High school’s buried treasures

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The purple robe hung like a tablecloth over his chiseled shoulders and fastened snugly around his tree-trunk of a neck.

Jeremy Walden, the big man on Cornerstone Christian’s campus, walked through the graduation procession Friday in dress shoes.

I went just in case I didn’t get another chance to wish him good luck before he headed off to Auburn, where he plans to try out for the football team as a walk on.

It’s a big jump from AISA football to the SEC, and even a bigger jump from high school life to the college world (the real world doesn’t come into play until a few years later). Jeremy has all the tools to do fine in both.

The 6-foot, 241-pound graduate was MVP of the Chargers football team and a selection for the AISA East-West All Star Game.

He’s athletic, smart and can bench press a school bus – an all-around good kid. He says yes ma’am and no sir, even to the cousin who used to body slam him over the couch in Mima’s living room.

Yes, he was a bull even back then. But he was only 4 when I was 12. Our grandmother wouldn’t have a living room and I probably wouldn’t be able to walk if we still played Wrestlemania at family functions.

Jeremy might be remembered by his classmates and teammates as co-MVP of the baseball team or perhaps as the running back who rumbled 48 yards to put an exclamation point on the Chargers’ 31-0 victory against Coosa Valley Academy in the Cotton Cup.

But it’s a story about a pair of cleats that might have the most longevity in the minds of Cornerstone’s players and coaches.

Jeremy’s exceptionally wide feet made it hard for him to find cleats with a comfortable fit.

So when he found a pair, he stuck with them – for four years.

Baseball and football did their jobs to wear out those shoes, which he had re-soled several times between eighth grade and his junior year.

It drove CCS coach Tim Smith to find a company who could provide a new pair of cleats, special order. When they arrived, Smith took the team to the school’s baseball field to put Jeremy’s old cleats to rest.

Shoes that have been so good to a man for that long deserve a proper burial, so with a shovel and a few words, they buried them behind home plate.

When Jeremy and his classmates walked away from Cornerstone’s graduation Friday, they carried with them a diploma and a collection of stories.

There was valedictorian Casey Crumpton, who quit the football team in eighth grade and said he wouldn’t play again until his 11th grade year. Coach Smith never knew quite why.

But Crumpton stayed true to his word and rejoined the team his junior season. He’s been ordained and plans to enter the ministry.

There was Jennifer Dennis, Karl Martin and Jesse Grace.

There was Celia Martin, who in a game against Edgewood couldn’t put the ball over the plate and when she did, it was hammered right back into the field.

When Smith walked out to the mound he asked her, &uot;What’s wrong, hoghead?&uot;

Martin embraced the impromptu nickname and so did her teammates. She will drive into the post-grad world in a car adorned with a personal license plate that reads HOGHEAD.

There was Kimberly Mitchell, Trevor Raia and Dane Turquitt.

There was Robert McLeroy and his dead-on impersonation of Headmaster Blair. There was Matt Kennedy and Jessica Yawn.

The 12 graduates of Cornerstone Christian and a host of others around the county will leave their schools in search of new experiences and treasures.

With their eyes on the future, they may not realize what they’ve left behind.

An old, worn-out pair of tattered shoes buried behind home plate might not be worth much, but the memories fond enough to put a smile on wrinkled faces years from now are some kind of treasure.

Ashley Vansant is the sports editor at the Reporter. He can be reached at mailto:ashley.vansant@shelbycountyreporter.com