Illinois Valley Central graduate and legend Ernie Van Dyke knows how much fans of the Grey Ghosts count on him to race down the sideline at football and soccer games.


Illinois Valley Central graduate and legend Ernie Van Dyke knows how much fans of the Grey Ghosts count on him to race down the sideline at football and soccer games.

“I feel like running with the flag gives me power to help the team win,” Van Dyke said. “When I run with the flag, the people get up and cheer louder for the team.”

Since Van Dyke’s senior year at IVC, he has been helping get fans on their feet with his flag runs.

“When we played Dunlap, they ran with a Dunlap flag,” Van Dyke said. “So I asked our coach if we had a flag and he said we did, and I have ran with it ever since.”

During his time at IVC, Van Dyke also participated in several sports and found a love of competing.

“In high school I wrestled, played football and did track,” Van Dyke said. “In my senior year for wrestling, Coach put me in the last meet of the season and I pinned the guy. I finished 1-0, it was great.”

After Van Dyke graduated, he began to swim in the Illinois Special Olympics, culminating with a State championship recently in the 100m freestyle.

“When I was in football and wrestling, I thought I wasn’t good enough to compete,” Van Dyke said. “The Special Olympics sign-up came in the mail and I’ve done it ever since.

“It’s exciting because my brother, Jeffrey Bybee, went to State for wrestling my senior year so it’s great for me to finally go to State.”

Van Dyke first made it to State in 2006 and finished second in the 25-meter freestyle.

“I like my swim team very much,” Van Dyke said. “It took some time to get used to it. After my first year, I knew that I would need to work hard.”

Despite knowing he would need to work harder to get to State, Van Dyke took home two gold medals from his first year at district.

Throughout his success, Van Dyke’s main passion in sports is still IVC.

“Everybody always asks me if I’m still going to do the flag,” Van Dyke said. “I can’t imagine not doing the flag runs. As long as I’m here, I’ll be running with the flag. I love it.”

The spirit flag, however, is not the only thing Van Dyke uses to get fans fired up on cold nights.

Since 2009, Van Dyke has brought his replica WWE championship belt to sporting events.

“It came from my mom as my Christmas present,” Van Dyke said. “The first game I carried it to was a volleyball game. Then I started taking it to basketball. It’s nice because I can take it to indoor games.”

While football may still a bit away, Van Dyke is ready for the season.

“I like the summer but I’m excited for football to start,” Van Dyke said. “I usually go to all the home games, unless I have to work, and some of the away games. I think the team can have a good season and make the playoffs. I can’t wait for it to start.”

In the meantime, Van Dyke wants to up the ante this season.

“I want to do a torch run for the first game,” Van Dyke said. “If I can’t, then I’ll definitely at least be out there with the flag.”

While Van Dyke’s torch is not set, there is one thing of which he is certain.

“The fans are really great,” Van Dyke said. “They see me, and they love me and what I’m doing, and it makes me feel great.”