|Uncle Ray gears up for football season|
|Written by Wauneta Breeze|
|Friday, 07 September 2012 16:38|
Courtesy Photo by Tiffany Kafer | The Isanti-Chisago County Star
By Tiffany Kafer
The Isanti-Chisago County Star
With football season in full swing, Ray Lines is on vacation and ready to hit the fields, but not as a player, as a mentor.
For the past 11 years, Ray has been on the field with the Bluejackets football team, helping the coaches and the players throughout both practices and games alike.
In 2001, when Ray’s neighbor, Shane Weibel, a Cambridge-Isanti High School teacher and football coach, moved in, he knew right away that Ray would be a good fit for the team.
“He really liked football and I asked him if he wanted to come along and help out with the kids and be a manager,” explained Weibel. “He was so excited.”
Right away the kids gave him the name “Uncle Ray.”
Aside from his position with the Bluejackets, Ray has been employed as a maintenance worker at Cambridge Walmart for almost 12 years and has taken his vacation over the football practice season since he began helping.
“I like to help out,” said Ray, and help out is what he does.
From filling water bottles to getting equipment and even consoling and supporting team members, Ray is an asset in the Bluejacket football world.
“He gets water, he gets the bags out and most importantly, he is our team cheer-up guy because you can’t be in a bad mood when Ray is around,” said Weibel. “Ray’s going to smile at you, ask how you are doing, and he is going to put his arm around you and make you feel better.”
“I remember one time during right before halftime, I made a bad audible, and we ended up not scoring from the five-yard line, and then we got stuffed three times in a row. Coach Larkin was getting on me and I was feeling pretty down,” explained Sam Solberg, a 2008 Bluejacket graduate. “Ray came up to me and patted me on the shoulder and said ‘It’s OK, it’s OK.’ That is one thing that always stood out about Ray: He would always help you out if you are down. He always knew what to say.”
During games, Ray dresses up in his #00 jersey and cheers the team on from the sidelines.
“Ray goes to every game,” explained Weibel.
Whether it is a home game they are playing or an away game that involves Ray to travel with the team via the bus, he attends them all.
During games, “the coaches and the players need to stay in a certain area where Ray can go wherever he wants,” said Weibel. “In our films of the games, you can always see Ray down on the field and hear him hollering. He is definitely our biggest fan. It just wouldn’t be the same without Ray with us.”
The players have an amazing respect for Ray. One year, they all pooled their money together to purchase him his very own letter jacket that has a #1 on the side. In addition, he has a number of signed footballs and posters from players. Every year at the end-of-the-year football banquet, Ray receives a standing ovation from the players.
The “football coaches have been nice to me,” said Ray. “The players too.”
“The best thing about it is the kids see Ray and they don’t see a disability, they just see Ray,” expressed Weibel.
Anytime a player goes into Walmart to shop and Ray is working, he will yell out, “Hey, buddayy!” He is about the most popular employee, according to the players.
Ray spends a lot of graduation season hopping from one player’s graduation to another, mostly for the food but also to show his support for the guys, he said.
In his spare time, Ray says he loves to troll for northern, especially the big ones. He also likes to watch football on television, whether it is professional, college or high school.
Although Ray “bleeds blue,” according to himself, he is also a huge fan of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, since he is a former resident.
According to Ray, Bluejackets are No. 1, but the Cornhuskers are a very close second.
Ray spends two straight weeks with the players during practice and after his vacation is over, he goes back to work but still attends practice when the work day is through.
“Ray is steady. He is always consistent,” said varsity coach Ray Sperl, who has been working with Ray over the past 10 years. “He is here all of the time no matter what. Rain, shine, anything, he is here.”
Ray has dedicated the last 11 years of his life to helping players be the best that they can be and for that, they say they are thankful.