By Earl Vaughan Jr.
Over the last 34 years, the Chicago Bears have gone through seven different head football coaches.
But the same guy has been handling the job of the team’s head equipment manager that entire time, South View High School product Tony Medlin.
The Bears had an open date last week, and Medlin came back to visit his alma mater. His regularly returns to Hope Mills where his career as an equipment specialist began.
“I go back to Ron Miller, Jack Bobbitt and Brenda Jernigan,’’ Medlin said, referring to veteran coaches who date back to the beginnings of the South View program.
“That group of people helped me get kick-started.’’
Medlin, and his brother Ronald, didn’t play sports, but both were actively involved on the periphery as support personnel. It led both to careers in the NFL, Tony with Chicago and Ronald now with the Baltimore Ravens. Ronald is in his fourth year in Baltimore after serving 17 years with the Atlanta Falcons.
Tony still has fond memories of his days at South View and reveled in the chance to come back and speak with some of the students at the school and take in a girls’ basketball scrimmage at St. Pauls.
“I remember when people came back to speak to us,’’ Medlin said. “I never thought I’d have a chance to do that. You go back and see if you can encourage young kids. Let them know the sky’s the limit.
“It gave me a great feeling to give back.’’
Like everyone in professional sports, Medlin has dealt with the challenges added to his job by the COVID-19 pandemic. Handling all that equipment and making sure it’s ready for games and practices might seem daunting, but Medlin said it all boils down to having contingency plans and being prepared.
“The key thing is making sure everybody is safe,’’ he said. “That’s the hard part. You plan accordingly. Make sure you follow the proper protocols.’’
Medlin said a lot of it is common sense, like testing players for the virus and washing hands often along with wearing masks.
“We kind of had some of these measures in place because of the way we do our jobs,’’ he said.
One thing the public may not be aware of is the NFL has strict rules that limit the players from having contact with people outside of the sport. “If you’re not under the NFL umbrella, those are things we have to follow,’’ Medlin said. “It’s just part of the job. You have to get it done.’’
Medlin said he’s both honored and grateful to have been with the Bears as long as he has. He said the thing that has kept him doing his job all these years is the chance to be a part of helping keep young men safe on the football field while watching them grow in the profession.
He said he’s especially gratified when former players call back and thank him and the members of his staff for their efforts. “It’s not all about me,’’ Medlin said. “It’s everybody who helped the player develop. Even after football, they take that with them.’’
• The Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, the annual all-star football game between high school seniors from North Carolina and South Carolina, will not be played this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Shriners decided to recognize teams this season, and a trio of Cumberland County high school stars was selected.
Westover High School landed a pair of players on the team, wide receiver Jamari Stallion and linebacker Twan Anderson.
Chosen from South View was defensive back Mahlik Charles.
Stallion, who has helped Westover reach the third round of this year’s state 3-A playoffs, currently leads the county in receiving with 50 catches for 789 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Anderson has 92 tackles on the season for the Wolverines. He leads the county in sacks with 26.
Charles has 46 tackles and four pass interceptions.
• Two Cumberland County teams remain in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs tonight.
Westover, the No. 8 East seed in 3-A, heads to top-seeded Eastern Alamance. Seventy-First will be at home. The Falcons are the No. 3 3-A seed and host No. 6 Greenville Rose, which eliminated Terry Sanford last week.
Eastern Alamance, 9-1, features the passing of Hunter Douglas. He has completed 102 of 153 attempts for 1,755 yards and 27 touchdowns. Running back Joshua Murray leads the ground game with 141 carries for 1,114 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Westover features quarterback Joshua Jones, who has completed 143 of 224 passes for 1,981 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Greenville Rose has compiled an 8-1 record since losing its first three games this season.
The Rampants are led by quarterback Will Taylor who has completed 145 of 252 passes for 2,313 yards and 26 touchdowns. His favorite target is Jayden Grimes with 58 catches for 905 yards and nine touchdowns.
Seventy-First, 12-0, is led by Anthony Quinn Jr. and Jayden Shotwell. Quinn has 1,696 yards rushing and 31 touchdowns. Shotwell has 1,003 yards and 12 scores.