Roy Puckett loves to cheer for the Union County Yellow Jackets' football team.
That's not unusual, most everybody in Union County does. But few have shown the devotion that Puckett does, as tonight marks his 45th year following the team. In that span, Puckett hasn't missed a home game and has only missed about 10 games in more than four decades.
“I've always enjoyed football,” said Puckett, who loved to play the game on the Mill Hill.
Puckett became a Jacket fan as a teen-ager and went to the games in the early ‘60s to support his twin brother, Troy, who was in the band. He never stopped going and has driven the same truck to games for 30 years.
He doesn't enjoy the games alone. Puckett is surrounded by family and friends.
Richard, his son, and his friend, Randy Mitchem, haven't missed a home game in at least 20 years. Friends James Lancaster, Roger Bailey, Benny Gibson, Mickey Wingo and Donovan Wells have shown the same passion - although they've missed a few games along the way.
“I'm the No. 1 fan, my son is No. 2, Randy Mitchem is No. 3, James Lancaster is No. 4, Roger Bailey is No. 5, Benny Gibson is No. 6 and so on,” said Puckett.
Richard said the attendance streak just happened.
“It's a streak you don't think about and then one day you realize - I haven't missed a game,” said Richard.
If you're not familiar with Puckett and his group, they congregate under the press box, always in the same spot. Richard waves the big Jacket flag, which he and Wells made before the 1995 upperstate title game. The group shouts “D” for defense and “O” for offense.
“We started those chants,” said Richard.
Puckett shouts, “Come on out from down there!” on kickoffs.
Away games involve other rituals. Puckett has been known to go early to other schools to hold seats, once driving to Gaffney before school let out to hold seats for the night's game. Waffle House is the restaurant of choice after away games.
Home games are most special for the group.
“It's a good atmosphere to congregate, socialize and watch football,” said Richard. “It's a good time to be with my father and friends.”
Championship games are priceless. Puckett remembers the titles, of course, and the jersey numbers of some standout players - his favorites were Monty Means, who went on to play for the South Carolina Gamecocks, and Anthony Hunter, who played in the arena league.
“I turned 61 and can't remember like I used to,” he said. They're all good memories. I've always enjoyed going to the games.”
Richard said he's seen a lot of good players that ended up playing in college and professionally and his favorites are Means and Joe Woods. He said his favorite moment was the 1990 championship win over Lancaster, as Tracy McGriff and Anthony Hunter played. His least favorite moment was an overtime loss to Laurens in 1991 - Puckett said he thought his son would cry after that one.
Richard, who coaches his son Chase's Stinger team, played as a Jacket offensive lineman back in the late ‘80s, but Puckett only remembers one good play his son made.
“I follow the ball,” he said. “I go where the ball goes.”
Even though his granddaughter, Chelsea, is a trainer this year, Puckett's eyes will still be focused on the ball. He is so into the game, he's like a coach in the stands.
“A lot of times I know the play before they play it,” he said. “I tell them what to do, but most of the time they don't listen.”
And that's OK, because Union County football is more than wins and losses to Puckett and others.
“I love the team,” he said. “I love the game. I enjoy the company.”