BENTON, Arkansas — When Benton runs into the end zone, the Panther Junior ROTC runs out to do push-ups. Every. Single. Time.
The appropriately named Push-Up Club was established at Benton in 2013 by Master Sergeant Michael Billingsley and Lieutenant Colonel Farmer.
"We started it his first year here," MSG Billingsley said. "He's the one that actually came up with the idea. He thought it would kind of be a throwback to the college days of Texas A&M."
Six years later, the Push-Up Club is a staple at Panther football games.
"It's so much fun," cadet Lieutenant Colonel Sarissa Strandlund said. "We get to go on with the band, get involved with the student section and the cheerleaders cheering on our team."
"The kids are really fired up," added MSG Billingsley. "They're actively involved with the band, the student section. It's just a good, really family atmosphere."
Like the score with every Panther touchdown, the numbers of students involved in the Push-Up Club have been going up.
"When I came here in 2008, we had 47 kids in the Junior ROTC program," said MSG Billingsley.
Against Russellville on September 27, there were more than 100.
"In just my last five years, it’s crazy how big it’s gotten," C/Lt.Col. Strandlund said.
There's more to the Push-Up Club than just push-ups. There's marching, cadences and learning chain of command. But when MSG Billingsley looks at the Benton Panthers Junior ROTC, he doesn't see future military members. He sees students dedicated to improving their futures.
"Our program is really a character development program," he said. "The program really focuses upon getting students to graduate high school and helping them plan their post-secondary careers."
The push-ups just happen to make Panther football games a little more fun on Friday nights.
"For me, it just brings joy to my heart," said MSG Billingsley.
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