out and is ready to go by 3 p.m. We get there by 5 or 5:30 p.m. and tailgate and talk to everyone. He wears a white Powerade towel around his neck at every game, and we always do the Panther Walk and pep rallies.
CS: Tell us about the special award that Cody received.
KC: I work at the school, and they called me into the office and told me to sit down. They said that the school was going to be starting a new award called “Heart of the Panther,” and that this was the first year they were presenting it. They said that the student would go in the Ridgeland Hall of Fame. Then they said that Cody was receiving it – I’m glad they had already asked me to sit down! So, Cody won the inaugural “Heart of the Panther” award at Ridgeland. And he was also voted “Most School Spirit” and “Mr. RHS” his senior year.
Dr. Pete Kelley
CS: How did you become a Signal Mountain fan?
PK: When the school was first built back in 2009, I noticed the field needed some work, and the practice field was basically a mud pit. So I asked the coach what he needed to get the field in shape for the season. I told him I’d help with whatever he needed, and that’s how I first got started.
CS: What do you do for the field and football program?
PK: I do everything I can. When we first started working on it, I didn’t know much about it. The country club let us borrow their equipment, and I started learning about everything from field diseases to irrigation systems to hydraulic motors. Now
I mow, fix anything that’s broken (like a
sprinkler head recently), maintain all the equipment, even sharpen the blades myself. I just do anything I can to help the program keep their facilities in good shape.
CS: How often do you work on the field?
PK: During growing season it needs to be cut every other day. It needs to be kept up as meticulously as a golf green.
CS: What does game day look like for you?
PK: Oh, I’m not here to work on Friday night. I just come a little early to tailgate and talk. I wear my Eagles stuff, and I sit in my reserved seat. I’m at every game. I travel with them, I go see the playoff, and I even go to Crossville for all the playoffs every year.
CS: How did you acquire the nickname “Mountain Troll”?
PK: I gave it to myself! On the Coach T website, I follow other schools and get on the message boards to talk to other fans, and that was my user name. But now it’s become my persona. I like to talk smack on the message boards and meet the other team’s fans that I’ve been talking to each week. We tailgate and have a good time.
CS: What makes Signal Mountain football so fun to follow?
PK: They just did really well early on, and I got caught in the excitement of Friday night lights. It’s just good, easy fun!