Sullivan County (Tenn.) has lost 21 consecutive games. There is a lot of blame and responsibility to go around when a football losing streak surpasses 10 games, but none of it should land at the feet of Gavin Rupe. That’s despite the fact that Rupe is, without question, the largest target for such scorn … in a literal sense.
As reported by the Bristol Herald Courier and MaxPreps, Rupe is one of the nation’s largest football players, if not the largest. Playing as a nose tackle for the Cougars, Rupe is officially listed at 6-foot-8, 420 pounds. The junior wears a size 19 shoe and is still finding his footing with his incredible size and sometimes blocks the view of linebackers behind him.
His jersey size? A 4XL, provided it is flexible enough for him to squeeze into.
All that size is also the reason for Rupe’s remarkable nickname: Shade tree. According to MaxPreps’ Lynden Ostranger, Sullivan County assistant coach John Thomas was in search of cover from the sun, saw Rupe and literally leaned up against the freshman with this exact comment: “I think I’ll get some shade under you.”
Rupe has come a long way since then, earning his starting spot at nose tackle and emerging as a constant presence in a Sullivan County program desperate to break through. If the Cougars do finally get that elusive win this year, they’ll know whose shoulders for the game’s hero to ride off on.