DOBSON — Go by a football practice at Surry Central in August, and you might see some familiar names from current and former NFL players.
The Golden Eagles’ practices will see names like Jon Beason and Derek Anderson. Not the actual players, but their names — written across the backs of practice jerseys donated to the school by the Carolina Panthers.
Surry Central was one of only two schools in North Carolina to receive real practice-worn jerseys in the team’s white and blue colors.
This program is “part of the team’s on-going effort to support football played at the grassroots level,” said Peter Vacho, Carolina Panthers’ military and football outreach manager.
Central coach Monty Southern said he received a notice about the jersey grant program right at the end of this past school year. He filled out a lot of paperwork and sent it back to the team.
Southern said he didn’t figure that his team had much of chance to get jerseys this year since the Eagles received 56 pairs of practice pants last summer. Still, he gave it a shot, thinking that maybe some other coaches didn’t get the notice or might not get the paperwork done by the Panthers’ deadline.
This week, coaches have been attending clinics out of town. Southern said he got word Tuesday evening that his school had been selected.
He attended clinics on Wednesday and Thursday and then headed back to Dobson. He stopped by the school to check his mail, and there were the boxes of jerseys already waiting for him.
“The jerseys have been expertly maintained and are in excellent condition,” said Vacho. The team valued the entire lot of jerseys at $33,000.
The gear went to six schools: four in South Carolina and two in North Carolina. South Creek High in Robersonville was the other N.C. recipient.
The other four were Indian Land High, Indian Land; Carvers Bay, Hemmingway; Marlboro County, Bennettsville; and Greer High, Greer.
“The Carolina Panthers are thrilled to provide this opportunity to schools in our region, especially when the need for resources is at a premium, but adequate funding may be a challenge,” said Vacho. “Having the basic necessities such as practice gear can go a long way in helping school athletic departments make ends meet.”
Last year when the pants arrived, Southern quickly saw a big difference between his roster and the enormous young men who play for the Panthers.
“Some of these pants were a size 48 and up,” he said. The team didn’t have anybody big enough to wear some of them.
With the jerseys, the boys can wear the bigger sizes, but they might look like dresses, he joked.
Some of the jerseys are simply a plain blue color, but many have numbers on the back.
“I guess some of those are from guys on the practice squad,” he reasoned. If the boys know the Panthers’ roster, the ones with numbers might be figured out. Only a few had the numbers and the names on the back.
Southern said he looked through the box to see if there was a Luke Kuechley or Cam Newton jersey because those appear to be the most popular players on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
There might have been a fight between linebackers over a Kuechley jersey, he chuckled.
Those jerseys weren’t in this delivery. They might have gone to one of the other schools, or they might have been sold in a charity auction as some player merchandise has in the past.
In addition to the 53 regular jerseys, Southern said there were four red jerseys for the quarterbacks, including the names of current backup Derek Anderson and former backup Jimmy Claussen.
As an Appalachian State grad, the coach said he was pleased to find a jersey for Armanti Edwards, the former college QB who played for a couple of seasons as a wide receiver.
Asked if the Eagles would be wearing the new tops to Mount Airy’s 7-on-7 drills next Friday, Southern said he wasn’t sure about that, but it would definitely be a conversation-starter.
Jeff is the associate editor and can be reached at 415-4692.