I was speaking with John Coleman recently on the campus of Norfolk State University.
Norfolk State University’s homecoming football game kickoffs at 2 p.m. Saturday October 21 at Dick Price Stadium. The Spartans will host alumni and play Savannah State University.
Coleman, who is from Columbus, OH, played football at then Norfolk State College under former CIAA and Hampton Roads African-American Sports Hall of Fame athletics director William “Bill” Archie. Coleman played for coach Archie from 1963-1967 before a brief stint in the Canadian Football League with the Montreal Alouettes.
Coleman had just run into another former Spartan football player, running back Harvey Lawrence, at the homecoming kickoff performance of Luther. Inevitably, such meets up lead to a conversations about the current Spartans football team. We all agreed that what stood out this season was the maturity of the young team of football players, especially the local ones who were “making plays” for the university, and Spartans head coach Latrell Scott, specifically.
“Coach Scott understands that Hampton Roads is a recruiting hot bed for nearly every major NCAA Division I football program.,” said Coleman. “This area isn’t the backwater, country secret that recruiters used to think of it as when Coach Archie recruited me,” said Coleman, whose All-Southeastern District sons, John, Jr. who signed with NSU, and 6-6, 270- pound “baby boy” Chris, who signed with Hampton University, after they both starred at Indian River High School in the early (90s).
“He (Coach Scott) has done a very good job of recruiting against the big boys because they are recruiting here earnestly, now.”
Former NSU head assistant coach Bob Heard, who during the William “Dick” Price era, helped the Spartans win four CIAA championships, three back to back, concurred. Heard, incidentally, will be inducted in the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame next week.
“I used to hit the road with Dr. Grady James (retired as is Heard). He was producing Norfolk State Highlights then, and Fridays, he’d go with me to help sportscaster Stan Garfin for WTAR (now WTKR) with high school sports coverage. “While we were looking at players out of town the other scouts would say they were heading here (Hampton Roads) the next week. Grady and I started scouting more around here a little more. Then, Price assigned it as part of my recruited territory.”
NSU practically cleaned up under Price’s recruiting philosophy. Coach Price had practically built a NCAA championship track and field program the same way. William Cuffee, Zack Rogers, Lawrence Davis, Jim Doughtie, Steve Riddick among others all hail from Hampton Roads.
Coach Price recruited me (Norfolk Catholic’s track coach was ODU Hall of Fame hurdler Lou Cappi who was a proponent of Price’s relay team’s blind handoff technique) as well, but I opted to become a full-time sports writer and columnist.
Price knew that if local athletes were good enough for his D-1 coaching peers Lou Holtz at North Carolina State then Nortre Dame and Bill Dooley at Virginia Tech . . . well.
That switch in philosophy on recruiting the best football player in literally “our back yard,” produced wide receivers Eddie Powell, “Baby” Powell and Emmanuel Upton; the late Reggie Jordan TE (Western Branch); linebackers Jim Doughtie, Byron Grier, George Butts and Greg Sherrill; FB athlete (modern term for ballers who can play several positions) Raymond Lee; running backs Larry Stepney, Ken Moody, Phillip Twine, Randy Robinson, Jimmy Britt, Donnie Luster, George Mack, Orlando Goodhope and the late, great LaRue Harrington; quarterbacks Steve Graeff, Frank Welch, Tony Holloway and Greg Stephens; DB(s) Alvin Ferebee, Antony Knight, Tony Basnight, Jim Flowers, Rock Ellis and Joe Scott. Who can forget former Norview High School place-kicker Tony (“Count-it”) Parker? And those were just the some of skilled position players. All of whom could have played at the D-1 level but chose to be Spartans. To complete that roster would take up too much space.
But that was yesteryear.
This year one wonders if it is serendipitous that Bill Archie’s grandson Kyle, who played on championship teams at I.C. Norcom High School in Portsmouth, is starting at linebacker?
Entering homecoming game Saturday, the Spartans are coming off their “biggest” win of Scott’s Spartan era.
The Spartans (3-4, 3-1) plucked the feathers off of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference leading North Carolina Central University Eagles 28-21 a week ago. Freshman quarterback Juwan Carter (Richmond, VA) completed 18 of 32 passes for 230 yards, and an impressive collegiate career- high four touchdowns. No interceptions No fumbles.
Give Coach Scott his props as a recruiter and instructor. Besides with the bevy of local talent he blends into his national recruits, his system appears to thrive by putting the best ATHLETE of a position in a position to compete at that position. That’s more complicated, however, not as convoluted as it sounds with a relatively small budget to recruit with in the FCS effectively.
NSU’s current quarterback is a FRESHMAN! Read: the best is yet to come.
But I digress.
Kyle Archie sealed NSU’s win last Saturday when he intercepted an Eagles’ pass with less than two minutes to play. Now, don’t get it twisted. All of the Spartans are bona fide ballers.
That is the nature of Spartans as their historical counterparts and brand would indicate.
Here are the Spartans from Hampton Roads who will play in Scott’s system that’s noted for putting a player in a position to make “Big” plays:
Aaron Chandler, DB (Lake Taylor HS); J. T. Wahee, DB (Lake Taylor HS); Tyre Givers, QB (Indian River HS); Bobby Price, DB Bishop Sullivan Catholic HS); Anthony Smith LB (Maury HS); Kyron Speller, DL (Virginia Beach (Grad.)); Malik Butts, RB (Salem HS); George Wahee WR (Lake Taylor);DB Nhyre’ Quinerly (Norfolk, VA); Rashard Russell, Jr., DB (Lake Taylor); Audrex Harris DB (Chesapeake, VA); Josh Nardone K/P (First Colonial HS); Dimitri McKay FB (Chesapeake HS HS); Hadji Gaylord DL (Maury); Johnathan Gregory DB (Phoebus HS); Bo Lomax K/P (Hampton HS); Til Flood LB (Woodside HS); Dario Waters RB (Portsmouth Christian HS); Matt Hodges LB (Bishop Sullivan Catholic HS); Kevin Staton OL (Indian River HS); Antwan White LB (Great Bridge HS); Dominic Jordan OL/LS (Oscar Smith HS); Jalen Powell, (Hampton HS); Justin Redd OL (Hampton HS); Mike Carney OL (Lake Taylor HS);Chuma Awanna WR (Chesapeake, VA); Floyd Jones WR (Hampton, VA); Anthony Williams, TE (Maury HS); DeShaan Dixon DL (Western Branch HS); Trevor Locke, (I.C. Norcom HS).
Spartans! Have a safe and memorable Homecoming 2017.
By Glen Mason
Guest Sport Columnist