MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — On a day when loud cheers were offered for anybody associated with McCallie tennis, the loudest came when John Wade hoisted the Division II-AA state team championship trophy over his head.
Only Wade didn't play a match in Murfreesboro. It's been years since he's played a match at all.
A lower-body condition has prevented the senior from playing the sport for the Blue Tornado since his freshman season. Yet the National Honor Society member didn't quit the program: He stayed around, serving as an extra coach who led stretching drills or worked out injured players with abdomen exercises.
"When John is watching your match, you have to be in tiptop shape," senior Hank Leathers said.
After Wednesday's 4-1 win over Montgomery Bell Academy gave the Blue Tornado their ninth state championship but their first since winning a fourth in a row in 2009, coach Jeff Clark spoke of contributions from everybody in the program, from coaches to players to "those just cheering."
Wade certainly was a part of that.
"He's become somebody we rally around," Clark said. "Even though he can't play, he's a part of this big tennis family. He didn't hit a ball this entire semester but was a part of our victory today, and I'm really happy for him."
Leathers called Wade the "heart and soul of the team."
"He deserves just as much credit as anybody on this team, for sure," Leathers said. "When he held the trophy up, that was probably one of my favorite parts of the day. It's great to see him hold up the trophy, because he put in more work than anybody on this team — which is weird to say because he doesn't play, but the emotional support that he has for this team is unbelievable."