Most Cumberland County high school football players spend time during June and July with informal offseason conditioning workouts to prepare for the official start of fall practice about Aug. 1.
But Keith Tillett, a running back candidate at Jack Britt High School, took two weeks out of his summer for a drastic departure from the practice field.
Tillett, who has long had an interest in government and politics, spent two weeks serving as a page, first in the North Carolina state Senate from June 19-22 and then in the state House from July 10-13.
His sponsors were Cumberland County Sen. Val Applewhite and N.C. House Rep. Frances Jackson, respectively.
Pages perform a variety of duties, including running errands for the membership.
Tillett said one of the most interesting parts of the job was attending legislative committee meetings and hearing the debates between representatives of different parties.
“Those can be heated,” he said.
Tillett hopes to use the experience of working with the legislators to further his plans to become a lawyer and eventually go into politics. He plans to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, the same school attended by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Tillett’s brief exposure to actual government in action has already given him a unique perspective on the legislative process and the people involved in it.
“It takes a long time to pass a bill or law because they go through a lot of meetings,” he said.
He also had some advice for the people involved in the legislative process.
“Since a lot of people in the government are wealthier, … I think they need to come more down to earth and get a better perspective on people who are living in their area and district,” he said. “They need to get a better understanding of where they come from and how they live so they can represent them better.”
Rep. Jackson and Sen. Applewhite, Tillett’s legislative sponsors, said the page program is beneficial for young people like Tillett who are interested in how government works.
Jackson, an educator at both the high school and middle school levels and a civics and social studies teacher, said the page program closes the gap for students in terms of experiences they can’t have in a classroom.
“You see the rules, and they get a chance to see the legislators interact with one another,” Jackson said. “You get in a room with both sides.”
Applewhite said any student interested in applying to be a page needs to go to the Senate or House website for information on the process.
“Seeing democracy in action is really amazing,” Applewhite said. “I asked his opinion of some of the bills and how he thinks it will affect our community. I also listened to his view of what he saw. We don’t give these young people enough credit.”
As far as Tillett’s football future at Jack Britt is concerned, Buccaneer head coach Brian Randolph said Tillett has the potential to be the school’s next Sincere Baines. Baines was the No. 2 rusher in Cumberland County last year, according to statistics posted at MaxPreps, finishing with 2,167 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Tillett transferred to Britt from New Jersey as a junior, rushing for 1,000 yards in his final year at his old school.
He’s a two-sport athlete, starting in baseball for Britt last season, when he batted .390 with six doubles and 15 RBIs.
He played receiver for the Buccaneers last season and proved capable with 19 receptions.
In addition to carrying the football, Randolph plans to use Tillett on bubble screens and in other passing situations.
“He has really good ball skills,” Randolph said.
Perry spent years working as a coach at Spring Lake and later with student activities at Fayetteville Technical Community College. He was also a standout football player at Pine Forest High School.
Beyond that, Perry was a kind-hearted soul who never met an enemy and was a great friend to me during my days at The Fayetteville Observer.
Congratulations, old friend, on a well-deserved honor.
She was the only North Carolina player among the 25 nominated. The winner will be announced Sunday.
Intini led the Eagles to the state finals this past season, when they finished runner-up to the Asheville School.
Intini scored 158 goals in 19 games and handed out 62 assists.
She was named to the NCISAA Division II All-State team.
Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on Twitter: @EarlVaughanJr.