Special to Greensborosports.com:
A friend of mine asked me to do an article concerning high school athletes and I
thought about it for nearly a year before I decided to write it and have it posted
on a site/blog with a message board where emotions tend to run pretty high. He wanted me to write it because he had the opportunity to read and see where I had participated in high school athletics and at the collegiate level and had some measure of success. So, I finally agreed and hopefully to the young athletes and readers this helps. I personally do not expect everyone to agree for whatever their reasons may be, but I do challenge one to always based decisions on the facts and nothing more. Its been said through the sages “Any man can be wrong with his opinion but, he can never afford to be wrong with his facts”.
I was an athlete from Miami, Florida in Dade County where some of the best football
players from around the country play. I attended Miami Northwestern which was the
USA TODAY number #1 ranked football team in the country in 2007 led by Miami
Hurricane quarterback Jacory Harris. I was a two year starter back in the mid 70’s
and was the first African American quarterback to make both All City, All County
and Honorable Mention All State quarterback since integration. I made Honorable
Mention All City and County in Baseball and lettered in Basketball. My senior year I
was chosen as MVP of my football team and was selected as an Allstar for American
Legion Baseball team and was the winning pitcher in the American Legion Baseball
Allstar game. I was fortunate to play with Kendall Tiny Pender (Globe Trotters) who later
starred at North Carolina State University in Basketball. Northwestern High has
probably produced more pro football athletes then any other single high school in the nation. Such notables have come through the program: Marvin Jones
(FSU-Jets), Brett Perriman (UM-Lions), Antonio Bryant (Pittsburg- Tampa Bay),
Buster Ryhmes (Oklahoma-Minnesota), Melvin Bratton (UM-Denver), Nate Webster
(UM-Denver), Tony Martin (Dolphins), Stump Mitchell (Citadel- Cardinals), Larry
Brinson (UF-Dallas Cowboys), Snoop Minnis (FSU-Kansas City Chiefs), Vernon Carey
(UM-Dolphins), Roger Fenny (St.Louis Cardinals), Elijah Mc sweeney (New York
Knicks), Tim James (UM-Miami Heat), Corey Louis (FSU), Mickey Rivers (Yankees),
Lonnie Hepburn (Texas Southern- Baltimore Colts), Robert Moss (Jackson State-Jets),
Fred Warren (FAMU-Lions) etc… The fan base was incredible. We played our games
in the Orange Bowl where at times we would have 30,000 plus fans on numerous
occasions. Miami Dade junior college which they have recently named the stadium
Traz Powell stadium could only hold 10,000 and that was always solded out.
I was fortunate to make All City and County with the likes of Reggie Kenlaw
(Oklahoma-Raiders), Willie Jones(FSU-Raiders), Hector Gray (FSU-Detroit Lions), Al
Richardson (GTech-Falcons), Leonard Mills (Ohio State). Got to play in High school
against John Harris (Arizona State-Seattle Seahawks), Michael Thompson (Minnesota-
Trailblazers-Lakers), Elliot Walker (other back with Toney Dorsett: Pittsburgh-49ers), Elvis Peacock (Oklahoma-Rams) etc..
Our fans were brutally honest when it came to players. If you did not have it they
would let you know. Momma and Daddy could get mad all they want but the reality was
many times if you could not take it, normally one would quit which rarely happened.
It was never about as long as little suzie or little johnny just play hard it was
all well and good. Either you produced or you did not. Now, I am not saying that I
always agreed with it, but the REALITY is it made you a better person and player if
you really had what it took. It challenged you to work harder to get better. It was
not for the weak or those with lame excuses from parents thinking someone was doing
their child wrong. Most kids on that team never even went home complaining nor did
the parents complained because they were on the side of the coaches and would let
their kids understand that from the very beginning; Because of that type of
atmosphere and discipline wrapped around hard work, it allowed me an opportunity to earn a scholarship to Tenneessee Tech University of the Ohio Valley Conference. (Scholarships are earn and not given). Had over a 3.0 grade point average while taking high quality type courses such as Trigonometry, Chemistry, College Vocabulary in the tenth grade. During the highschool summer months , I was fortunate to always have a job and would earn enough to buy my own school clothes. I would go and work out on the park in the evenings; Very few were going to YMCA’s because many were not welcome and that was not where tough minded athletes went. The real challenge came from the parks in more ways than one. The more mentally tougher you were, the more respect one would get from their peers. Friendship was more on the line of respect, but when it was time to play, there was no such thing as friends.
While in College, I was their first African American quarterback and the first in
the conference. Tennessee Tech was a 98% white school during that time. My teammate Craig Rolle and I went for an official visit to Cookeville, Tennessee which lies
between Knoxville and Nashville and four hours from Memphis , Tennessee where Martin
Luther King had been assasinated just seven years earlier. I had spoken with Florida
State, Joe Alvozano from University of Pittsburgh, Johnny Majors from Tennessee
called after I had already signed and made my decision. Many Dade County athletes
were not going to University of Miami then. My high school Coach Alkin Hepburn sat
down with me one day and shared with me what type of environment that I was going in
to. I was going to be 1800 miles away and in a smaller town with cold winters. His
words to me were “If I thought you could not handled it, I would suggest that you
not go”. My dad left the decision up to me because our mom had died when I was in the ninth grade. My sisters were very confident I could do well because they had just graduated from Florida State University and they felt getting away from Miami would allow me the time to grow and mature as a young man. So I took on the challenge and the coaches told me that I was going to be redshirted after about four games into the season. A decision that I disliked very much becuase I felt that I was just as good or better than the quarterbacks that were there.
The practices too me were not as intense or challenging as I felt
Miami Northwestern’s were. So, I ran the scout team. The coaches told me that they
red shirted all of their quarterbacks which turned out to be true; So it became
bearable but still not accepted. When Winter workouts came , I worked very hard and
had an awesome Spring and before I knew it, I had moved up on the depth chart to
second string to our All Conference quarterback Gary Purdue whom was a
Senior. We ended up alternating during the season and during that time I was the
first freshmen to make Player of the Week three weeks in a row coming off the
bench. The real excitement was that our team was winning and we went 8-3. Our
offense went from averaging 17 points a game to 25. The next year I became the
starting quarterback and we averaged 33 points a game and went 9-2. The next season the team got off to a great start, but unfortunately I injured my knee and never fully recovered. I was talking with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers and New York Giants at one point. Hall of Famer and broadcaster Phil Simms (New York Giants) and I were
considered the two best quarterbacks in the league even though he was two years
ahead of me.It was a great college experience and the early discipline I learned
from parents, coaches and Miami Northwestern kept me on course to make sure that I
graduated with a B.S Degree in Education and a minor in Sociology.
I have watched a lot of basketball and football in Guilford County over the past
five years and have seen some remarkable athletes. One that sticks out the most was
Keenan Allen whom I first saw in junior high. I shared with someone that this
particular kid is something special and could be one of the best in North Carolina
and maybe in the nation by the time he graduates. I said that he is the only athlete
that I saw who could have played for a Miami Northwestern type program. That was not
to slight anyone . I heard that he was recently voted All American, All State,
Player of the Year and was recruited by just about every college in the nation. I
read some where that he signed with University of California. Barring any type of
injury or mishap, I believe that he will be at the next level. I based that on
previous experience and coming from a top notch program. In basketball, I believe
that William Graves of UNC and Dudley could be a late bloomer at the next level once he moves on. In baseball Ray Crawford of Dudley reminds me of Lonnie Smith formerly of the Braves and Cardinals. In Dade County athletes post season awards are never based on who knows who. The performance takes precedence and nothing more. That is where Reality seperates Perception because in Dade County not getting it right is unacceptable.
Good luck to all athletes that work hard and understand that there are no free
lunches. Having the ability to understand their strengths and needs of areas of
improvement. Learning to understand that in order to be above average that one must
do what average student-athletes do and more. Learning how to workout alone and not
waiting on some instructor to always be your guide. Learning to seperate working out
and checking for text messages at the same time. Learning to work out with someone
that may be a tadbit better even if it is not someone from your respective school.
Above all learn to Work Hard, Study Hard and be Coachable.
I thank you for your time and hope this helps someone along the way.