Meet the algebra teacher providing 'Twitter mayhem' and more for West Point football

 

Theo DeRosa

 

 

WEST POINT -- Even for the math teacher, there were too many numbers. 

 

When Justin Vollenweider was hired to Chris Chambless' coaching staff at West Point in August 2011, one of his first tasks was reporting the football team's scores to various media outlets each week. 

 

"There was a long list of 10 or so different numbers," Vollenweider said. "And I just knew there was no point in calling all these numbers when all these schools can get information from right here." 

 

"Right here" was Twitter, where Vollenweider began to post Green Wave scores. He hasn't stopped since. 

 

Apart from teaching Algebra I and Algebra II at West Point High School, Vollenweider's role as athletics video coordinator for the school is pretty much all encompassing. He films the Green Wave's practices and games, creates graphics and videos for the team and runs the video board at McCallister Field. 

 

But the West Point Athletics Twitter account (@WP_Athletics) has Vollenweider's unique touch. The team's "maestro of Twitter mayhem" commands one of the best-run -- and perhaps one of the most light-hearted -- high school Twitter accounts around. 

 

Take the constant GIFs. Take the line "insert witty statement here" in the account description. The homage to the Atlanta bus blocking a live stream of the Georgia Dome implosion. Or this year's team hashtag, #TooMuchPoint, originally created by former Daily Times Leader sports reporter Will Nations.  

 

Let Vollenweider explain: Alabama fan Harvey Updyke was caught for poisoning the famed oak trees at Toomer's Corner at rival Auburn when he called into the Paul Finebaum Show. 

 

"He said, 'I just got too much 'Bama in me, Paul. I got too much 'Bama,'" Vollenweider said. "And so it just kind of progressed, and instead of saying, 'I got too much 'Bama,' I got too much Point." 

 

Commanding the video board, filming each play and running social media may sound like too much Point -- or at least too much work -- but it's doable for Vollenweider. 

 

"It's all kind of right there, you know," he said. "It's just one or two clicks away." 

 

The Mississippi State graduate, who has worked for the Bulldogs' sports video department, may not have much time -- and teaching one period of Algebra I and two of Algebra II certainly cuts into it -- but he tries to emulate his alma mater whenever possible. 

 

"One of the things that I try to kind of harp on is trying to make it as close to a Mississippi State football game as possible," Vollenweider said. 

 

That means getting players behind green screens for short video graphics, which Vollenweider creates using the Adobe Creative Suite -- Photoshop, Premiere and After Effects. A video celebrating a touchdown from Brandon Harris, in which the Green Wave quarterback flips the ball in his hands and makes a "Superman" gesture, is posted whenever Harris scores. That happened five times on Friday alone. 

 

That also means blasting music on third down, and if the McCallister Field speakers malfunction, as they sometimes do, coaches take it up with Vollenweider. 

 

"They'll come to me and say, 'What the heck, V? Why aren't you playing music on third down?' Vollenweider said. "You just become accustomed to it." 

 

That's especially true for Vollenweider, who said he never misses Green Wave games. Too busy running the video board, he was late on filming one play last week against Starkville, but that's an aberration. 

 

In between plays, he's got time to tweet away, and he often delivers. Sometimes too much when it comes to opposing schools. 

 

"There's been some people that have gotten their feelings hurt a little bit, but you kind of take it with a grain of salt and just understand that it's meant to be fun, nothing personal," Vollenweider said. "At the end of the day, it just is what it is." 

 

What it is -- one of the premier social media accounts for any high school -- has evolved a lot from what it initially was: not only a way for Vollenweider to post his own team's scores but a way to find others. 

 

When he started, "it wasn't ever really that big of a deal for a lot of people, and trying to find scores was the worst," Vollenweider said. "So now you can just literally type in 'Tupelo vs. Corinth,' and it's there on Twitter." 

 

It's also gone from a medium ignored by players to a way for them to get their names out there when it comes to college recruiting, Vollenweider said. That couldn't be more different now.  

 

"I think they enjoy seeing themselves on Twitter and being able to retweet that and like it and go from there," Vollenweider said. 

 

The account has also become a way for West Point to keep up with former players at the next level, be it Mississippi State safety Marcus Murphy or East Mississippi Community College receiver Jason Brownlee. 

 

In fact, Saturday's game between Memphis and South Alabama features three West Point alumni. Vollenweider plans to promote it as the #PointCityBowl, hashtag and all. 

 

But as many practical uses as Twitter can offer, one part can be easily overlooked -- the pure joy of it. 

 

"Twitter's gotta feel like it's meant to be fun," Vollenweider said. "If you're not having fun, what's the point of doing it?" 

 

 

 

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