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Thank you

In October 2018, Stone Cummins took time to kneel with his father before a playoff game and create an impression of how an athlete should be. (photo:Ken Leinart )
For anyone who has taken a lot of photos, there is always one that sticks with you.

Three years ago I shot a photo of an Anderson County football player kneeling in prayer with his father before a playoff game.

The game itself — an Anderson County High School loss to Greeneville — is a blur. I really don’t remember that much about it except that it was a loss for the Mavs.

But I remember that photo. I remember talking with a friend and turning and, while the Mavs were going through all the shouting and pre-game hoopla that engulfs football teams minutes before kickoff, I noticed one player kneeling with his father and praying.

I’m not an emotional person, not one for a lot on sentiment, but what that player was doing in that particular moment touched me.

The player was Stone Cummins.

I ran into Stone Cummins a few times during the following years.

Or, I should say, he ran into me — at least one time.


Once he almost got me on the sideline of an Anderson County High School football game, but he swerved at the last moment and missed me. He then asked me if I was OK.

This last fall, The Courier News photographed Stone Cummins and Stone Hatmaker for the cover of our football preview.

Photo shoots are not anyone’s idea of a good time. But those two were patient and polite, and listened and followed our directions.

At the time, I noted to their principal, Ben Downs, how impressed we were with these two young men and what a credit they were to the school and to the Maverick program.

That’s how I know Stone Cummins.

I know a lot about playing football. About what it takes to play the game.

It takes discipline and sacrifice and a willingness to put aside “individual” to be part of a team.

I know very little about wrestling. My experience comes from watching the wrestlers in my high school and college practice and work to “make weight.”

But wrestling, to me, is the ultimate test of an athlete’s will — an ultimate test of the competitive spirit.

Wrestlers work in a team environment, but they are on their own —relying on their skill, the knowledge passed on to them by their coaches, and the desire in their hearts, once the competition begins.

So, when a young man talks about the joy of hugging his father and his coach after winning a state wrestling championship …

But I guess that’s to be expected of a young man who knelt with his father in prayer before, at that time, the biggest game of his season.

Congratulations Stone Cummins.

And thank you for that memory from October 2018, and for the many reminders during the last three years of what a young athlete can be.