The jerseys belong to professional teams, but the men whose names are on them still belong to Boyle County.
Travis Leffew and Jacob Tamme say what they were taught at Boyle had a great deal to do with why they were able to advance their football careers so far beyond high school, and they were proud that their school chose to celebrate their accomplishments.
They were chosen for recognition because they are the only two from a growing line of Boyle stars who made it to the National Football League, and they were honored Saturday at a ceremony in which they were presented with framed jerseys that will be displayed at the school.
And both men said they truly were honored.
“Part of what molded me as a football player and as a person was Boyle County,” Tamme said. “I know Travis would say the same thing, but it’s nice to be recognized.”
Leffew said it reminded him of how much his high school coaches did to help him succeed.
“What they instilled in us as players in high school, what (coach) Chuck Smith and the whole staff taught us, they taught us not to quit, to never quit on anything, to live your dreams ... it shows kids around this area that everything is possible if you dream it,” he said.
Leffew held a Dallas Cowboys jersey bearing his name and Tamme held an Indianapolis Colts jersey bearing his name during the ceremony held at halftime of Boyle’s boys basketball game Saturday.
Those jerseys will hang next to the case holding Boyle’s seven championship trophies, and the two said they were glad to see that case had been expanded since their days in school, when Leffew played for three championship teams from 1999-2001 and Tamme played for four championship teams from 2000-03.
“It shows the tradition goes on. They’re carrying the tradition on that we started, and you could say that it started in ’92 with Chuck Smith,” Leffew said.
Both players keep close tabs on what the Rebels are doing these days. Tamme said he was listening to Boyle’s win over Lone Oak in the 2009 Class 4A final, but when the broadcast started to come and go, he turned for help to a friend and former teammate who was at the game in Bowling Green.
“Jeremy Brummett was giving me radio play-by-play through the phone. I was getting a little bit of (announcer Steve) Bertram on the real radio, and I was getting a little bit of Jeremy ... and honestly, I cried when we blocked the punt, because I knew what it would mean for those guys,” he said. “It is really cool to be able to come back and to see the program still winning championships.”
Tamme, a 2003 Boyle alumnus, just completed his third season with the Colts, a breakthrough year in which he was perhaps the NFL’s most productive tight end in the second half of the season.
Leffew, who graduated two years earlier, spent parts of three seasons from 2006-08 on the rosters or practice squads of six NFL teams, including a stint on the Cowboys’ active roster in 2006.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything, and to be able to be able to be on the floor with Jacob after the year he’s had with the Colts is just a great honor for me,” said Leffew, who is currently an assistant coach at Lincoln County.
Both men had a number of relatives and friends in the stands, but they were also well aware of the others in the gymnasium who might have been watching them in the same way they watched the Boyle players who came before them.
“Kids look up to you the same way we looked up to the kids in high school when we were growing up, and of course I had two older brothers that I looked up to,” Leffew said.
“Any time that somebody that’s playing here says your name or mentions you as somebody they look up to, that’s really cool to me, because that’s how I was and that’s what I did when I was younger,” said Tamme. “I looked up to the high school guys as much as anything, so to still be remembered for your high school accomplishments is pretty special.”
One youngster who played a part in Saturday’s ceremony as the list of Tamme and Leffew’s accomplishments was being read was Leffew’s son, Peyton. The toddler smiled and waved to the crowd as his mother, Renita, held him, and he later escaped her grasp and stood in front the frame his father was holding as if to read the plaque.
“Peyton kind of took the edge off,” Tamme said.
“Him running around like that actually eased it up on me, too, because I was nervous at first,” said Leffew.
Leffew said he looks forward to the time when his son can understand the words he was pointing to and be proud of the fact that his father did something special.
“It’s going to be awesome for Peyton when he goes to high school, because the plans are for him to go to Boyle County, for him to see my jersey hanging on the wall,” he said.
Tamme and his wife, Allison, are expecting their first child next month, but he said he hasn’t begun to think along those lines yet.
“I’m just trying to learn how to change a diaper,” he said.