Michael Lawson isn’t from Maryville. He didn’t attend Maryville High. None of his family is from Maryville.
“I’m from Polk County,” Lawson said, “but nobody knows where that is.”
The super fan Maryville students dubbed “Mad Mike” four years ago was there in full voice as the Rebels defeated Maplewood, 28-13, to win the school’s fourth consecutive Class 4A state championship Saturday night at Middle Tennessee State University.
Maryville won its 60th consecutive game and record 11th championship overall with the victory. Lawson would love nothing better than to see the streak keep right on rolling.
“I just love the heck out of this team,” he said.
Lawson, a retired Army sergeant, first heard of the Rebels on his car radio. Returning home from a game one Friday, he and a friend listened as Maryville routed nearby Cleveland.
“We said, ‘What!’” Lawson said. “I said, ‘I've got to go see this team.’”
The next Friday, Lawson made the drive from Polk County to Maryville’s Shields Stadium. He’s been a fixture there ever since.
“I try to hang with winners,” he said, “and that’s what these guys are. They play the sport the right way and they’re gentlemen.”
Anyone who’s attended Maryville games the last four years knows Lawson, even if they’ve never met him. To be close to the action, he paces the grandstand walkway, following the line of scrimmage up and down the field. When the Rebels are threatened or pulling away from a opponent, Lawson lets it rip.
“‘This is Jim Renfro Field, Rebels!’” he’s been heard to exclaim. “‘This is your house.’”
When Maryville, pushed hard for two quarters, pulled away from Sullivan South in the second half of a Class 4A semifinals two weeks ago, Lawson uncorked an all-time classic.
“‘It’s spanky time!’” he chided the South players.
Lawson, a 1971 graduate of Polk County High, said it’s difficult not to get caught up in Maryville’s winning tradition. His enthusiastic cries during Polk County games are usually met with scorn.
“They don’t appreciate it in Polk County like Maryville does,” he said.