Standing Tall

Senior quarterback Jake Sisson threw three touchdowns and ran for two more, senior running back Da’Quon Hollingsworth rushed for 113 yards and three scores, and the Jamestown Red Raiders rolled to a 52-14 season-opening Class AA football victory Friday night at Strider Field.

But the Red Raider who left the Martin Road Complex the happiest might have been a young man who watched much of the game from the sideline. For junior lineman Wyatt Foringer, a first-year player, just being part of the team has been a personal victory in and of itself.

“What I appreciate about him,” Coach Tom Langworthy said earlier this week, “is not just that he’s out to say he’s playing football. He’s generally trying to get better every single day. He’s asking about techniques and trying to get himself into better shape.

“He’s really working to get better. That’s what we ask of any kid.”

In reality, however, this is not just “any” story, and it’s certainly not one intended to chronicle touchdowns and quarterback sacks. That can be found in Jim Riggs’ game story on Page B1 of today’s newspaper. What this piece is intended to do is to illustrate what can happen when a student body opens its collective arms and figuratively embraces someone whose physical size and quiet ways often prevented his peers from seeing the strength of his character.

“He had always been the kid in the hallway,” said Red Raider assistant coach Richie Joly, “who was super quiet and basically (asking), ‘Why am I so big and people not know I’m here?”’

That is no longer a question. Yes, Wyatt is still a big guy- he stands 6-foot-3 and weighs in the neighborhood of 400 pounds – but he’s not ignored anymore, thanks to an evening in March when he was the Big Man On Campus.

“The tingling feeling from Wyatt’s night,” said Class of 2015 adviser Ken Ricker, “didn’t go away for quite a while.”

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Born in Jamestown, Wyatt and his family moved to New Hampshire when he was an infant and lived there for 12 years before returning to Jamestown five years ago. His dozen years in New England presented their share of challenges, however.

“Wyatt was born with an extra growth gene,” said his mother, Kimberley. “We don’t know when he’s going to stop growing. When we lived in New Hampshire, people would pick on him and they would bully him, because he was so tall.”

By the time he reached JHS as a freshman, Wyatt was, by his own admission, “very lackadaisical about doing everything and I was a real troublemaker. I just showed up to fill out the day and then I’d be done with it.”

But then, slowly but surely, Wyatt went from filling out the day to filling up his figurative cup. By last January he told Ricker that he would participate in the high school’s annual “Battle of the Classes,” which was scheduled for March 21 at McElrath Gymnasium. And when he finally received medical clearance from his cardiologist to participate in the extremely popular JHS event, the stage was set for something incredibly special.

Wyatt’s event? The anchor for the sophomore class’ entry in the tug-of-war.

With the gym filled to capacity, Wyatt, and football players Joe Mistretta, Jacis Blake and Cody Lange, among others, led the 10th-graders to victory, topping both the junior and senior classes. A photo of the sophomores’ success in that event is posted on Wyatt’s Facebook page. What the picture doesn’t show is the response of his peers sitting in the bleachers.

“Everyone was cheering for Wyatt,” Mistretta said.

“He became kind of a folk hero on the spot,” Langworthy added.

“That brought tears to my eyes,” Kimberley said. ” Wyatt is seen, he’s just not heard. He’s not the kind of kid to throw his name out there and say, ‘Look what I did.”’

On that night in March, though, his fellow students and the high school faculty let him know.

“It was deafening,” Ricker said, “and it was the greatest moment for a teacher and coach who believes in our kids. I have won many games (being) in coaching for so long, but Wyatt’s win is at the top of all of them.”

But Wyatt’s strength isn’t only measured by how much he can bench press, squat or, well, anchor.

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Wyatt, the youngest of Kimberley and Kelly’s three children, has shown maturity and compassion beyond his years. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Kimberley became emotional when she recalled how her youngest child took it upon himself to be a caregiver for her, even though he was barely in his teens.

“When I needed anything,” Kimberley recalled, “if I needed to get up or get re-wrapped, Wyatt was the one who did it, who stepped forward and said, ‘What do you need, Mom?”’

Now, fast-forward four or five years.

Upon being cleared medically to play football this summer, Wyatt – the owner of hair that hung to the middle of his back – had to get it cut, a prerequisite to becoming a member of the football team. It marked the first time in five years that he’d been to a barber. The effort to grow his hair as long as possible was intentional.

“I donated the (hair) to ‘Locks of Love’ for my mom’s cause,”’ Wyatt said.

By this point, the young man who was the anchor to a personally transforming victory in a tug-of-war months earlier, is doing a different kind of pulling this time – at the heartstrings of all who read this story.

“I think people who aren’t involved in athletics or aren’t around kids might ask why (we coach),” Langworthy said. “This is the reason.”