Holly Pond football player’s act of kindness draws cheers from opposing fans

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Holly Pond’s Andy Garcia helps Danville running/corner back Jake Waddell stretch after he went down with leg cramps during Friday’s game. (Photo used with permission of Danville photographer Amy Welborn Sherrill)

DANVILLE, Ala. – Last Friday evening, Holly Pond High School’s (HPHS) football team suffered a defeat at Danville High School, but one Bronco scored a win that had fans on both sides of the field cheering. HPHS junior middle linebacker no. 42 Andy Garcia came to the aid of Danville senior running back no. 2 Jake Waddell in a demonstration of sportsmanship that has stirred a big buzz on social media.

Witness Greg A. Lane told the story on social media,

“At the end of the Danville vs. Holly Pond football game Friday night, both teams met in the middle of the field for a time of prayer. I was so impressed I had to take a photo! But, let me tell you about something that happened in the middle of the game that impressed and inspired me even more.

About midway through the game, Danville ran a play and one of their running backs was tackled and remained on the ground, writhing in pain… he had muscle cramps in his calves. I know first hand what that pain feels like, so I sympathized with the guy. When one of the players on the opposing team saw this player writhing in pain on the ground, he ran up to him, grabbed both of the player’s feet, lifted them in the air, and began applying pressure against the toes of both cleats… the training protocol for dealing with calf cramps. He continued working with the fallen Danville player until the trainer ran out on the field and took over. What an awesome, selfless act of kindness that young man displayed. The fans in the Danville stands were cheering loudly for the scene that was going on…. not cheering because of a great offensive or defensive play… not cheering because of a touchdown pass… not even cheering for their home team. No, they were cheering for a person on the opposing team that came to the rescue of one of their own players and showed kindness, even in the midst of a competitive battle.

I joined the crowd in cheering. We called out the number of the player who was helping. “Way to go number 42!” It was an awesome sight to behold! People were hollering, applauding, and whistling! It was the first time in my life that I can remember a group of fans from one team cheering for an individual on the opposing team. I left that game inspired and hopeful about the next generation.

I’m not going to lie. There are times I throw my hands up in disgust when I see the craziness of the next generation being raised up in this country. But, just for a minute, at a Friday night football game (of all places), a little hope for the next generation was rekindled inside me… and I wanted to share that ember of hope with you today.”

Danville and Holly Pond players and coaches gathered together for prayer after the game in a common post-game habit for Danville. (Photo courtesy of Greg A. Lane.)

Amy Welborn Sherrill Had a better vantage point on the incident than most. From Danville’s sideline, she took a photo of the incident that has been circulating on social media, and which was forwarded to staff at HPHS and the county system office. 

In a message Sunday afternoon, Sherrill told The Tribune, “The minute this happened I knew it was more than likely cramps and it was such a touching moment. That was a moment we as parents, coaches and players should keep imbedded in our hearts. True sportsmanship. The #42 immediately helped and didn’t hesitate at all.”

Social media posts drew words of praise (not corrected for spelling or grammar) from commenters and post sharers like:

• “Amazing! There were no losers in this game !!”

• “Great, glad to see so much love in our young men”

• “That is awesome on both counts. Teams praying together and opposing players being good sportsman and being a good servant. Very rare these days and to know it happened at my former school, makes it even better. Way to go Hawks and way to go #42.”

• “This was a very touching thing to witness firsthand! #42 is the real deal!”

• “What an amazing story, true sportsmanship”

• “Way to go…this is how you can be a great human…what a great young man”

• “LOVE this! They may be opponents on the field, but this young man recognized a fellow athlete in need and helped! THAT is true sportsmanship and camaraderie! WTG young man!”

• “Awesome Young Man”

• “Sportsmanship is a class act! Good act bro!”

Officials react

Holly Pond High School Assistant Principal Janet Turner and other school and system officials received a note complimenting Garcia from a Morgan County Board of Education staffer, who also forwarded the photo that has seen so many shares.

Turner boasted to The Tribune about her student, “Although I haven’t known him very long, I wouldn’t expect anything less in him. Andy is a part of our ROTC program. He shows great character at school as well, so doing this on the field shows what a good person he is all the time. He is a pleasure to be around and always has a smile on his face. I am so proud of him! Holly Pond is very fortunate to have a peer role model such as Andy.”

Cullman County School Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette told The Tribune, “Such a demonstration of sportsmanship makes my heart glad. This young man is an example of the character that many of our Cullman County athletes demonstrate every week on fields and courts throughout our school system.”

Broncos Head Coach Mike Bates was proud to see Garcia lend a helping hand in a competitive game. Andy’s character is on display for all to see now, but Bates has known for a long time what kind of person he is and is happy to see a great player and young man getting recognition.

“Andy was a good kid long before that ever happened, you know. What the general public should know is there are kids like him all over the place playing high school football and he’s a great example of them,” Bates said. “There are a lot of good kids out there and he’s a fine young man. He’s one of our best football players, I think before he got hurt last year, he was leading our team in tackles and he’s probably leading us this year if I had to guess.”  

Bates is proud of Garcia and many others on his team for displaying character on and off the field and wasn’t surprised to see that character during last week’s game. Bates thinks the image of two young men competing hard while also looking out for one another is something we should all notice. 

“We’ve got a bunch of kids like him on our team, we really do and that didn’t surprise me at all. As a matter of fact, during the course of the game, when I saw I didn’t really think anything about it. Andy probably tackled the guy, if I had to guess. So, he tackled him and then helped him out a little bit, and the rest of the world can learn something from that picture; I can tell you that.” 

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