Blue Demons are losing their right-hand man
Over the past four seasons, McKinley Rorrer has touched the ball during each and every Blue Demon football game.
He has never once, however, worn a helmet or shoulder pads while doing so.
Rorrer has served as the Christiansburg High School football team’s manager since 2010 and will wind up his career helping the team this season as the only full-time four-year manager the squad has had during head coach Tim Cromer’s 12-year tenure.
From cleaning out coolers and preparing ice and water for the team to handling the ball on the sidelines during games, the majority of the 17-year-old’s days from August to December over the past four years have been spent working behind the scenes to aid the program’s success.
“When the first day of practice starts for these kids, he’s got to be here,” assistant coach Richard Compton said.
Often those days, especially during summer two-a-day practices, have required Rorrer to be one of the first people to show up and one of the last to head home.
“Many nights, before he was driving, we were one of the last people to leave the parking lot,” said Rorrer’s mother, Marie Rorrer.
His days filled with long hours of unglorified tasks, for McKinley Rorrer the job is about far more than simply staying busy; it’s about contributing to something larger than himself.
“I just love being considered part of the team … because I love everything about football, I just didn’t enjoy playing it as much as I hoped,” he said.
McKinley Rorrer was all but born into Christiansburg football. His grandfather, Luther Woolwine, was a leader on the football field in the 1960s and three of his uncles also donned the blue and gold on the gridiron for the Blue Demons.
As he entered his freshman year, her son had every intention of following in their footsteps, Marie Rorrer said, but shortly after practice began that season, McKinley Rorrer had a sharp realization.
“He just came home one evening and said, ‘mom, I’m just not having fun,’” Marie Rorrer said. “He was so torn.”
McKinley Rorrer said he went in the next day to inform Tim Cromer he’d decided to give up on the sport and when he did the coach pitched the idea of staying involved with the program by becoming the team’s manager.
After hearing what would be expected from the position, Rorrer said he spent some time weighing his options before deciding to return to the team in his new role.
“I was so nervous because I kind of felt like I let the team down by quitting,” he said.
Rorrer wasn’t alone in his anxiety; his mother said she was also slightly concerned about how his new role might be received.
“He knew he was probably going to be made fun of,” she said. “But he’s just never looked back. I think it’s been the best decision he’s made for himself.”
Despite his caution, McKinley Rorrer said the team welcomed his return and over the next four years he worked closely with Compton, and fellow assistant coach Dusty Cromer, to ensure the Blue Demons were ready for each practice and game.
“It’s good to see a kid that will come and do something like this because our school’s full of them and he’s the only one I know that would come out and stick with the football team every day,” Compton said.
Tim Cromer said he’d been blessed to have coaches dedicated to those types of managerial tasks, and having a student manager there every day as well had been an added bonus.
“It’s good to have a guy to turn around and say, ‘I need these bags, I need these footballs, I need these cones,’ and they can run and get; it that way the coach doesn’t have to do it and we don’t have to send a player to do it,” Cromer said.
This season Rorrer’s workload has increased even more than previous seasons because of Compton’s absence after surgery. This has included mastering some delegation skills when it comes to the junior varsity and eighth-grade players who volunteer to help during varsity games.
“He’ll kind of take the younger guys and say, you know, this one’s going to make sure the water … this one’s going to take care of the kickoff block and stuff like that,” Dusty Cromer said.
Being able to take on a leadership role is something Rorrer credited to the pair of coaches having taken him under their wings — and giving him the capability to step up and see what needs to be done.
“A lot of people don’t see how much goes into just making sure everything is ready before the game, during the game, and after the game,” Rorrer said.
Though much of his work is done behind the scenes, his effort and dedication is not lost on his fellow teammates.
“Everybody loves McKinley,” senior linebacker Seth Wills said. “He’s definitely a part of us, he’s been a part of us ever since we came out freshman year. He’s always helped out and always been there.”
The bond that has developed between the players and their manager is likely at the root of what Rorrer said was his favorite duty, preparing the team’s game jerseys each week.
“I just love doing that because I think about each one of them as I’m hanging up their jersey. It’s just kind of part of my ritual, getting ready for the game. They have their own process and that’s part of my process,” Rorrer said.
Come next season, the senior knows he’ll have to find a way to fill his newfound free time as he plans to attend college in hopes of becoming an elementary school teacher.
The Blue Demon football program is also well aware they’ll need to find a way to fill Rorrer’s absence.
“We’re going to have to find a replacement, that’s for sure,” Tim Cromer said. “He’s been invaluable to us and we’re sure going to miss him.”
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