There are very few people as synonymous with one football program in the state of Georgia than Darryl Hawkins, or, as most people simply know him, the Trojan Man.
Running up and down the Peach County sideline every year since 1992 in a cape and helmet, the local board of education employee has been beloved by fans young and old in Fort Valley for two decades.
I started doing it just to get out of the stands, Hawkins said with a laugh. I was used to playing football and being on the sidelines, and it just got to where I thought that I could do something to keep the fans pumped up.
Taking cues from the Trojan mascot at the University of Southern California and building upon his tradition of dressing up in a football uniform to attend the games of his beloved Florida Gators, Hawkins combined the two to form his Trojan Man costume.
Im a big Gator fan, and whenever I went down there to a game, I always tried to wear what they were wearing that game, Hawkins said. I already had a helmet, and an equipment manager I knew gave me pants and a jersey. I just carried that tradition over to high school. Then I saw that guy at Southern Cal had a cape, so I made a cape.
Peach County has won three state championships and fielded one of the most consistently successful programs in the midstate since Hawkins took to the sidelines, but its first in 2006 still holds a special place in his memory.
Our first state championship is probably the most memorable, Hawkins said. That was something to win one like that. Up until we won that one here in Peach County, I never had a state championship ring.
The father of two Peach County graduates says he most enjoys being around the players, and he doesnt plan to stop anytime soon.
People have asked me when Im going to give it up, and I tell them, As long as I can stay in shape and keep running, Ill keep doing it until I cant or somebody else runs me off, Hawkins said.
The fans in Fort Valley are certainly happy to have their biggest cheerleader on the sideline for many years to come.
Contact Ryan Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org.