So often, and for good reason, we focus on the athletes and coaches that make the sport of football so great.
However, off to the sidelines–and out of the spotlight–are others making the game run smoothly. One of those roles is the ball boy.
And Rome Free Academy has one who is in his 48th year with the team–he’s 88 years old.
It began back in 1963, when Arty Newman got his start as a member of the chain crew. Then, one night, he had an idea:
“I said to the coach ‘I'll do the footballs tonight,’ that was in ‘65,” said Newman. “I’ve been there ever since.”
An 88-year-old ball boy is eye-popping, and yet, to Arty, his age isn’t what defines him. He’s known on the field for his dedication to the role.
“They [the referees] don’t have to look for me,” said Newman. “I follow right where they go. If they need the ball, I get it right there for them. If it’s a ball that’s out of bounds, I give you the ball, and I go get it and I come right back.”
He’s known off the field for his memory.
“He’s the guy that knows all of the history, so he’ll be like ‘that’s a former player there, I know the name, I know the stats, he was an all-state, all-league player,” said Jake DerCola, head coach of Varsity football at Rome Free Academy.
Some might wonder why he’s continued doing the job for 48 years–but the answer is simple: he likes what he does.
“It makes me feel young all the time,” said Newman. “I keep in shape the whole year for 8 games.”
“He’s always there, ready to go for the football season and it’s something he looks forward to,” said Coach DerCola. “He gives me a call in the beginning of the summer, middle of the summer, saying ‘hey, we’re ready,’ he has his own little countdown. He’s just like a player, he’s excited for Friday Night Games.”