Anthony Sullivan III, better known as Tre, is a wide receiver at Panther Creek High who is known for his good hands – but not the kind that catch footballs.
He and some friends were at a DECA event in Greensboro when they decided to demonstrate how quickly social media could distribute information.
Sullivan had heard about the speed at which risque pictures spread, but he wondered if social media users would spread good things as well.
He posted a picture of himself with his hands in the prayer position and used the hashtag #prayerhandz.
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“We wanted to track it, and there already were some prayer hands and praying hands, but nobody had used #prayerhandz with a z.”
Within minutes, more than 40 similar photos were posted.
“It was kind of amazing,” Sullivan said. “Boom, prayerhandz.”
The hashtag still is spreading. Students at several high schools in North Carolina have responded, and teams of cheerleaders in a Dallas competition posted photos, too.
Panther Creek football coach Sean Crocker said Sullivan, the son of former Northern Durham coach and current Catamounts assistant Anthony Sullivan, said he isn’t surprised Tre Sullivan wanted to do something positive.
“He is a solid individual who thinks about others more than he does himself,” Crocker said. “He makes friends everywhere he goes, and people are drawn to his personality. Quite a few students considered Tre a close friend.”
Sullivan said he is a Christian, but prayerhandz is not intended to be about any particular religion or to be evangelical. He said people of many religions pray by putting their palms together.
“Prayerhandz is a just good thing,” he said. “We just wanted to see if good things would spread.”
The prayerhandz pictures vary. Many are very casual. Some are at meals. Several teams have posed. There are crowd shots at basketball games with one or more people with their palms together.
The most popular image is of Sullivan putting his palms together in the background of an altercation between students at Panther Creek.
“The response to that one has been incredible,” he said. “People just keep retweeting it.”
Prayerhandz is not connected to the DECA program, which is designed to teach marketing, finance, hospitality and management, other than providing a creative spark.
Sullivan and his Panther Creek teammates at the state event were given scenarios and asked what a hypothetical business could do to reach its goals. For example, what could a business do if it wanted to attract customers or get more exposure for a product.
There has been some backlash to prayerhandz.
“People have criticized it and said it is stupid. That’s OK,” he said. “I think prayerhandz is a lot better than somebody making a bunch of gang signs or sticking up their middle finger.”
A few people also have posted images of the hands back to back instead of palm to palm. Sullivan calls them in the anti-prayerhandz.
“I’m good with that, too,” he said. “They aren’t bothering anybody. It doesn’t upset me.”
Crocker, the Catamounts coach, said Sullivan is a leader.
“He acts and plays like a coach’s son,” Crocker said. “Tre acts as a coach on the field in many situations. His maturity on the field is an asset to our team.”