Battle's bling: Spartans rewarded in style with coveted chains
COLUMBIA - Mitzi Weir has gotten a lot of “odd” requests for trophies in her time at Red Weir Athletic Supplies, but Battle coach Atiyyah Ellison had a request that was the first of its kind.
“To be honest, I hadn’t seen it until we started thumbing through (our catalog) and he was like, ‘That’s exactly what I want,’” Weir said.
A growing tradition in college football, Battle has adopted not one, but two different sideline celebration props this year — a “game-changer” and a “lockdown” chain.
“I thought if we could bring something like that here ... that would be beneficial for the program,” Ellison said.
The game-changer chain is a glitz-filled chain, akin to the University of Miami’s turnover chain.
It’s made of zinc alloy, plated with a thin brass coating, and includes custom art of the team logo and the words “GAME CHANGER” at the bottom. It can be worn by any player on the team who makes what Ellison described as a “momentum” play.
The lockdown chain was more of a homemade creation. It’s a padlock sitting on a heavy chain link and painted yellow and navy. It’s meant for defenders who come up with turnovers or tackles in big spots.
“I feel like when we make a play, sure, it gets seen, but that chain emphasizes it and it pushes people to want to force turnovers and play better,” senior defensive back Trevonne Hicks said. “It’s one of those things that just adds a little extra sense of pride.”
Through Battle’s first three games of the year, senior Harrison Keller estimated that 10 different players have worn either chain, but both he and Hicks said the jewelry was unexpected.
Players were surprised with the chains the day before the Spartans’ Week 1 matchup with St. Louis University High. Coaches wore the chains for all of that Thursday’s practice.
“Instantly, everybody was trying to earn the right to wear it,” Hicks said.
It showed in the Spartans’ play. Battle was unusually aggressive throughout its game against SLUH. Gerry Marteen Jr. took the team’s first kick return of the year to the house, earning him the right to don the game-changer chain first. The sophomore said the chain amplified the emotions of the moment, as it was his first varsity touchdown.
In the third quarter, Battle defensive back Quentarius Vaughn picked off Saint Louis University High deep in Spartan territory, but only got a couple yards up field before getting out of bounds.
Hicks said he talked to Vaughn about the play after Battle’s 52-47 loss that night, asking Vaughn why he didn’t try to get more yardage. Vaughn’s response?
“Man, I was just ready to wear the chain.”
Situations like Vaughn’s could be some cause for concern — pointing to the chains as a possible distraction more than incentive — but Ellison doesn’t see the issue.
“When you see how the kids respond and how much they start expecting that and making plays just to get it– it don’t matter the reason at that point,” he said. “If you’re making plays, you’re trying to score touchdowns, the incentive is irrelevant at that point.
“I don’t think it’s a distraction at all.”
The chains have added another incentive for players to perform well, but Keller also thinks the celebration pieces make an impact on those in the stands.
“If you’re the one wearing it, all eyes are on you,” Keller said. “So folks at school remember who had that on, even if they miss parts of the game.”