Thunder putting pieces together

By Marvin Birchfield

   As the seasoning opener draws near, the new semi-pro football team in Carter County is gearing up to bring excitement and plans of a positive impact to the local community.
   The Carter County Thunder has rolled into the region with the intentions of giving hope to someone who still has the love and passion of football.
   "Everything is starting to come together, and our first home game will be Aug. 30 at Unaka High School," said team owner Daniel Shell. "We've had a lot of support from different people, so we'd like to thank everyone who has helped us so far."
   Not only will it give some young guys another chance to make it to the next level of the game, but it also provides a veteran the opportunity to show he still has the skills to make it happen.
   "It's not limited at all, and anyone who wants to play can as long as you're 18 years of age, and it doesn't matter, if you're even 60. If you think you can handle it come," said Shell.
   The Thunder has high expectations for this season, especially since it is partly made up of last year's division-winning Tennessee Warriors.
   Unfortunately, the numbers, which are holding around 35, are not as high as the team desires. The goal of the owner and coaches are to be able to fill a 50-man roster.
   "We have more and more players showing up, but we'd like to see a few more come out," said head coach Bo Wilcox. "We've got a lot of quality ball players coming out right now, some from last year's championship team in Johnson City."
   Anyone who desires in having a spot on the team is already accepted. Whether it's getting time in a game or just being on the practice squad, you'll be part of the team.
   "We've got a 50-man roster we go by, but don't let that discourage anybody," said Wilcox. "You'll get to be a part of the practice squad, and then if somebody goes out you'll have the opportunity to play."
   The team is made up of mostly Carter County athletes, which brings some homegrown flavor plus a glimpse of the talent this region provides.
   "We've got a lot of boys from Unaka and Hampton that have shown up, but we could use a few more to help us out in certain spots," said Wilcox.
   The offensive line and special teams are the two most desired positions to be filled right now, so anyone who thinks they are big enough to tackle the challenge is definitely welcome.
   "We're looking pretty good right now, but we still need some more bodies on the offensive-line and the defensive side also," said offensive line coach John Adkinson. "The reason I'm out here coaching is help the young guys who missed an opportunity to better their careers, and to watch the old guys strap it on one last time."
   Another major dilemma that always presents itself when starting a new business, though, is acquiring the funds needed and the amount of people on hand to make things click.
   "Our goal is to build an organization for the future, and bring the same kind of excitement and success as what the (Elizabethton) Twins have become," said Shell.
   The Thunder is considered a non-profit organization, so the money it can generate will hopefully spill over within the community.
   "We're doing different sponsorships, and anything anybody can help us with is a tax write-off. We are strictly non-profit and nobody's looking to make anything," said Shell. "It's a good way to help our businesses in Carter County. There will be people coming from out of town to watch the games."
   The Thunder will be providing a car wash at the Pizza Hut along with a block party on Friday as a fund raiser, so everyone is encouraged to stop in and help give support for the upcoming season.
   Any questions, call Daniel Shell at 423-773-4023, Bo Wilcox at 423-416-3312, or John Adkinson at 423-232-8363 or 1-866-323-5444.