Cleats tied. Helmet and pads on. The bright stadium lights shine down on 100-yards of finely mowed grass.
The beat of the marching band drum can be heard faintly behind the cheering crowd of students, parents and cheerleaders as Chaparral High School freshman Tommy Christakos prepares to take the field of his first varsity game at 14-years-old.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 175 pound teenager has been spending his summer not only preparing for life as an AP high school student — but also preparing for life as a wide receiver and kicker for a varsity football team.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what varsity is going to be all about,” said Christakos in a July 28 phone interview.
The young man will be playing two positions, but leans more toward being a wide receiver.
“It gets a little more action and recognition it deserves,” he said. “I really just like being that type of an athlete.”
The Chaparral Firebirds will be kicking off the 2016 season against the Horizon Huskies on Friday, Aug. 26.
“It all started when I was doing Cocopah flag football,” said Christakos. “One of the coaches was talking about varsity and that there’s a possibility I could play.”
During the closing months of school, Christakos began participating in the Future Champs Academy, a football training camp for eighth grade students led by Chaparral coaching staff.
“I started training with seniors and juniors, instead of freshman and sophomores and that’s when I knew they would be asking me to play varsity,” he recalled.
Before summer started, Christakos said he only knew a couple of guys on the team.
“It was a little scary because I didn’t know many people,” he said. “Now, a lot of guys have opened up to me and I’ve built good friendships over the past few weeks.”
As the new school year and football season quickly approaches, Christakos will continue to look up to his role model, retired Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
“I would always watch him,” said Christakos. “He’s such a beast. I always try to resemble my plays like he does.”
Christakos has loved football since fifth grade, and adopted the same nickname as Johnson: Megatron.
With a new school comes new friendships, one of the exciting aspects of high school Christakos is excited about.
“This school year I’m looking forward to – besides football – all the new people I’ll meet. Chaparral has four middle schools combining. So I’m looking forward to making new friends.”
Additionally, the young athlete will be taking Advanced Placement classes and joining the track and field team in order to stay conditioned and work on athleticism.
“It’s really about time management,” said Christakos. “I’ve got to know what I need to do, and what the deadlines will look like – and balance that with football.”
In the future, Christakos looks towards playing at the college level.
“I would like to go to North Carolina because my dad went there and I’ve visited it once,” he said. “It’s a really good campus and I like how their football program is up and coming. It would be cool to play there.”