Faces of Friday Night: The Student Manager
With the help of a couple players, Centennial High School's football manager moves around blocking sleds and bulky pads as he sorts through the odds and ends of the team's equipment shed in the searing heat.
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With sweat soaking through his light blue team T-shirt, manager Tykiah James can't complain — he welcomes the opportunity to help out the players, who he calls his pals.
"My name is Tykiah James, but my friends call me T.J. because it's easier to say, and those are my initials," said James, a Centennial junior who has been in his role as manager since the start of the summer.
He volunteers at every practice — handing out equipment, helping out players in any way he can and filming practices, scrimmages and games for the team to watch later on.
James originally took the job because he wanted to be involved with the team and get to know the players without having to strap on shoulder pads.
"I'm more of a behind-the-scenes guy because I'm not very talkative most of the time. I'm kind of shy and in the background, so this position is perfect for me," James said. "Plus, I get to meet some of the team players, help record and do some of the tech stuff, which I actually like to do. So this job suits me more than being on the field."
Tonight's season opener against Morton will be James' first game as team manager, and he's been awaiting this day for months. When the game starts, he'll stand on the high rise and record every play. A "big responsibility," he says, but one he enjoys because he gets to do what he loves most — watch football.
"My favorite part of my job is seeing the players when they react to different plays and how they learn," he said. "I also like just sitting back and seeing if I can learn some of the plays, too, in case my teammates need help."