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09-22-03: Marion student inspires grins and cheers at football games as Freddie the Flyer


MARIA STEIN — The Thobe family’s lawn in Maria Stein gets trampled each Friday afternoon when 15-year-old Ross hits the turf for “Freddie” practice.
He runs the Marion Local flag back and forth across the backyard in preparation for his role as Freddie the Flyer at each football game.
“I run around in circles sometimes. I do a touchdown dance, too,” said Ross Thobe, a freshman who has Down Syndrome.
Demonstrating his dance, he raised his arms to signal a touchdown then clapped for his “favorite team in the world.”
Ross Thobe loves the Flyer football team and was a member of the eighth-grade team last year. But after a close friend broke his leg during the season, he asked to quit, his father Nick Thobe said.
“We told him he needed to finish what he started,” said Nick Thobe, who added his son “bleeds blue and gold.”
His only son stuck it out for the remainder of the season and even got to play in the last game, his father said, but had no desire to return to the gridiron.
During the summer, the teen asked to become the next Freddie the Flyer and soon after got his wish.
“It’s amazing how all the kids, fans and even people from other schools look up to him,” said cheerleading adviser Dayna Kremer. “When he came out onto the football field for the first time, he was grinning from ear to ear.”
Before the first game of the season, Kremer said she instructed Ross to go out and have fun and pump up the crowd.
“He goes and talks to the little kids and runs up and down the sideline with a Marion Local banner,” Kremer said. “It’s like the community and the teams have adopted Ross.”
The blonde-haired boy tells everyone who’ll listen that he loves the Flyers best, but never forgets his other favorites: the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Each morning, Ross Thobe attends special needs classes at Coldwater Exempted Village Schools. Every Friday he brings Flyer mania to school with him, his teacher Julie Grieshop said with a smile.
“When Coldwater played Marion the other week, he kept saying, ‘You’re going down,’ ” laughed Grieshop, who teaches students from all over the county. “It’s funny. He walks in every week in full Marion garb. He takes a lot of heat for it, but knows how to give it right back.”
Freddie the Flyer was introduced as the school mascot in 1992 when student Debbie Homan donned the first blue and gold uniform and large cartoon-faced headpiece with glasses.
“The (costume) concept was a take-off on the University of Dayton mascot Rudy Flyer,” said Stan Wilker, the school’s athletic director. “In fact, we purchased the basic outfit from the same company in Cincinnati that U.D. used.”
But the bulky head gear prevented Ross Thobe from watching his favorite heroes on the field, so his mother, Beck Thobe, improvised and made him an aeronautical-looking helmet complete with goggles. The costume changes slightly for each sport.
Kremer said for a long time no one in particular was Freddie.
“It was just whoever wanted to do it that weekend,” she said. “We’re really hoping Ross will do it throughout his high school career.”
The Freddie experience has been a good one for Ross Thobe, his father said.
“Beck and I have always encouraged our kids to seek their dreams and expand themselves,” said Nick Thobe.
Nick and Beck Thobe also have two daughters, Dena, a sophomore at Capital University, and Katy, a senior at Marion Local High School.
Ross Thobe said he doesn’t know if his sideline antics help the team or not. What he does know is yelling “defense” and “get fighting Flyers” makes him feel like part of the game, he said.
Then with a polite nod and a shrug of his shoulders, he added, “I just love the Flyers.”


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