By Chris Parsons / The Endzone Staff
From backyards to barstools, one of the most recognizable logos in sports history is the star on the helmet of the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys.
For years the Cowboys have been tagged as America’s Team as that big blue star can be seen on everything from barbeque grills to jailhouse tattoos, thanks to the team’s loyal followers.
When it comes to loyalty, there’s nothing like that of high school football fans, especially in the Tri-County. Because of that loyalty, when football season rolls around any one of the area’s seven football decals can be seen on bumpers, baseball caps, sweatshirts and windshields.
With that said, we asked the Tri-County’s seven head football coaches what makes for a good decal and more particularly, what makes their team’s logo special.
As far as local high school football teams, the Corbin Redhounds are a lot like the Dallas Cowboys, in the fact they have one of the most recognizable decals in high school football thanks to longevity.
A lot of people refer to it solely as the Corbin “C”, but the Redhounds actually use a white letter “C” that sits inside of a red football. The decal has remained the same with the exception of a short period of time when former coach Mike Whitaker replaced the “C” with the word “Hounds” on the side of the helmet.
If you ask head coach Steve Jewell what makes the decal so special, it isn’t so much the fact that it’s been around for so long. He said it really comes down to a saying that athletes use when referring to Corbin athletics — pride and tradition.
“It’s like I tell the kids a lot of times, people talk about Corbin’s pride and tradition, but if you haven’t gone through Corbin and experienced it, you’re really just saying the words,” Jewell said. “It’s something that you always feel deep down inside and it’s tough to explain a lot of times.
“It’s a big difference having the C and the word ‘Hounds’ on the side of your helmet,” he added. “To a true Corbin fan who has gone through the years, that 'C' is really special and it means more than just a letter in the alphabet, which is why we make our kids earn it before it gets just thrown on to the helmet.”
Knox Central Panthers
The helmets of the Knox Central Panthers have been kind of like a revolving door when it comes to decals.
From a panther much like that on the helmet of the Carolina Panthers' decal, to a gold “KC” decal, similar to the Kansas City Royals' decal, the Panthers have had a variety of different decals.
Last season head coach Scott Russell settled on the block numbers in a style much like those of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
How Russell and company got to the numbers on the helmet this season is an entirely different story.
“The biggest thing is we were trying to order something different and it honestly didn’t look very good on the helmets,” Russell said. “We decided to give the Alabama-style numbers a try and the kids really seem to like those.”
Lynn Camp Wildcats
Although the Wildcats welcomed a new football coach last season after David Mitchell’s departure, they didn’t usher in the new logo until this season.
Second-year coach Phil Russell switched from the Wildcats’ black paw print with white outline, which had been in place for more than 30 years, to a crooked paw with an Olde English “LC” in the middle.
The reason Russell went with the style of lettering in the middle of the helmet was to incorporate the lettering that the school used on Lynn Camp’s gym floor.
As for changing the decal, Russell said he wanted something that stuck with tradition, but at the same time could be associated with the school’s other athletic programs.
“We’re kind of an old-school type of program, so we wanted to stick with the paw that’s on the helmet, but we also wanted to add a little bit to it,” Russell said. “Anthony Pennington came up with that Olde English 'LC' design when he was the basketball coach and they’ve kind of stuck with it, so we thought we would incorporate it into our new logo.
“We’ll always be known for that paw print, so it’s a big part of the way we’re identified here at Lynn Camp,” he added. “Some of our kids have heard rumors that we were talking about getting rid of it and they came forward and spoke up, so we knew it was really important to keep that in the program.”
North Laurel Jaguars
The North Laurel Jaguars have been another team that has switched from decal to decal in the past, but current Jaguar head coach Chris Larkey has recently tried to get as close to one of the team's original decals as possible – and for good reason.
At last count, Larkey said he believe the Jaguars have changed decals five or six different times since the school's inception in 1993. He said he changed it a few times himself since his arrival in 2009, but felt like the decal on the Jaguars' helmet this season was one he will most likely stick with.
“When we first got here we changed the logo on the helmet, but they have had about five or six different logos throughout the years,” Larkey said. “When we first changed it, I felt like we needed to spruce up the helmets a little bit, but after a while I had a change of heart.
“We finally wanted to go back something kind of old school and I really wanted it to be plain and simple, to kind of symbolize our team in a way,” he added. “Just like people go to work every day, we wanted our logo to be kind of basic and maybe reflect a workmanlike attitude toward our team.”
The decal Larkey and company went with, a blue “N” on the helmet, is similar to what the Jaguars had when they won their only district championship back in 1994, but is a little different in size. He said the fact that most people relate North Laurel's signature blue color and the fact the “N” stands for North Laurel, had a big impact on the decision.
“Everything we do here at North Laurel, we try to put that 'N' on it to kind of symbolize who we are because we are North Laurel,” Larkey said. “From the younger grades all the way up to varsity sports, we all have North in our title and it's really a community thing in this part of the county.
“Any time you put a stamp like that 'N' on something, I feel like the kids will take a little more pride in what they're doing because they are representing North Laurel,” he added. “Around here you see that blue 'N' on every thing from school bags to T-shirts and bumper stickers, so it really a sense of pride for these kids to identify where they came from and what school they're representing.”
South Laurel Cardinals
When he was hired as head coach of the South Laurel Cardinals, Matt Rhymer said a lot of things needed to change if the football program was once again going to be a competitive one.
With that said, gone is the Stanford University style “S” the South Laurel Cardinals wore on their helmets last season as the interlocking “SL” that signifies South Laurel sports, made its return.
“I didn't really understand the 'S' that they had on the helmet last year, so I immediately got rid of that and went with tradition as we went back with that traditional interlocking 'SL',” Rhymer said. “Not only that, but I also made sure we had South Laurel put on our jerseys because what it comes down to is that we are representing South Laurel in every thing we do.
“We try to teach the kids to take that a step further in the fact that they are not only representing their school, but they're representing the people of the community that support South Laurel as well,” he added. “With that said, I feel like it's important to have a logo that people can identify easily and that 'SL' is something that has been around quite a while here.”
Whitley County Colonels
The “W” on the Whitley County Colonels' helmet has been there since the late 1990s and head coach Jim Black said he isn't about to even consider changing it.
Even if he did want to change it, he may be met with some resistance as that same signature “W” has come to be a symbol of the entire school system in recent years.
While it may be spread freely across the Whitley County School System in advertisements and ways to identify the district, Black said that “W” doesn't always come easy for players on the football team.
“I don't usually give the kids their 'W' until they've played well enough to earn it,” Black said. “I tell our kids that until they play a game for the program and really sellout for their team, they aren't going to get the 'W' on the helmet.
“I went against my word though (this year) and went ahead and gave it to them and it worked against Bell County because the kids really played hard,” he added. “With that said, it must be pretty important to the kids because they worked hard.”
Black feels earning the “W” is something that sticks with the players when the season is over, which in turn can lead to improvement the following year for underclassmen.
“You see these kids take these stickers off at the end of the year and they put them on their cars and stuff like that, so you can tell that they take a lot of pride in having them,” he said. “A lot of times they'll talk about coming back the next season to earn another one, so it kind of feeds over when you make the kids earn stuff like that."
Williamsburg Yellow Jackets
Bucking the norm as a team called the Yellow Jackets, Williamsburg head coach Jerry Herron said he feels like his team's helmet logo, a “WHS” inside a diamond, is as identifiable as any team in the state because it’s different.
He said he'd much rather have the current decal than the typical bee that is associated with nearly every team with the name Yellow Jackets.
“Any time we go on the road or anything like that, people just know who we are and I think our logo is a huge part of that,” Herron said. “It's just one of those things that's easily identifiable and even though it's a lot like the North Carolina State logo, it's not very common.”
The current decal came about in 2001 when current Whitley County coach Jim Black was at the helm of the Yellow Jackets' program. Herron said the design was borrowed the way NC State had designed theirs, but Williamsburg adapted a few things and made it their own.
“I really liked it from day one and I've never even thought about changing it,” Herron said. “It's something that we put on every thing we touch in our football program to identify and that's something we didn't have prior to the logo.
“When I was playing here in the 1980s, we didn't have a logo on our helmet, so it's given us something we can market and stamp on things,” he added. “I think it's also a logo that's easily used and very marketable, which is very important, because a lot of our fans and supporters put it on their vehicles and stuff like that to show support.”
So let the debate begin. We've talked about each of the seven Tri-County football decals and now it’s your turn. Tweet us at @Theendzonett and tell us which is your favorite logo and why. Whether it's NFL, NCAA or an NFL logo, we want to know which ones you like.
What each Tri-County teams’ decal means to them
By Chris Parsons / The Endzone Staff
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