BREVARD, N.C. – Moby Sorrels leaned against the fence alongside Brevard High School’s football field, the ring on his right hand catching the sun’s light as he watched the Blue Devils warm up before a Thursday night game against Owen.
Sorrels adjusted his ring – a gift he received three years ago, from the football program for his loyalty – and smiled proudly at an engraving that reads “No.1 fan.”
It’s a title he’s earned over the past 73 years.
Sorrels, 82, watched his first Brevard football game as a 9-year-old in 1944. He has not missed one since. His streak hit 991 straight games last week.
“My daddy took me to my first game, and I fell in love with it,” Sorrels said. “He instilled in us, me and my three brothers, the importance of football. He wanted us to be a part of it more than anything.”
Sorrels played football for the Blue Devils from 1951 to 1954 – back when the stadium was located where the current library stands. After graduation, he began working on the sideline as a member of the chain gang, the officiating crew that manages the yardage poles on Friday nights.
It’s a job he kept for 59 years, working alongside his brother.
In 2014, Sorrels was forced to retire after having double knee replacement surgery. But it didn’t stop him from going to games. After his surgery, he demanded that an ambulance bring him to the stadium so he could watch the game.
“If I’m not at a game, I’m probably in real trouble,” said Sorrels, laughing. “Football is what I live for.”
It’s also what has helped Sorrels through some of his darkest times.
In 1980, his wife Mable died of cancer. He turned to football for support.
“Football is what kept me going,” Sorrels said. “I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through that without it.”
In 1982, Brevard went 14-0 and won the North Carolina Class 3A state title 15-7 over Bertie County under coach Frank B. Robinson – the program’s first since the 1960s.
“There’s nothing like winning it all,” said Sorrels, who was one of nearly 10,000 people in attendance for that game. “It makes you feel like everything is going to be all right.”
Sorrels can still rattle off the names of players and stats from that team, and many others. He’s known in the community as an encyclopedia of Brevard football history.
“If you know anything about Brevard football, you know Moby,” said Chad Banner, a local insurance agent who played for the Blue Devils from 1997-2000. “He has always been around, and I’m pretty sure he could ramble off some names of players from 50 years ago.”
Sorrels’ home also acts as a museum of Brevard football achievements. Newspaper clippings line the wall in his living room, while signed footballs from the team’s past are preserved on book shelves and mantles.
“I’ve never met anyone so dedicated to a program,” Brevard coach Craig Pritchett said. “It goes to show you the kind of people we have in this community. It’s a great thing to have those kinds of people behind you and supporting you. It’s those kinds of things that make Friday nights so special.”
The goal now, Sorrels said, is to get to 1,000 straight games – a feat he could reach this season if Brevard advances to another state title game.
Traveling to road games has become increasingly difficult for Sorrels, but he finds rides to the game however he can, usually with the local radio crew.
“I’m not as spry as I used to be,” Sorrels said. “But I have people looking after me, making sure I can come out to every game.”
During games, Sorrels takes on a godfather-like role. Fans come from the stands to pay their respects to him, shaking his hand and discussing former glories.
“I’ve seen kids turn into parents and then grandparents. I’ve watched multiple generations play out on this field,” Sorrels said. “It’s something I wouldn’t change for the world. This is home. This is family.”