Valdosta High School players earn their paws and stripes

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Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 10:39 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - You aren’t a wildcat until you’ve earned your paws and stripes.

Valdosta High School held their first Wildcat Stripe and Paw day. An event that allowed past players, dads, uncles, and brothers to come and share in the wildcat tradition of placing the stripes and paws for current players.

“It’s real special. The moment was surreal walking into the gym. I’ve been here before just the paw and stripe, you’re officially a wildcat. And it’s no greater feeling,” said Justin Williams a former Valdosta High football player.

Head coach Shelton Felton believes this event is very important to the players and the community. “Everybody in Valdosta know that when you put those paws on that helmet it’s time to play. And Valdosta has a lot of pride and tradition here. It’s a lot of guys that bleed that black and gold so I just wanted to bring them so they can teach the young generation what it means to be a Wildcat.”

The wildcats are the winningest high school football team in the country with a whopping 933 victories. Many alumni in attendance were a part of those early wins. Vincent Houston who was a part of the 1996 team who made it state, but now he has passed his helmet to his son and is looking forward to seeing his cub become a wildcat.

“It gives me chills like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. First time being on varsity, the first time putting on paw prints and pin stripes in 25 years. It’s no greater feeling in the world.”

The wildcats have moved up to 7A this season and are entering their second year under the direction of head coach Shelton Felton. For senior offensive linebacker Jarius Curry, the event served as a form of encouragement and motivation the upcoming season.

“It just brings a lot of joy to my spirit. Like it brings a lot of energy to me. It makes me wanna like, knowing that I have stuff to work for and a tradition to keep up makes me wanna fight harder for the community.”

Coach Felton hopes to make this an annual event.