The Tyler Junior College football team spills out onto the gridiron on Saturdays to show their patriotism and spirit in a unique way — one player carries a large American flag flanked by the others who carry a smaller version of Old Glory.
Head coach Danny Palmer said he started the tradition shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when he coached at Texas Southern University. He has continued the tradition at TJC since 2007 for all of the team's home and away games.
"We do it because we want everyone to honor the flag, and it's a good way to teach patriotism," he said.
Palmer said even the team's opponents have complimented his players for carrying the flags.
"We heard about it once when the large flag touched the ground," Palmer said, adding that he makes sure that the players know proper flag etiquette.
Palmer said he thought it was important to show respect for the national anthem and for his players and the audience to understand the importance of serving one's country.
"My dad was a World War II veteran — many players' parents have never been in a conflict," he said.
Intercollegiate Athletic Director Dr. Tim Drain said he grew up on military bases. His dad had a 27-year career in the Army.
"Every time we heard the bugle play taps at 5, we would stop what we were doing" to show respect, he said.
Drain called the flag display a teaching opportunity and said it speaks volumes about Palmer and his staff.
"Athletics can be a large classroom opportunity to teach students about patriotism and about honoring those who fought and died so we could play this football game," Drain said