When the Somerset Youth Football League kicks off next month, seven-year-old Anykn Gumm will take to the field for his third season on the Purple Team. Gumm, who is a fierce defensive tackle, has already developed a unique passion and talent for the game of football.
Not only does the young Anykn Gumm love to tackle opposing youth football players, but he has great family support. And he also has a family with a little local football tradition.
Anykin is the son of Blake Gumm, who was a all-state defensive standout at Pulaski County High School and Illinois State University. And Anykn is the grandson of Max Messamore, who was an all-state standout four-year starting quarterback for the Briar Jumpers in the early 1970's and has coached youth and middle school football in the Somerset program for nearly 43 years.
"Football is pretty much all me and Max talk about," Blake Gumm laughed. "I never got the privilege to watch Max play in high school, but everyone I have ever talked to told me he was an excellent football player. So many people associate Somerset football with Max Messamore and his coaching. He has built a great reputation in this community and I hope his grandson (Anykn) will carry that name as well."
Messamore coached 22 years in the Somerset Midget League and has coached the Meece Middle School football program since 1998.
And while Messamore has coached almost every kid who has ever put on a 'purple and gold' helmet in the last 40 years, he just tries to be a grandfather to Anykn - and not a football coach.
"I don't really tell him anything to do out on the football field," Messamore admitted. "I let his coaches coach him. I am just proud of him. I have coached my son and my step-son, and that was a hard thing to do. So I don't really try to coach him (Anykn) on the playing field. All I want him to do is play hard and he really, really plays hard."
"Anykn is getting a whole lot better as a football player," Messamore explained. "He enjoys it, and he works hard at it. He has great support with his family, and that is only going to make him better. He played in Nashville, and has been to several football camps, and has done well at all of them. He is just learning how to play, and he is playing with a lot of enthusiasm."
Anykn loves the game and the contact, but he leaves the stats up to his father and grandfather
"I like to tackle players and get sacks," Anykn said in a shy voice, "but I didn't really get a lot of sacks last season."
But his grandfather, Max Messamore, stepped in and corrected him on his sack count from last season.
"He had a lot of sacks," Messamore said with a grin. "He is so young I don't think he knows how good he is and exactly how well he is playing. He had a big game in the All-Star Game in Nashville, and he had several sacks in that game too."
Anykn's father Blake Gumm also learned to play the game as a young boy in the local Somerset youth football league. With his playing days behind him and a young boy to raise, Blake Gumm found the perfect way to get back into the game of football.
"I played in the Somerset Youth Football League at a young age, I really liked it and fell in love with the game," Blake Gumm stated. "I played in middle school, played four years at Pulaski County High School, earned a scholarship to play at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas and went on to play D-1 football at Illinois State University. After my playing career, I wanted to find a way give back to the game. I got an opportunity to coach at the Somerset Youth Football League, through Anykn's Uncle Brandon (Brooks)."
Blake Gumm stated that he loves to coach football with the younger kids and try to help them prepare for their future. He has seen his young son grow as football player, and he has seen his confidence level expand on the gridiron.
"Anykn was kind of pushed into football as a kindergartner, and he probably had some growing pains starting out," Blake Gumm admitted. "At first, he wasn't really interested in the game, but as the season progressed he really started to like it more."
"Last year, he really feel in love with the game," his father said. "He got to start on both sides of the ball, and made a lot of sacks and tackles. In fact, he made the game-winning tackle in the Super Bowl. I am proud of how he has come along with his skills in the game, but I am most proud of the confidence that he has gained compared to years past. He no longer goes out thinking,'I might not be able to do this'. He now goes out there knowing that he can do it."
Anykn is especially excited about this upcoming football season.
With the addition of artificial turf on the varsity's William Clark Football Field, Anykn will get to play on the same field both his father and grandfather played on back in their high school playing days. As a senior at Somerset High School in 1974, Max Messamore played on the inaugural season of William Clark Field. In the early 2000's, Blake Gumm (playing at Pulaski County High School) played on William Clark Field in the annual Ray Correll Bowl.
"I am really excited to play on the same field my grandfather and my dad played on," the blonde-haired Anykn Gumm said with a smile. "There will be all kinds of people there to watch me play. I also get to play on the field behind the goal post."
Anykn's father and grandfather tried to press him on who he thought was the the better football player between Max Messamore and Blake Gum? Unsure, Anykn pointed towards his father Blake Gum.
"We played two separate positions, so you can't compare the two," Blake Gumm said with a smile.
But the one thing they all agreed on was a pre-game chant they performed in each team huddle.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.