Faces of football: Meet the men behind Sullivan Central’s cougar paw

Holly Viers • Oct 19, 2018 at 11:36 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Jeremy Fields and Kevin Wilson both have day jobs, but in their spare time, you can often find them at the Cougar Den.

For the last couple of football seasons, Fields and Wilson have voluntarily painted a cougar paw on Bernie Webb Field at Sullivan Central High School, making sure it’s just right when the Friday night lights come on.

Painting the paw isn’t always easy, and sometimes it takes several hours to complete. But for Fields and Wilson, the students are worth it.

“We hope that the kids, not just on the football team but in the school, see that people value them enough and people respect what they’re doing enough to spend whatever time it is that we do and give them something they can be proud of,” Wilson said.

Let the paint begin

What is now a complex painting process stemmed from humble beginnings. When the men first started painting last year, Fields said the paw was smaller, and all the work was done with spray paint.

“There were probably seven of us out there with spray paint, just spraying and spraying and spraying. … We got with (the football coach) and said, ‘We’re going to have to come together to get some donations and buy a sprayer and get some paint,’ ” Fields said. “So we got that, and it’s been a whole lot easier ever since.”

Not just any paw

Rather than painting the same paw on the field each week, the men have put their imaginations to work. Using computer-aided design software, Fields designs a unique paw every week, and each design coordinates with the student section’s theme for the home games.

So far this year, the men have painted a camouflage paw for camo night, a Hawaiian floral paw for beach night, a diamond-patterned paw for preppy night and a solid orange paw for the homecoming game, the football team’s first win since 2014.

Between the time spent designing each paw and the hours spent painting, Fields and Wilson spend a good deal of time making each design a reality. At the same time, they must work around other school functions to ensure the paw design stays a surprise until game day.

“We were (on the field) until 2:30 a.m. the night that we did the diamond pattern,” Fields said, adding that they had to wait until a girls’ soccer game ended to start painting. That design, he said, took six hours to complete.

A difference maker

Fields and Wilson’s hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Jessica Fields, president of the school’s athletic booster club, said students look forward to seeing the paw each week and have grown to expect the complex designs.

And if the students are happy, Fields and Wilson are happy, despite the long hours and late nights.

“We’ve got to get up the next morning and go to work, but (the students) are important, and I think if anybody cares to really take a look under the hood of Central High School, you will see that the culture of Central High School has changed year over year, and it is absolutely heading in the right direction,” Wilson said. “Maybe a little field paint helps that out.”

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