REIDSVILLE — Ever since they were young boys and first began participating in sports, Christopher Shoemaker and Jordan Harrison had only to look in the bleachers to know their biggest supporter was there cheering them on.
Anita Gentry “Gamma” Gibson sat in those stands decked out in her grandsons’ team colors, often covered with a blanket in cold weather, holding an umbrella when it rained, or blotting out sweat running down in her eyes, and watched proudly as they made their first goals, shuddered when one took a hard hit and congratulated them whether they won or lost.
“She has been in the stands ever since I was a child,” Jordan said. “Not just for football but when I played any sport — baseball, basketball, soccer and wrestling. I was in all sorts of stuff, and she was always there.”
“I used to play baseball for Reidsville Recreation Department, and she was always at all of those games unless something major happened or she was called in to work,” Christopher said.
“It was always comforting seeing her there at every game — sharing, supporting and hollering at every game,” adding he always knew his Gamma’s voice — especially when he scored a touchdown or got a hit. Even when he wasn’t on the field, Gamma was always cheering on his team. Her husband, Tim, was there, too, most times.
Jordan lives and Greensboro, Gibson in Reidville. “It meant a lot to me knowing ... knowing how far Gamma was willing to go,” Jordan said. “When I got up to high school ball, she was up there in the stands with my mom and the rest of my family with a blanket on. She was always there for me.”
However, as the boys matured and it was evident their talents on the football field might lead to college sports careers, Gibson, a native of Pelham, began thinking — and worrying — that one day they might be playing on competing teams. Gamma didn’t know how she could support each at those times.
Would she be cheering one on from the opposite team’s stands? Would she sit in one area and cheer whichever grandson’s team had the ball?
This spring, Gibson’s fears were abated when first, Christopher, and then Jordan called to tell their beloved cheerleader each had been awarded an academic scholarship to Guilford College.
Now Gamma wouldn’t have to decide which football game to attend as she would be sitting in the Guilford College stands, yelling even louder as both grandsons ran onto the field in their crimson and grey Quaker colors.
Gibson, who graduated in 1971 from Ruffin High School, admits she “was thrilled beyond her imagination. I never dreamed that both of them would play football on the same college teams.”
Founded in 1837 by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) as a co-educational boarding school, the institution evolved into serving young people of every religious affiliation and those with none at all.
Their crimson and grey teams are in the NCAA Division III and the 2017 football team ended with a 5-5 record and 5-3 against NCAA Division III competitors.
Although the cousins never competed against each other except in backyard sports, both said they are looking forward to being on the same team.
Now, Christopher will be a quarterback, and Jordan, a defensive tackle for the team. Born nine days apart, the boys now are 18. Christopher will graduate from Rockingham County High School on June 9, and Jordan, from Northwest Guilford High School on June 13.
Son of Gwan and Beverly Stephens Harrison of Greensboro, Jordan will major in business and exercise and sports science with hopes to open up his own gym.
Christopher, son of Dwayne and Beth Shoemaker of Ruffin, will major in criminal justice, planning to become a law enforcement officer.
He started playing competitive sports when he was six or seven and played t-ball. As he grew older, he participated in baseball and football for the recreation department and Rockingham Middle School. He played two years of baseball and football all four years in high school.
“I am really looking forward to going to Guilford College and continuing playing football,” Christopher said. “It’s something I love very much. It’s exciting; it’s a new journey. It’s basically the next step into my new life and my adulthood.”
Jordan also started sports at a young age and was on several teams at the Greensboro YMCA and Summerfield Recreation Department. He started school sports in the seventh grade at Kernodle Middle School in Greensboro.
Gamma is “as proud of them as I can be,” Gibson said, adding, “They are kind; they are loyal; and they will be a great asset to that team because both of them give everything they’ve got. They are team spirited. They want the whole team to do well.”
“I hope I have had some influence on them,” Gibson said.
The cousins look forward to having their grandmother cheering for them in the stands.
“It’s going to be really nice,” Christopher said. “In high school, the only time she missed my games was when she was at Jordan’s game. It’s going to be nice having her in the stands cheering both of us on at the same time.”
One thing is for certain, when the Guilford College Quakers football team races onto the field for the first time, one of the proudest — and yes, loudest — fans in the stands will be Anita Gibson — continuing her tradition of always being on the sidelines for her grandsons.