Matthew Greiner wanted to be a part of the football program at Grimsley. And Darryl Brown, the coach of the Class 4-A defending state champions, had a perfect job for him.
"He said just anything, he'd like to be a part of it," Brown says.
So Brown is putting a video screen and a joystick in the hands of Matthew, who spends Friday nights seated behind an end zone and beneath a camera hoisted 30 feet into the air at Whirlies football games. The 15-year-old sophomore, a son of Allison and Bobby Greiner, captures the end-zone camera angle of the game, zooming in and out on players as needed, and the system Grimsley uses transmits his work and images from a sideline camera to coaches to teach their players on the sidelines.
"They have a big tablet that they use," Matthew says, "so they can look over the plays that I send."
His role with his football team is important. His role as the namesake of the Miles for Matthew 5K is inspirational, given that the event has raised more than $350,000 in its first 12 years to help people such as Matthew who were diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that causes deterioration of skeletal, heart and lung muscles.
The 13th running of the fundraiser race – so successful annually that Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy budgets for it – will again be directed by his mother, on Sept. 25, starting and ending at Lindley Elementary School. You can click here to learn more, sign up or donate.
"It's been a real community event, which we've liked," Allison Greiner says. "This year, our youngest runner is 4. And our oldest runner has been in the 70s. People bring their dogs, people bring their strollers."
Parents bring their school-aged children, too, including students from Lindley and from Kiser, where cross country coach Hollis Oberlies has pushed participation at the middle school. And the entries, already numbering nearly 250, include F3 Greensboro and FiA Sistas, plus some of the colleagues and former co-workers of a Grimsley French teacher known as Madame Greiner last year by her freshman student Matthew.
"It just is such a community thing," Allison Greiner says. "And people come in and they'll help us and they'll hang out for a little while and chat and talk. And it is at the foot of our street, so we walk home afterward."
She has enjoyed directing, enjoyed helping others, although she has set an end date for the race, a 15th edition in fall 2023, to coincide with Matthew's senior year at Grimsley.
Matthew, she says, won't benefit from all of the successful fundraising, but others will.
"He's reached his peak," she says. "Now is our goal is just to make sure that anybody who's diagnosed from now on has a long, healthy life. Mobility and health. So that's our goal."
And in the short term, helping Grimsley win more football games, maybe even another state championship, will be Matthew's goal. He missed the win at Southern Pines Pinecrest last week because of a family trip, but he is hopeful the team that has won its first three games can return to championship form after seeing it wobble against Reagan in Winston-Salem the previous week.
"We were doing terrible in the first half," he says. "We were trailing 12 to zero. They did not look that great in the first half. It looked like they were going to lose, but then they came back and won."
Matthew, true to his team, wouldn't give up much information about Travis Shaw, the injured five-star defensive lineman who has announced he will play at Carolina next season. But in an era in which college athletes are known to skip bowl games to avoid injury risks before the NFL draft, Matthew isn't so sure they'll be able to keep the 6-foot-6, 325-pound Shaw off the field at Grimsley, even if it's just for a few games or for the playoffs.
"He loves his team," Matthew says.
Matthew, a 21st-century teen who can tell you about Joe Namath, loves his teams, too. Matthew is a Carolina Panthers fan, having met Luke Kuechly and Cam Newton and seen their teams play. He's seen a Clemson-State game in Raleigh and backs the Pack, and he's fond of Appalachian State, too.
But it's Grimsley first, starting with Southeast Guilford on Friday night at Jamieson Stadium, and then a visit to Northwest Guilford on the eve of the Miles for Matthew 5K.
He’s liking being a part of it.
"What he does is extremely important to us," the Whirlies coach Brown says, "and we know that we can count on him every Friday."