Local Boy Makes Good

Since my beloved Steelers didn’t play in yesterday’s Super Bowl, I rooted for players instead of teams. Both the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos had players with ties to my roots in North Carolina. Russell Wilson (#3) played both football and baseball for NC State from 2007-2011 before transferring to Wisconsin University for the 2011 season and the signing with the Seahawks in 2012.

But Nate Irving, linebacker for the Denver Broncos (#56) is native of Wallace-Rose Hill. As we Carolinians would say, Wallace-Rose Hill is just a “hop, skip, and a jump up the road” from Wilmington, a 45-minute drive. For years, Rose Hill’s biggest claim to fame was being the “Home of the World’s Largest (Functional) Frying Pan,” which sits smack dab in the middle of the Town Square. It weighs 2 tons, is 15 feet in diameter and holds 200 gallons of cooking oil. It can fry 365 chickens and has been used at various festivals and events for decades.

But, the frying pan wasn’t the only cast-iron thing in Rose Hill. The high school football team was coached by the legendary Jack Holley who retired in 2011 as “the winningest coach in North Carolina high school football history” with a record of 412-95-9. On the night the football complex was dedicated to Holley, the Wallace Rose-Hill Bulldogs beat the visiting team 71-0, with eight rushing touchdowns.

Nate Irving played football at Wallace-Rose Hill for Holley and then went on to play at NC State from 2006 to 2010. Opposing (and usually losing) teams joked that the reason the Bulldogs wore orange was so parents could watch their kids play football on Friday night, go hunting on Saturday and Sunday, and report in to their parole officers on Monday mornings without having to change clothes.

After sustaining multiple injuries from a car accident in 2009 (a collapsed lung, broken rib, separated shoulder and a compound fracture in his leg), Irving miraculously went on to sign with the Denver Broncos in 2011. And yesterday, he started in his first Super Bowl game. For the people of Rose Hill, it didn’t matter who won yesterday’s game, there would still be cheers and tears of pride for a local boy who made good. (Of course, that didn’t stop some locals from swearing that if the Broncos lost, Irving would sustain the hardest hit of his career–a wallop from that giant frying pan!)

But enough about the good folks of Rose Hill, what did you think of yesterday’s game? Was it a day of cheers, jeers, or tears? Were you wishing you could yield a frying pan of your own? Did anybody make bets they regret like the one between Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan? Do tell. The game may be over, but football fun never stops…