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Extreme Makeover – football style… Cyclones get locker room makeover thanks to team effort

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
There are many popular television shows now airing that deal with taking a home and completely renovating it to make it look new while making enough space for growing families referring to it as doing an extreme makeover.
For the Elizabethton Cyclones, although they didn’t have a house that needed some attention, they did have a locker room that couldn’t house all the players that are now a part of the Cyclone roster so a group of individuals banded together and did an extreme makeover – football style.
When the Cyclones come out to Citizens Bank Stadium on Friday night against the William Blount Governors, they will be doing so from a brand new refurbished locker room that has been gutted and rebuilt from the floor up.
With fresh paint, 89 new metal lockers that come with a lockbox for each player, a chair, name tags for each, along with five new televisions mounted on the wall above the lockers, and complete with signage all around, the locker room is something that is deserving of a state championship team and teams for years to come.
With assistance from the Citizens Bank Foundation, the Cyclone Touchdown Club, and the Elizabethton High School APO along with material coming from Big Johns Closeouts, Sherwin Williams, Dallas and Dennis Ornduff Painting, and Holt Sign Works the project took many hours to complete but now is something that the community can take pride in for its football team.
Many hands also had a huge part in making the makeover a reality led by project manager Taz Erwin with help from many parents including Craig Nave, Bryan Williams, Stacy Street, Roger Franklin Sr., Roger Franklin Jr., Brian Steven’s, Robert Wolfe, Jason Holly, along with head coach Shawn Witten and Cyclone Touchdown Club President Tony Briggs and other Cyclone football coaches and players.
“We started at the end of July,” Briggs said of the project. “That was when we were under the assumption that we were going to start on September 18th.  We have spent a  lot of long nights and every Saturday getting it put together.”
Head coach Shawn Witten said it had been 13 years since anything had been done to this magnitude to the locker room.
“There were small pieces renovated,” Witten stated. “2007 was the last time that old lockers were torn out and new lockers put in. It was completely gutted and wooden lockers put in.
“With this new project, we went from 74 lockers to 89 metal lockers with a lockbox. They are 24 inches wide so each player has their own space.”
There was a tremendous amount of work done to get the locker room from where it was to its current state including the installation of new LED lights to replace fluorescent lighting that was over 20 years old.
“They have done everything from tearing out the old lockers to tearing up the floor to hauling off the wood and putting all the lockers together and painting.
“The floor has been completely stripped all the way down to the original concrete. It probably had 40 to 50 layers of paint. It took 21 hours to get to the original concrete floor. We leveled it and smoothed it and also installed new drains. We got rid of all the bathrooms for sanitization reasons.
“Before we had lockers in the middle,” Witten continued. “For COVID reasons there is not enough space from one side of the wall to the middle so now we go all the way around with plenty of room from one side to the other.”
The reason for the need arose from the growing popularity of Cyclone football as the team is now well over 80 players and has a large middle school program coming in next year where there are 66 players on the T.A. Dugger football team.
Witten and others realized that there just wasn’t enough room to house everybody and if the project ever was going to be done it needed to be done sooner than later.
For Erwin, leading the project was a rewarding endeavor.
“I just happened to be the go-getter that they picked on,” Erwin said. “Tony was the brains behind it. He just wanted me to take the lead.
“It’s no different than anywhere else in the county. Football is the pride of the school and that’s just the facts. Anytime we needed anything, we just put it out there and it miraculously got paid for. It was a big project but it was fun.”
There are still some cosmetic things that need to be done at the completion of the season and for that reason, the Wall of Fame Fundraiser is still ongoing as a plate can be purchased for $40 to honor a former player, coach, or manager and be added to the wall in the locker room.
According to Briggs, the only thing needed is a name, the year(s) participated, and the position for players.
Witten thinks that the finality of the project came at the right time for his team.
“I think its important, especially now, that every kid needs their own space,” Witten added. “Every kid needs their own locker for their own belongings and now they have a lockbox where they can store their wallets and phones.
“There have been several mentions of a field house but if that is next week, next year, or five years from now – we now have something.
“We don’t want to separate the freshmen from seniors so we can keep everybody in one place so with the amount of space we had we just tried to maximize as good as possible.”
The coach in his 14th season also was proud of the effort of the parents on the team.
“We are fortunate to have good parents who were able to help us and reach out there and get other parents and people to help us,” Witten stated.
“A lot of these guys did a majority of work on their own time.”