By Shirley Shuman
Football fans watch games, the band, and people coming and going. They also watch the sidelines, but what they see there are the chains marking the 10 yards for the next series of downs, the down marker, and, if necessary, measurement of the spot of the ball. How many, however, acknowledge the people operating this procedure? Braxton fans who do should recognize Eugene Lloyd, who has been running the chains or managing the down marker for 40 years. And he still loves it.
Lloyd explained how he began. “ At a Braxton football game….I always go to the games…., I saw my buddies running them and watched. It looked interesting so I decided to try it. This is my fortieth year, and, although I’ve moved from chains to the down marker, I still enjoy it. I like football and basketball.”
The 70-year-old, now retired from a construction career, worked with Richard Shaver, Earl Flint, and Freddie Lloyd for “20-25 years,” as fans in the know will remember. Freddie Lloyd, Eugene’s brother, is dead, and Flint is no longer physically able to take part. The crew now consists of Lloyd, Alan Shaver, Arnold Bender, and Jerry Riffle.
Indicating that there are individuals aware of this crew, Coach Deandre Williams noted that he recognizes the importance and dedication of the individuals who perform the sideline duties. He said, “Those guys like that keep us motivated, too. It’s amazing that they keep going for that long.” The coach added, “So many people support the players and that motivates them, too.”
Lloyd wants people to recognize that this job takes four individuals—two on chains, the one on the down marker, and a fourth to take care of the clip for the chains in case of measurement on the field. He also mentioned that the chain crew “get a lot of steps during a game.” Lloyd also talked about his running the chains while he was still working. “I’d drive two to two-and-a half hours to work and back in the evening and still make it in time to take care of that job,” he said. The only games he has missed during his nearly 40 years came because he was working night shifts.
Something else he emphasized is that he watched and “got to know” players over the years, then watched the sons of those players. Asked about the most exciting game or play he’s ever seen at an Eagles’ game, he responded, “I’ve seen a lot of excitement on that football field. but the only fight I ever saw was the one this year.”
In addition to working the sidelines for the Eagles, Lloyd and his crew have done the same for the Braxton Knights this season. “They needed someone, so we’re doing it,” he noted.
Obviously not one who avoids work, Lloyd explained that when his brothers, Frank and Billy Joe, who dig graves, are struggling to finish their jobs, he offers his help. “We learned to work when we were kids,” he said. “We didn’t sit around. Our parents saw that we worked.’
Eugene Lloyd obviously enjoys keeping busy. Last Saturday, after running chains the night before for the Eagles’ game, he said, “I thought I’d make some jelly today but haven’t gotten to it yet. I did a lot of canning this summer and have plenty of blackberry juice. That’s the jelly I thought I’d make today.” And if he didn’t make the jelly, he would have found another task to do. That’s the way he operates.