Friday, February 3, 2012

Handley Family Makes Rings Come True for Players

When the Handley Tigers defeated Madison Academy 20-14 in the Class 3A State Championship on Dec. 1, our community was there. In person and in spirit thousands of people cheered the Tigers to the state title and on Feb. 18, the community will celebrate as the Handley Tiger football team receives their State Championship rings.

“Our Handley Family is truly unbelievable,” Handley Head coach Mike Battles said. “I knew that if we did our part, our fans would show up to support us. But I tell you what, I expected to see about eight or nine people at the Walk of Champions that morning...”
Battles and the rest of the coaching staff and team were definitely surprised when both sides of the walkway were wall to wall people cheering them on as they entered Bryant-Denny Stadium.

“I was taken back by the amount of people that were there, but I knew our fans would show up,” Battles said. “They have supported us all year and I have said it for years, we are the best team to travel because our fans follow us, it doesn't matter if we go to Mobile, Washington County or Tuscaloosa...Our opponent will know that the Tigers and our fans were there.”

The Tigers were road tested in the 2011 season and the trip to Tuscaloosa was one for the story books.

“It wasn't the prettiest state championship to win unless you are a Handley fan,” Battles said. “Now, if you were a Handley fan, I am sure it was the best game ever. Madison Academy was tough and they had talent in every position. It was just our time and we did what we had to do in order to win the game.”

The Championship had barely been celebrated before plans were in motion to ensure the players receive championship rings to commemorate the game.

“We knew that if we did our job, the rest would come,” Battles said.

The following week a fund-raising effort was kicked off and a committee formed to coordinate efforts to honor this team's accomplishments.

“We named it the Championship Ring Fund because that was something tangible for people,” Wes Kinsey, Championship Ring Fund Chairman, said. “We knew we had to raise a lot of money in a short amount of time and we had to have a consolidated effort.”
Even before the fund was established, fund-raising efforts began in earnest. Tiger Moms had championship t-shirts for sale as soon as the team arrived back in Roanoke and Friday Night Life magazine announced it would publish a commemorative issue with magazine sales going to buy the rings.

Roanoke Quarterback Club's Jimbo Robinson, co-captain William Dillard and Chris May
presented Friday Night Life's Lavoy and Kelly Caldwell with a replica of the State
Championship trophy in appreciation for their fund-raising efforts.

“The outpouring of support has been very humbling,” Kinsey said. “There wasn't ever a question of 'Are we going to raise this money?' But, we didn't think it would happen as fast as it has considering the economic times we are facing.”

Kinsey set up a Handley State Championship Ring Fund fan page on facebook.com and virtually the next day checks started coming in the mail.

“It was so exciting to see all of it happening,” Kinsey said. “We didn't expect so many people to give so freely especially at Christmas.”

A single ring cost $305 and countless individuals, businesses, clubs and civic groups have all donated.

“There are so many stories of contributions that will make your heart melt,” Kinsey said. “We had a college kid that gave $50 and then two children decided they wanted their Christmas present to be a ring for Doug Tucker (a player on the team). Those kind of things are what makes living in a small town great.”
As of mid-January, the money has been raised to pay for the rings and the contributions still arrive daily.

“The money we are getting now is paying for the celebration, and we have plans for signs coming into town and a sign at Wright Field,” Kinsey said. “All of that has to come from private funds and we are so thankful the community has shown this fantastic support.”
The Handley Tiger Championship Celebration is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 18 at Wright Field. The football team and coaches will be honored and the community is invited to attend.

“This is a community championship if there ever was one,” Battles said. “Roanoke is very proud of this team because they are the ones that finally got over the hump and won it all. There are have been some exceptional teams at Handley over the years and all of them paved the way for this year’s team.”

Friday Night Life Handley State Champion Edition will be available for purchase at the Soul Tymes Nine concert on Feb. 4 and the Ring Celebration on Feb. 18 while supplies last.  The cost is $10 and 100 percent of the proceeds go to the Roanoke Quarterback Club Ring Fund.


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