Warhorse roster includes a rare three-of-a-kind

Tom Flynn
Special To The Black Mountain News

Although only two percent historically ever achieve scouting’s highest rank, the Owen Warhorses’ football team has three Eagle Scouts in its lineup this fall.

Caleb Wells and brothers Sam and C.J. Gray have all earned their Eagle Scout rank this year and are key members of the Warhorse football team.

“I think that the standards and rigors that they have to go through to earn an Eagle Scout, from my understanding, are very high,” said Warhorses’ head coach Nathan Padgett after a recent practice. “I think that if you look at the commitment that these three have given to become Eagle Scouts, and the commitment they’ve given to the program, it shows the character and the leadership of these young men.”

Brothers C.J. Gray, left, and Sam Gray, are two of the three Eagle Scouts currently on the roster for the football team at Owen.

Those standards and rigors are daunting. They include 325 different service requirements, on average. They also require earning 21 merit badges at a minimum and serving for 16 months or more in a leadership position.

An Eagle Scout’s final service project requires hundreds of hours of work, in and of itself.

In fulfilling the Boy Scout creed of “Be Prepared,” an Eagle Scout knows how to hike, camp, swim, build a fire, use wooden tools, and use a camp stove. Should the circumstances prove more dire, an Eagle Scout knows how to treat a fracture, treat frostbite and burns, handle food poisoning, and even provide care in the case of knocked out teeth. In the event of natural catastrophe, they are taught to respond to the dangers of floods, tornados, hurricanes, or avalanches.

Wells, a junior “h-back” on offense for the Warhorses and a safety on defense, worked on restoring the cross-country course at Montreat College’s Black Mountain campus. He specifically focused on the bridge structures on the low-lying portions of the course.

He sees a more common, but increasingly rare, trait developing as a result of his combination of scouting and football: patience.

“It takes a lot of patience and time to be out here three hours a day, practicing hard, and then after that putting your time into something else, and being dedicated to it,” said Wells. “It took all of us three or four years to get to Eagle and it took a lot of commitment, but also patience in completing that task.”  

Owen junior Caleb Wells, one of three Eagle Scouts on the Warhorse roster, repaired the cross country course at Montreat College's Black Mountain campus for his service project.

Sammy Gray, a sophomore offensive tackle and linebacker, readily sees the common pursuits of being a scout and a football player.

“I think that having your Eagle Scout and being on a football team goes hand-in-hand. With the Boy Scouts you have to work as a patrol; it’s kind of like a mini football team,” said Gray. “So working with that team and then coming out here – really, they correlate together.”

Gray’s project was building an animal shelter and feeding station for Animal Haven of Asheville, requiring more than 490 hours to complete.

Gray’s brother C.J., a junior offensive guard and defensive end for the Warhorses, echoes the sentiment and sees also the interpersonal skills needed to be successful at both.

“When you’re in the Boy Scouts, you’re still on a team with people and you may not always get along with those people – same as on the football field,” said C.J. “But at the end of the day, we’re still a brotherhood and a family and we’ve got to continue to lift each other up.”

C.J.’s project was restoring a barn, also at the Animal Haven of Asheville. Like his brother’s effort it took hundreds of hours and involved removing rotted boards from the barn, and pouring, setting, and waterproofing a concrete base to prevent recurrence of the problem.

On this day, the three are in helmets and pads, walking through offensive plays for the Warhorses’ upcoming game against Polk County. Wells ran routes and took the occasional inside handoff, while C.J. stepped through inside traps and Sammy manned the critical “Blind Side” position at left tackle.

After the final whistle, they gathered with the rest of the team for Padgett’s final words before breaking for the day. They included a quote attributed to 20th century theologian and author, C.S. Lewis.

“You can’t go back in and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending,” said Padgett, preparing his team after a slow start in 2018 for its upcoming slate of conference games.

This summer, Wells honored his head coach’s influence by presenting him with a mentor pin for his key role in attaining his Eagle Scout rank.

On the narrow confines of a football field, when the player feet across from you may be your physical superior, there is only resolve or failure. In achieving an Eagle Scout rank, 98 percent of candidates that resolve to try, fail. 

In Wells and the Gray brothers, the Warhorses have a model of how to succeed at the hardest of tasks in both scouting and on the football field.

“We rely on a lot of heart, and those young men, they have that heart,” said Padgett.