COVINGTON, Ga. - If you have ever been to an Eastside home softball game, then you know who Bryant Autry is.
Just in case you went and you were not sure, do you recall the energetic fan that led the crowd in cheers throughout the course of the game, no matter the score? That's Bryant Autry.
He's the heartbeat of the crowd, and he does an excellent job of making sure that the energy level is all the way up from start to finish. He loves Eastside and their sports teams almost as much as they love him, and the softball team wanted to show Autry how much they truly appreciated him.
At a surprise ceremony, The Eagles softball team gave Autry his very own jersey and a trophy that came with a softball signed by the members of the team.
He is notorious for leading chants that spell out "Eastside," or "Eagles," at any time from sporting events to even at lunch, according to Eagles senior quarterback Noah Cook. In fact, at his surprise ceremony, he led those very chants twice throughout the event.
His fame has led to him even being heralded by other schools as one Eastside softball parent noted that a Newton Rams parent said: "How do we get him (talking about Autry) to come cheer for us?"
That statement alone is a true testament to how much Autry stands out in the crowd as a super fan for the Eagles.
Bryant is a special needs student at Eastside high school, and just the accepting nature of the student body and the love shown towards him has warmed the heart of his mother, Heather Autry. She always worried about how other students might treat her son, but after seeing how the Eastside student body and faculty reacted, she knows he is in good hands there.
"It's special. He's really gotten so much from being here, and they really have treated him as a special person, and that gets me right here," Autry said while patting her heart. "At the last (football) game, they had a huge banner up that said 'We love you, Bryant. Happy birthday,' because the game was just the day before his birthday, so he always just feels so welcomed here, and that gives me peace of mind."
Always wearing a big smile and having an ecstatic personality, Autry's enthusiasm did not go unnoticed by members of the Eagles fanbase, and certain members came together with the idea of honoring Autry at this surprise ceremony.
Eagles softball head coach Heather Wood played a role in helping set up this ceremony but credited most of the idea to Terry Ozburn of Ozburn Electric in Covington. Ozburn said frequently he sat with Bryant during the games and his passion for the Eagles always stood out and earned him a definite title in his mind.
"He's unequivocally Eastside's number one fan. Nobody touches his pride, his spirit and his excitement. He just deserves this," Ozburn said. "With his personality, he's very charismatic and bubbly, and when he gets around you, his happiness is contagious. He gets everybody excited, the players, the fans and the coaches."
Ozburn said the various phrases that Autry would use over the course of a game always stood out to him and just overall made the game even more enjoyable, which made him so deserving of some form of honor.
Autry's efforts during softball games did not go unnoticed for coach Wood either, and she was just appreciative of his outpouring of enthusiasm throughout the course of the season.
"He is near and dear to our team and has just made such a positive impact for our entire softball family, and I'm so thankful that today we can actually celebrate him because he does so much for our athletic teams here," Wood said. "Our home games have been so special, and a lot of it has to do with him and not only his support, but he really gets the crowd going, and the energy he brings is priceless."
As Wood mentioned, Autry's impact is not just on the softball team, it extends to the other sports at Eastside as well. Football is another sport that Autry seems to always make his presence known, and as the Eagles quarterback, Cook was just as happy to see Autry honored.
"He's great, and I love Bryant, and he loves everybody so much. He loves getting everybody pumped up, and he loves sports. He just loves being the biggest fan, and we love him back for it," Cook said. "He just gets everybody going, and even with the disabilities he does have, he just has so much joy and brings you joy and makes you want to be there and be happy."
Autry was full of energy throughout the ceremony, and although he kept his answers short, it was still easy to see how happy he was with this ceremony and told what sport he's looking forward to next.
"I love them, and it's awesome," said Bryant Autry. "Basketball."
Bryant is actually set to finish up school this month according to his mother, but even though his time at Eastside may be coming to an end, his mother knows that his fandom will continue to shine bright over the Eagles.
"He's leaving this month, but I've told them that you won't get rid of him because he already told me that he's going to go to all the games," said Heather Autry.