ATHENS — Philip Patton is a popular guy at night outdoor gatherings. Fires built by the Athens High senior have a reputation for being steady blazers.
Patton is proud of the skill. He wears it like a badge of honor.
Literally, as in the merit badge sense.
Patton is an active Eagle Scout, the highest rank offered by Boy Scouts of America. Patton and his twin brother, Bolton, earned the rank at the remarkably young age of 15, and they’ve remained involved with Athens Troop 245 ever since.
“I can build a big ol’ fire,” joked Philip, who along with his twin brother, starts at linebacker on Athens’ defense. “I’ve been known to build pretty big bonfires. They can get kind of scary.”
Bolton can attest to that.
“He’s always been the one good with fires,” said Bolton, who is two minutes older than his twin. “That goes all the way back to when we were little. I’m more into putting things together with my hands.”
Fire-building is one of many skills and principles the Patton twins gained during their time with Scouts. They’re pros when it comes to reading maps, tying knots … and, oh yeah, being good, helpful citizens.
Community service, commitment and discipline are the qualities that shine above the rest.
“All of the kids who have been involved in this, who have earned that honor, every single one of them have been outstanding individuals,” Athens football coach Allen Creasy said.
Creasy should know. Having Eagle Scouts on Athens’ roster is becoming a trend — one that he likes.
For the second straight year, Athens has senior football players who are Eagle Scouts. James McLin held that honor last season.
The tradition could continue next year. Junior defensive back Jarrett McLin, a Life Scout with Athens Troop 240, is close to earning Eagle rank.
“And I’m thrilled to have any kid who’s involved with this organization, because like I feel we do here with our football program, the Scouts are about helping develop young people into character young men,” Creasy said. “The values they instill in young people stand out.”
Becoming an Eagle Scout isn’t easy. Only about 5 percent of Scouts earn the rank, according to Boy Scouts of America’s website, scouting.org.
There a few reasons why.
The requirements to become an Eagle Scout are time-consuming. An extensive community service project of 60 hours has to be completed, among other tedious prerequisites.
For the Patton twins to earn Eagle Scout rank, they completed a lengthy project in 2010 updating the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Limestone County headquarters. Since then, they’ve been involved with community service projects that include assisting with cleanup in the wake of the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak, and a landscaping job at the Athens High walking track.
Selfless acts, indeed.
But for candidates, meeting the physical requirements is the easy part. Overcoming peer pressure and the busy lifestyles of today’s teenagers are the most difficult hurdles to pass. Being a Boy Scout usually isn’t perceived as trendy in high school hallways.
If anyone understands this, it’s the Patton twins. As two-sport athletes — both are also standout prep wrestlers — their personal schedules would be cramped, even if scouting wasn’t on the agenda.
“There were times when I thought about giving it up,” said Bolton, a two-year starter on Athens’ defense. “Being in Scouts isn’t always looked upon as the coolest thing. But there are scholarships available through Scouts, and that’s what I’ve always told people when they’ve said something about it.
“The good outweighed everything else. I’m glad I stuck with it because it’s a good thing.”
Becoming an Eagle Scout isn’t new in the Patton family. Bolton and Philip’s father, Roy, earned the rank when he was in high school at Athens during the 1980s, and the twins’ grandfather was also an Eagle Scout.
As a Scout leader, Roy has been involved with his sons’ scouting since the twins joined at the Tiger Cub level.
“The Scouts are a good thing because of the values they teach,” Roy said. “Reaching Eagle Scout isn’t easy, because as the kids get older, there are more distractions, like girls, games and everything else that goes along with being a teenager. But I’m glad (Bolton and Philip) stuck with it because, with the community service, commitment and everything else, it’s been good for both of them.”
Bolton agreed. According to the Athens standout linebacker, the values he gained from scouting have helped on the football field, at school and in everyday life.
“I really feel like it’s helped me become a better person,” he said. “For football, there are the dedication and leadership aspects. The basic principles Scouts instill pretty much teach you how to be trustworthy and how to live life the way you should. It has been a good thing for me. It has been good for both of us.”
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