Sunday, April 29, 2007

Grambling greats: Henry Tolbert

GSU has new passing pattern
With Douglas gone, WR stable emerges
August 8, 2004

By Nick Deriso
It will take an army to fill the shoes of departed three-time all-conference receiver Tramon Douglas at Grambling State. Literally.

"Our philosophy this year," said interim GSU coach Melvin Spears, "is to play between six and eight guys at wide receiver."

The Tigers report for summer sessions today with a remade coaching staff and a remade secondary. But there may be no more important position to resolve than who will be downfield for quarterback Bruce Eugene, named to the preseason I-AA All America team by The Sports Network.

"I've got to get used to not seeing him out there," Eugene said of Douglas, who hauled in 28 touchdown strikes from Eugene in just two seasons. "He was that safety valve that I always had."

Douglas graduated in May, but not before breaking GSU's single-season receiving records for catches, yards and touchdowns - as well as career receptions.

"He was the heart of what we did last year," said Sammy White, who coached receivers for six seasons before being named offensive coordinator this spring.

Douglas is the only person in Southwestern Athletic Conference history, including such luminaries as Jerry Rice and White himself, to record more than 1,700 receiving yards in a single season.

"There will always be an initial drop-off when you lose a guy like Tramon Douglas," Spears said. "But I think we've got some guys who are going to step up. There's going to be a dog fight at wide receiver."

But losing Douglas isn't the unit's only challenge: Tim Abney, the team's No. 3 receiver last year, hasn't practiced this off-season because of a lingering groin injury. He had six touchdown catches - tied with senior Moses Harris, this year's presumptive No. 1 target.

"Moses had a decent year," White said. "But this year we look for him to break out."

Henry Tolbert will move from running back to Douglas' position in the slot.

"A utility guy," White enthuses. "I can put him outside, too. I can put him in the backfield. He's working hard."

The top receivers going into summer sessions are Harris, transfer Frank Green and freshman Paul Hardiman, who redshirted last year. Talented performers who could quickly push into the top six include junior Bakari Guice, a former Wossman High standout, and Houston-Westbury High signee Clyde Edwards.

"We have a bunch of great receivers," Eugene said, after ticking off the list of hopefuls.

His coach agreed: "We just got a wealth of outstanding wide receivers," Spears said. "So it's going to be great to watch."

GSU's August Agenda
Interim GSU coach Melvin Spears, left, will tell you that winning often comes down to a play or two. He will tell you that one or two moments in its final game of 2003 kept Grambling State from an unprecedented fourth trip to the Southwestern Athletic Conference title game.

"That's correct," he said, looking determined. "That's exactly the way we are approaching this season."

So, he'll tinker with the well-established template left behind by former GSU coach Doug Williams, Spears' mentor. He'll add a flourish, or a feint.

But this is not an out pattern. No, Spears talks about the legacy of his adopted school often, taking as his mantra: "Raising the bar." He repeats it often, adding. "That's all we're going to do."
That means playing within the scheme, with less freelancing. It means balancing the pass and the run, getting out in front - and staying there. It means consistency, from kickoff to finish, from week to week.

Last season, Grambling State would fall behind, only to mount a succession of late-game offensive explosions. It was October before someone other than the quarterback scored a rushing touchdown.

As GSU reports for its first summer sessions in six seasons without Williams, his former offensive coordinator will challenge them to do a little more, and do it a little better:

Camp competition: It wasn't going to be easy replacing senior All-SWAC receiver Tramon Douglas - who led the team in receiving and the conference in all-purpose yardage last year.

Then Tim Abney, a sophomore on the rise, spent the spring and summer trying to recover from a lingering groin injury. That leaves the door open behind senior Moses Harris, who is slated for the No. 1 position. Aaron Johnson, the sophomore out of Shreveport's Huntington High, would presumably move into Abney's No. 2 role, if he sits out. Junior Bakari Guice, freshman Paul Hardiman and sophomore transfer Frank Green will compete there, too. Junior wide receiver Henry Tolbert will start in the slot.

Numbers crunch: Even though Spears has played a larger role on the defensive side this off-season, the assistants have a lot of ground to make up in working with a unit that finished No. 9 out of 10 SWAC school in pass and red-zone defense in 2003.

On the cusp: Senior linebacker Kenneth Pettway excelled after he was called upon to work on the defensive line when injuries felled ends Lennard Patton and Jason Hatcher. That versatility, and his non-stop motor, has him poised for a breakout season.

Instant impact: Clyde Edwards, the receiver out of Houston-Westbury High, has already exhibited the kind of athleticism and polish to start - even as a freshman. "He has shown that, with a little bit of coaching, he could do very well," said GSU offensive coordinator Sammy White. "He's catching everything in sight."

Shallow pool: There has been little consistency in the punting and return game. Freshman punter Larry Anderson from Redemptorist was signed, and could see immediate playing time. There hasn't been a solid returner since Kenneth Shanklin's breakout season a couple of years back. While running back Keantwon Gray looked good in the spring, a deep pool of receiver talent could also be raided to fix this lingering problem.

On the mend: Abney was poised for a breakout season, before a groin injury failed to heal properly. The staff thought resting him through the off-season would help, but Abney's still slowed by the problem. Losing almost 17 yards per reception - or, say, his four-catch, two-touchdown performance against Southern in the 2003 Bayou Classic - would be a crushing blow.

Gone with the wind: Junior backup quarterback Gary Cooper, perhaps tired of waiting for Bruce Eugene to falter, has quit the program. In two seasons, Cooper played in parts of just eight games - with 260 yards passing, two touchdowns and three interceptions. All but 54 of those yards, and both touchdowns, were in 2002.

Camp chatter: "There will always be an initial drop-off when you lose a guy like Tramon Douglas," said interim GSU coach Melvin Spears. "But I think we've got some guys who are going to step up. There's going to be a dogfight at wide receiver. The entire secondary was also a focus. Right now, the jobs don't belong to anyone. The best guys after these next 28 days will start."
- Nick Deriso

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Tigers having fun while cruising through SWAC
GSU's loose attitude hasn't hurt win column
November 3, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - The change in attitude for this Grambling State team is palpable.
But is this new sensibility the cause, or the effect, of an undefeated run through the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2005?

GSU coach Melvin Spears isn't prone to philosophical, chicken-or-egg conversations. For him, it's simple.

"I think once all the controversial stuff was over with, regardless if it was about the coach or the record," he said, "the guys started being themselves."

Last November, GSU was staggering to a 3-4 record under the weight of a rash of injuries. The staff, led by an interim coach fighting for his job, led practices with a grim-faced tightness. The players seemed to overcompensate by going through their paces with a bit too much emotion.

These days, Spears runs things with a loose bravado, often giving the playcalling over to senior quarterback Bruce Eugene - even in critical down-and-distance situations.

"This is probably the most fun," Eugene said, "I have ever had playing football."

GSU's assistants - notably the professorial Darnell Wall - run a more controlled practice than those seen last season. Everything about the process exudes a smooth, business-like confidence.

Spears spent a recent practice trying out nicknames for Eugene. "The Round Mound of Touchdown" was an early favorite - until somebody suggested "The Big Easy."

"The Big Easy," he said, slowly and enthusiastically.

"This is probably the most laid-back team I have coached," Spears added. "The national championship teams under Doug Williams were high intensity, uptempo types. This is more of an academic type of team. They come to work and are pretty steady. We don't have a whole lot of rah-rah types."

That's perhaps best personified in senior receiver Henry Tolbert.

"I don't do all that trash talking," said Tolbert, who leads the league in yards per catch and total touchdowns. "Even on the field, I just look at them and smile. After I score my touchdown, I look at them and smile again. I let my stats do the talking."

Not that there isn't talking. There is plenty of it - even on the field during games.

"Big (Jonathan) Banks, I'll have to stop him from rapping in the huddle all the time. You'll see linemen dancing," Eugene said. "(Andre) Bennett (the line's other tackle) is talking about one thing; somebody's always talking about something else."

Eugene sets the stage: Receiver Moses Harris can be found comparing performances, he said. Tight end Tim Abney admits that he's still trying to muscle into the lineup after a year lost to injury.

Running back Ab Kuuan is usually begging for one more chance to run the ball.

In fact, receiver Clyde Edwards might be the only quiet one in the bunch.

"If you could see us in the huddle, it would be the same as having me and Bruce sitting right here talking," said Tolbert, who's known for relentlessly counting his own receiving touchdowns and yards.

"We're so relaxed. Everything is so calm," Tolbert added. "We're cracking jokes. We're really out there having a good time. And that's a direct reflection of what's happening on the field."

Spears thinks the last month of last year was a turning point for this team. GSU finished with three wins in its last four games, including an emotional victory against Southern in the second-ending Bayou Classic.

"Down the stretch last year," Spears said, "everything started falling into place."

Still, such a laissez faire approach might have been questioned at 3-4 in 2004. But with this year's 6-1 mark - the only loss came to a Division I-A opponent - it looks like genius.

The reason for that success, Eugene said, is that the team knows how to have fun, but remains focused.

"As soon as we break the huddle," he said, "everybody knows that we come to the line with a business-like attitude. I look forward to Saturdays."

Setting the table
For all the chatter in the Grambling huddle, quarterback Bruce Eugene says his linemen mostly talk about eating.

Eugene started feeding his line, as a way of showing his appreciation, on Mondays. After throwing for seven touchdowns on three different nights, Eugene is doing it on Tuesdays now, as well.

His mom, living in Lincoln Parish now in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, usually cooks. Occasionally, the group might hit a local eatery.

They're difficult to miss.

Offensive tackle Jonathan Banks "orders two of everything," said Eugene. "Not that I am complaining. The cashiers are always asking him, though: `Who's paying for all this?'"

Receiver Henry Tolbert could be next. He's told the linemen that he would buy them all dinner if he can register 200 receiving yards in a game.

"It's cool," said Eugene. "As long as I keep passing for these kind of yards, I will feed them on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, whenever."
- Nick Deriso,

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Game week focus on...

December 6, 2005

Grambling finished the year with an unblemished conference record, something that hadn't been done since 1989 under former coach Eddie Robinson.

"Our guys are elated about it," said GSU coach Melvin Spears. "Our goal at the beginning of the year was to win all of our conference games and go to the championship. That means a whole lot."

GSU (10-1, 9-0 in Southwestern Athletic Conference) plays Alabama A&M on Saturday at Birmingham for the SWAC championship, in a rematch of the 2000 and 2002 title contests.

"In order to win these games," Spears said, "you have to have outstanding players. That's where all the credit goes."

The Tigers enter Saturday's game with the league's leading passer (Bruce Eugene), receiver (Henry Tolbert) and tackler for a loss (Jason Hatcher).

"I sit back and think sometimes about that great season we had in 2002, when Bruce was a sophomore," said Tolbert. "That was the best team I had ever played on, and even then we weren't undefeated."

The 2005 season's 9-0 romp through the SWAC included an average winning margin of 25 points. Grambling's defense gave up less than three TDs each game, while the offense scored more than six.

"We're trying to tear this conference apart," said Eugene. "Years from now, we want people to remember this 2005 team."

Grambling had previously provided information that put the last undefeated SWAC season at 1992, but further research showed GSU lost to Alcorn State during that campaign.

In 1989, Grambling went 9-3 and was spotless in conference play. Grambling won the SWAC championship and, as with this year's team, boasted the conference's offensive player of the year at quarterback, Clemente Gordon.

The `89 season ended when the Tigers lost a heartbreaking 59-56 thriller in the Division I-AA playoffs at Nacogdoches, Texas, against Stephen F. Austin. GSU's only other losses that year were to Howard and Tennessee State.

- Nick Deriso,

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All-SWAC snub fuels WR Tolbert's fire
December 8, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - Henry Tolbert went to high school a stone's throw from the venue where the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game will be played this Saturday.
If recent history is any guide, that will again push the senior Grambling State receiver to brilliance.

GSU (10-1, 9-0 in the SWAC) plays Alabama A&M (9-2, 7-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday for the league title at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic.

Tolbert, a receiver out of Parker High in Birmingham, is coming off a four-score performance at Alcorn State - he caught three touchdowns and ran for another one - after an insulting second-team all-conference snub earlier in the week.

"I'll put it this way," said Grambling offensive coordinator Sammy White, "he felt he should have been on the first team. Now, he didn't say anything about it. He just got more focused. By Saturday, he was a man possessed."

Tolbert has led the SWAC in yards per game, yards per catch and scoring since Week 1. He enters this week with 63 catches for 1,207 and 15 touchdowns, averaging a startling 19.2 yards per reception.

What about that says … second team? It hurt.

"Honestly, I did care," Tolbert said. "When the newspaper came out, and I saw it, I was so mad. I did my best to get over it, but once the game got here on Saturday, it was stuck in my mind."
Yes, history means something to Tolbert. That's why he aims to make a similar showing in Birmingham.

Parker High is also the alma mater of Junious "Buck" Buchanan, Grambling's first Pro Football Hall of Famer; All-America defender Andre Robinson, now the linebackers coach at GSU; and Robert Taylor, a legendary sack artist from the Williams championship period.

"That school has meant so much to Grambling over the years, and Tolbert is just another to go along with that long line of great players," said GSU coach Melvin Spears. "We call him 'X Factor' because he's often overlooked. But Henry Tolbert can do it all."

Tolbert's uncanny talent is best observed during his runs after the catch - perhaps not surprising for a player pegged by former coach Doug Williams as a running back during the program's most recent SWAC title-winning season in 2002.

Still, by 2003, Tolbert was rushing for 381 yards, while adding 392 receiving yards. He was starting to establish himself as a difference maker on the other end of passing plays.

A disciplined, not-overly showy style of play continues to disguise an emerging talent. After all, even last year, when a freshman quarterback led GSU's attack and a nagging hip injury, he caught 29 balls and averaged 19.4 yards per catch. Tolbert had game-changing performances against Prairie View and Jackson State.

By 2005, he was doing things that recalled Grambling greats like Trumaine Johnson and Tramon Douglas.

Of 11 games played so far this season, Tolbert has had 90 or more receiving yards in nine of them. Though he only had three catches for 35 yards against Division I-AA opponent Washington State, one of those receptions was GSU's only score of the day.

Second team?

"It's hard to pick on me, because most things don't really bother me," said Tolbert. "But when I'm in a situation like that, where I feel like someone is trying to take something from me that I think is mine, that's a pet peeve."

It's true: Tolbert, with a smile that could light up a stadium, is mostly an easy-going type. That might have contributed to his being relegated to the All-SWAC second team - despite being just the fourth Grambling receiver ever to gain 2,000 in receiving yards. Those 1,207 yards this season are second all time for a single campaign, and Tolbert still has the title match to play.

"The stats he has already are unbelievable," said White, himself an all-conference receiver for former GSU coach Eddie Robinson. "He has a chance to be Grambling's all-time leading receiver in just about every category. It's funny, he kind of sneaks up on you."

That's how Tolbert arrived in Lorman, Miss., to face Alcorn State last week, silent but with a chip on his shoulder. Heck, it was more like a bag of chips.

"The coaches said: 'The eyes can't lie,'" Tolbert said. "They knew. They could look at me and tell that I had blood in my eyes. That was the motivation for the kind of output I had last weekend. I was really ticked."

That translated into consecutive scoring receptions of 6-, 12- and 35-yards beginning in the second quarter to put the game away against Alcorn, along with an earlier 5-yard rushing touchdown.

"I couldn't," Tolbert said, "have responded any better."

Nobody's expecting anything less this week from Grambling's most consistent receiver.
After all, the last time he faced A&M, Tolbert had four catches for 174 yards - including a gut-check 70-yard touchdown reception.

"You are playing before your home crowd, your family," said White. "He wants to have a great game, and we all know what he did last time."

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Records, A&M fall
GSU comes alive in 3rd for a dominating finish
December 11, 2005

By Nick Deriso
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The third quarter would decide this championship.

Alabama A&M had expertly followed Coach Anthony Jones' script through two quarters, slowing down this Southwestern Athletic Conference title match. GSU only had the ball four times, and managed just two early scores.

That left a slim 12-6 lead as the bands played.

And Grambling coach Melvin Spears looking for answers.

He called it nerves, noting as he came off the field that quarterback Bruce Eugene and safety Jermaine Mills were the only players left from the Tigers' 2002 championship team.

"We'll settle down," he said. "They've just got to come out and play Tiger football."

Grambling had turnovers to begin and end the first half, and a rash of penalties to boot.

The jittery start painted the picture of a team that had overthought the game. Ironically, that was precisely what might have been expected of Alabama A&M - which, after all, arrived three weeks removed from its last contest.

The day had essentially been played to a draw, with the momentum tilted A&M's way since the Bulldogs' goal was to keep record-smashing senior quarterback Bruce Eugene off the field.

"I was upset with the way we played in the first half," said Eugene, who missed last season after suffering a knee injury. "I wanted to come out in the third quarter and press the issue."

Now, there were signs that Grambling could stay loose enough to mount a late-game surge.
Running back Ab Kuuan and returner Landry "Blue" Carter, looking happy and confident, pretended to direct the Tiger Marching Band in its pre-game rendition of "Neck." Line coach Larry Metevia was busy recreating a familiar sight from Grambling's home locker room, the word "WIN" spelled out in trainer tape.

Even so, this third quarter will remain a moment of blinding artistry, a withering 15 minutes of football.

Grambling, see, ran just 16 plays.

And scored 28 points.

"We talked it over," said junior GSU cornerback Greg Fassitt. "We knew we could win the game if we came back out and played hard for the rest of the game."

As the period began, GSU made a quick stop. Eugene then directed a two-play, 63-yard drive to push the Grambling lead to 13. Both passes were caught by senior Henry Tolbert, a Birmingham native who would score three more times.

Next was another three and out for the Bulldogs.

Three plays later, Eugene hit George Piggott for a 41-yard touchdown pass to complete a 60-yard drive.

Just that quickly, GSU led by 19.

"The first half, we had all kind of mental errors," said Kuuan, who had scored a gutty touchdown on fourth-and-goal. "We came out in the third quarter and just executed."

Executed A&M, anyway.

A pass interference call on Grambling, another in the seemingly endless trail of yellow flags, helped A&M convert a third down on its subsequent drive. But consecutive holding calls on the Bulldogs stalled that effort, too.

"We didn't change all the much after halftime," said GSU senior defensive end Jason Hatcher. "We just kept hitting them in the mouth. We knew from playing them the first time that they would lay down."

Eugene then threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Reginald Jackson, another Birmingham native, to cap the next GSU scoring drive. Neville High product Tim Abney added a two-point conversion catch.

Another GSU stop came next. Then another Eugene touchdown pass, again to Tolbert - who broke the school's single-season record for touchdowns in a season.

Grambling was suddenly ahead by 33 unanswered points.

And all of that was before Eugene's fourth-quarter TD pass, also to Tolbert, broke former Mississippi Valley quarterback Willie Totten's once-thought unassailable SWAC and NCAA record of 139 career touchdowns.

Grambling would win 45-6, beating Alabama A&M for a third time in the seven times the SWAC title game has been played.

Conference officials, with 45 seconds left in regulation, hustled the championship trophy down the Grambling sideline for the postgame presentation.

Decorum may have required it, but they needed not wait. This thing had been over since Grambling emerged from the locker room.

With 20 seconds left, the team let go - dancing and singing: G-S! G-S! G-S... U! I thought you knew!"

After 11 victories in 2005, five of which featured 50 or more Grambling points, they know now.
Jones, in a hallway deep inside Legion Field, was still marveling over Eugene's staggering feat when he came across Spears.

The two men shook hands, and Jones - who beat GSU for the first time in five tries last year while Eugene was out - said: "You better not bring him back again."

Both of them laughed softly.

Outside, a fan rolled up a sign that read: "Play Grambling, Get 50."

Not quite. But good enough for a title.

GSU's season of SWAC dominance would end as it began. Alabama A&M lost to Grambling, in games played three months apart, by a combined score of 89-6.

As the team streamed into the locker room, there was no champagne, only shaken-up Coca-Cola showering down on Spears.

It was just as sweet.

The players, wearing new championship hats and shirts, broke into a raucous rendition of the old-time gospel favorite "This Little Light of Mine."

That third quarter had let them shine.

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Tolbert set for record year
Grambling receiver could break all-time school marks
August 22, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — When senior Grambling State receiver Henry Tolbert caught two crucial passes on Saturday — including one for the scrimmage's only touchdown — he underscored just how he operates.

Quiet, even amiable, and clutch to a fault.

"That's his nature," said GSU coach Melvin Spears. "Don't sleep on Henry. We call him the 'Silent Assassin.'"

Nobody had more touchdowns, total yards, receptions or yards-per-catch than Tolbert last year. Yet he only received second-team all-Southwestern Athletic Conference honors.

The SWAC Championship Game against Alabama A&M was held the Saturday after the team was announced. Tolbert was critical to GSU's big win — scoring 24 points, setting SCG records for receiving and overall touchdowns and tying a record for total points scored by an individual in the contest.

That the game was played in Birmingham, Ala., Tolbert's hometown, only made the understated revenge sweeter. Grambling opens its 2006 season right back at Legion Field, this time facing Hampton in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge on Sept. 2.

"I'm very excited about the chance to go back and prove myself again," said Tolbert, who had 30 family members in attendance last December. "How could I not be?"

As the team warmed up for the scrimmage on Saturday, running backs Ab "Killer" Kuuan and Landry "Blue" Carter were talking the typical trash — sending several players into hysterics.

You could find Tolbert nearby, fiddling with a new mouthpiece, then still and determined.

He's had a busy summer, dropping from 208 to a sculpted 195 — adding muscle while going from 4 to 2 percent body fat — and earned his undergraduate degree.

"Being in better shape is what we need from Henry so that we can use him all over the field," Spears said.

And use him, they will.

Tolbert has returned to his familiar slot alignment, but has also shown up in some surprising places, including as a punt returner.

"We want to utilize his talent in every way possible," Spears said.

That will perhaps offset what could be a dip in touches for Tolbert as part of a unit that returns a 1,000-yard receiver in Clyde Edwards and picked up lightning-quick Georgia Tech transfer LaKeldrick "Burner" Bridges.

Spears disagrees, countering: "People won't be able to combo him as much. I don't see his production falling off."

That was true Saturday, when Tolbert led all Grambling receivers in yards — pulling down passes for nine and 21 yards (to score) in the offense's final and most successful drive.

That it took so long didn't faze Tolbert: "We won't see a defense as good as ours all year," he said.

Tolbert, a graduate student now with a championship ring, enters the season with some as-yet-unattained goals.

Even though he lost ground while spelling at running back as a younger player, Tolbert sits just 838 yards behind Scotty Anderson as GSU's all-time leader in receiving yards. He needs seven touchdowns to best Anderson for career scores, and 55 catches to pass Anderson as Grambling's all-time receptions leader.

Tolbert has doubled his yardage every year since switching to wideout, finishing with 1,400 yards and 19 scores in 2005. His three-year average is 45 catches, 782 yards and nine touchdowns per season.

"When they asked me to move to receiver during my sophomore year, it was an easy transition because I knew everything the position offered," said Tolbert. "It was foresight on their part because they saw me as a wide receiver and when they called my number, I was ready."

Tolbert had been a highly recruited rusher out of Parker High, where he played for current GSU linebacker coach Andre Robinson. But a late-career hip injury sent several programs, including Auburn, elsewhere.

"Andre thought a whole lot of him," Spears said. "He was a guy we really wanted. But we never pictured him as a running back."

Tolbert would have to bulk up, for one thing. He arrived on campus with decent height at 6-feet tall, but weighing a slight 165 pounds.

"It was a matter of working on his body structure," Spears said, "and then infusing him into our system."

While recognition from his home league has been slow in coming, Tolbert has garnered a string of national honors — something that could position him for a shot at playing pro ball.

Tolbert was named the No. 4 receiver in Division I-AA by Matt Dougherty of The Sports Network, and earned first-time preseason I-AA All America honors from Don Hansen's Football Gazette. He was also named a second-team All America receiver by The Sports Network and Lindy's Magazine.

"He has the ability to play at the next level," Spears said, "if he plays sound football, remains the team player he's always been. The rest will work its way out. What he's thinking about now is Hampton and going back to Birmingham."

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Tolbert hopes to spark GSU
Senior receiver wants to help team return to winning ways
October 19, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Injured senior Grambling receiver Henry Tolbert is almost there.

He hopes his team is, too.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "A lot better than I did last week."

Tolbert ran full speed on Wednesday night, just days after non football-related surgery caused him to miss several practices.

The time away, Tolbert said, gave him new perspective. One of the most important things he said he's seeing is an emerging will to succeed.

That comes in the wake of a player's-only meeting Tolbert called to sort out what has gone wrong in this disappointing 2-4 campaign. He said he made sure to focus on the team concept.

"We talked about accountability," Tolbert said. "It wasn't about pointing fingers, but trying to get better."

GSU coach Melvin Spears agrees that the squad needs to build more of that internal chemistry.

"They're still looking for that coach-on-the-field guy," he said. "Those young guys at quarterback are still transitioning into that. That's why we as coaches need to consistently hone in on who wants to be a champion and make sure we get them on the field."

The team, Tolbert said, came away with a strong sense of purpose, along with the firm belief that it can get on a run and return to the conference championship game. That begins with a 3 p.m. Saturday contest against the undefeated, Eastern Division-leading Jackson State.

"I haven't seen this kind of focus and intensity yet all year," said Tolbert.

Spears seemed to agree, saying again and again in the post-practice huddle on Wednesday: "Way to work."

Tolbert attempted to play Saturday against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but ended up as more of a decoy than legitimate threat. At what he estimated as "60-to-65 percent," Tolbert caught just one pass for 17 yards but drew some attention from the Lions' defense.

His presence freed junior receiver Clyde Edwards for a 10-catch day. Edwards finished with 145 yards and two scores in the losing effort for GSU.

"I just wanted to do whatever I could to help us win," he said.

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GSU's prospects perhaps undrafted, but not undaunted
April 27, 2007

By Nick Deriso
Grambling State’s graduated seniors can take solace if they go unselected in the NFL Draft.

Two of the program’s most famous football products, Willie Brown and Everson Walls, went undrafted — and both found their way to multiple Pro Bowls. Brown even made the Hall of Fame.

Players like GSU receiver Henry Tolbert and running back Ab Kuuan understand that they might be following the same uphill path.

“I’ve talked to a few scouts, but it’s hard to tell if there is any real interest,” said Kuuan. “All I can do is sit back and wait.”

If Grambling's departing seniors don’t hear their names this weekend, it will be the first time that’s happened since 2004. Last year, defender Jason Hatcher was a third-round selection by the Dallas Cowboys; Kenneth Pettway was taken on the second day of the 2005 draft by the Houston Texans.

Kuuan and Tolbert both received one-star ratings from, but are unranked in their respective draft categories on the site.

Tony McClean of the Black Athlete Sports Network, listed Kuuan and Tolbert as one of black college football’s Top 8 pre-season draft prospects, while’s Gil Brandt also included Tolbert as one of just 14 non-Division I-A players in his pre-season watch list.

But both had off years as Grambling slipped to 3-8 in 2006.

Tolbert had 48 catches and 730 yards (with just four touchdowns) last season, after a career-best 74 receptions, 1,391 yards and 19 scores as a junior.

By the end of a disappointing season, had dropped the converted running back to a “camp prospect.” Sports Illustrated predicts that he will become an undrafted free agent, but said Tolbert “has the skills necessary to be a fifth receiver at the next level.”

Louisiana football analyst Mike Detillier of Raceland has Tolbert ranked as the No. 61 available receiver in the draft.

Through he perhaps lacks an ideal burst, Tolbert had tirelessly worked to improve, nearly doubling his receiving production every successive year — logging 391 yards in 2003 and then 563 in 2004 before his breakout ’05 campaign. As a junior, Tolbert set a new school record for receiving touchdowns in a season with 20 — surpassing Eric Gant’s 19 scores, a mark which had stood for 13 years.

“He has only been playing the receiver position for three years and he has yet to reach his full potential,” according to the Louisiana-based “Tolbert is a versatile player who could project as a running back or receiver at the next level. He has a good deal of upside and should be a second day pick.”

Kuuan, meanwhile, led Grambling in rushing for four consecutive seasons, but similarly slipped from 891 yards as a junior to 551 last year. reported Kuuan’s time in the 40-yard dash at 4.77 seconds and then 4.71 seconds. A solid performance in the North-South All-Star Classic postseason showcase, where Kuuan ran five times for 26 yards, helped him to recognition as a sleeper pick on several draft sites.

“Kuuan runs hard and strong, however he’s more of an inside runner who struggles at times to turn the corner and pick up speed,” McClean said. “He has the size to play at the pro level, but must work hard to improve on his blocking.”

Pro Football Weekly has Kuuan listed as the No. 46 available running back. Detillier has him at No. 33.

Allen Trieu of lists Tolbert as the No. 21 small-school draft sleeper, with GSU offensive lineman Andre Bennett at No. 27 and Kuuan at No. 35. Cornerback Greg Fassitt, linebacker David Hicks and fullback Ruben Mayes may also have performed well enough for scouts to warrant some attention.

In fact, Fassitt’s 4.36 40-time was ranked as the 11th fastest in the nation by

“I’m hoping to get drafted,” said Mayes, a former Tennessee transfer who ranked No. 42 among available fullbacks on “If not, then I’ll get into someone’s camp.”

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Robinson's players huddle up for last goodbye
Memories, tears flow throughout emotional reunion for proteges of late coach
April 10, 2006

By Nick Deriso
BATON ROUGE -- Former players made a gathering to mark Eddie Robinson’s legendary 57-year career at Grambling into a lively reunion that crossed generations.

Members of Robinson teams from 1941-97 met for a private event before the general public was allowed into the state capitol for an all-day memorial, something typically reserved for heads of state.

“I’m so happy this happened for Coach,” said Frank Lewis, a wide receiver and running back at Grambling in the late 1960s. “Coach was so special. He deserves it.”

The day was marked by stark emotional contrasts -- beginning as the players, wearing white gloves and standing in parallel lines, passed Robinson’s cherry-wood casket up the imposing steps of one of Louisiana’s most iconic buildings.

GSU standouts Albert Lewis and Doug Williams, the lead pallbearers, were joined by more than 100 Robinson protégés in that solemn task, which led inside to Memorial Hall, the ornate, two-story space between the state’s Senate and House chambers.

Director Larry Pannell led the Tiger Marching Band through a sad, but swinging rendition of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” from the top of the steps.

“There’s no topping this legacy,” said Lewis, a Grambling defensive back in the early 1980s. “I consider Coach Robinson one of the greatest individuals -- not coaches, individuals -- in this country’s history.”

The 88-year-old Robinson, who still holds the record for Division I wins, died April 3 from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. But not before shaping the lives of generations, said Williams, a former GSU quarterback who succeeded Robinson as coach.

“We’re all an extension of Coach Eddie Robinson,” Williams said. “He lives on through each of us. We are part of what Coach Robinson was, and what he will always be.”

Quiet sorrow turned to open grieving as the casket was opened.

A trio of state troopers presented the colors --- the United States, Louisiana and Grambling flags --- and placed them behind Robinson. Wreaths from the university and the state were also placed by former players, including Adolph Byrd, a tackle on Robinson’s first 1940s teams.

Robinson’s family sat at the feet of the former coach, while his ex-players lined up again to pass a football, hand to hand, from the back of the group to the waiting hands of Williams --- who held the ball aloft before handing it to Doris and son Eddie Robinson Jr. They then placed it in the casket with Robinson.

Robinson Jr. stood behind the GSU flag as more tributes followed, including a powerful speech by Williams, famous even now for his 1988 Super Bowl MVP performance.

“This is such a showing of support for what he did,” said Robinson Jr. “Just to know that so many people admired him, it’s an honor for the whole family.”

Personal touches surrounded the casket, including a painting by Ruston artist Reggie McLeroy, previously hanging in the Robinson family living room.

Next to it was a new creation by McLeroy that featured the former coach, wearing his familiar red suspenders and carrying his briefcase, walking across a football field. A shimmering image of Robinson rises in the clouds above.

“It’s a testament to him, when you get this kind of representation,” said Michael Haynes, a late 1970s-era defensive back. “He was charismatic. I will say this, the world lost a great one -- and heaven has truly gotten better.”

The team event’s finale included an emotional singing of the Grambling alma mater, and several players were overcome -- including Williams, who had to briefly leave the hall.

That somber moment turned to celebration with the Tiger Marching Band’s segue into the GSU fight song. Players and family members alike, tears still in their eyes, suddenly filled the Memorial Hall with ringing joy.

“This isn’t just what he taught us about football,” said Darrius Matthews, a defender on Robinson’s final black college national championship team in 1992. “It was about what he taught us about life.”

The players poured out on the capitol steps once more, where team mates from every decade gathered for what quickly became raucous group photos.

More than one player, when there was an unexpected hitch in the proceedings, reused Robinson’s well-worn practice mantra: “Run it again!”

Melvin Lee, a 1950s-era player for Robinson, later coached alongside him for 40 seasons. He ended up in nearly every photo.

“To see people come back and pay tribute to Coach Robinson like this, it’s sad but great at the same time,” said Lee, who still lives in Grambling. “It’s great to share stories and relive the memories.”

Henry Dyer, a running back for Robinson in the early 1960s, stepped out to take his own picture of former teammates.

“It was a great day for a great man,” Dyer said. “It was a celebration of a great life.”

Even as the band filed past the players on the capitol steps, a group of well wishers and fans had begun lining up for the public viewing of Robinson that followed. Back inside, many gathered around an exhibit of memorabilia, including a series of photos taken by James Terry.

Robinson’s casket remained under the towering brass doors that lead to the Senate until 4:30 p.m., when his body was moved into the House chambers for a memorial service. More than 3,000 passed in the first few hours of viewing.

Players lingered for a while, reminiscing about their time with Robinson and sharing tall tales.

“There’s a million words you can say,” said Larry Metevia, a center for Robinson in the early 1960s. “But, mostly, I’d like to say: Thank you.”

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Outpouring overwhelms busy Williams
April 10, 2006

By Nick Deriso
BATON ROUGE — Former Grambling standout Doug Williams stood in the Louisiana House chamber and took stock of a powerful day.

He had spent the balance of Monday in the towering Memorial Hall that connects this room with the state Senate, overseeing the public memorial to his late college coach, Eddie Robinson.

More than 1,000 people an hour had entered the Capitol for the public viewing of Robinson, who died April 3 at 88 from complications related to Alzheimer's disease.

Williams was overwhelmed.

"I can honestly say that today we've had some heavy hearts, but it was a great day," Williams told the packed House chamber. "So many people passed by, took pictures, shook hands. We saw parents bringing kids — and the only way they are going to know who Eddie Robinson is, what Eddie Robinson was, and what he will always be, is if we tell them."

Williams appeared as part of a Monday night memorial service that featured Gov. Kathleen Blanco as the keynote speaker. State Sen. Bob Kostelka R-Monroe, and state Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Grambling, two area legislators, were also featured — along with state Sen. Charles Jones D-Monroe of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Guests included LSU coach Les Miles, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, former Alcorn State and Southern University administrator Marino Casem, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer and former GSU coach Melvin Spears, among others.

Blanco presented Doris, Eddie Robinson's wife of more than 65 years, the American flag that had flown over the Capitol building on Monday.

Williams began the day overseeing a private event for players. More than 100 former teammates shared the duty of carrying Robinson up the steps and into the Capitol's Memorial Hall earlier that morning.

"To see so many former players come and pay tribute to Coach Robinson made me feel good," Williams said. "Only Eddie Robinson could have done what happened today."

Williams immediately followed Jones, who had given an animated tribute sprinkled with poetic verse and snippets of Shakespeare.

But Williams, still flush from that morning event, said he remained undaunted — even if he couldn't match the poetry of Jones' speech.

"Ordinarily, I would want to wave the white flag, coming in after Senator Jones," Williams said. "But I was fortunate to be coached by Eddie Robinson, and he said if you are going to lose, lose trying to win."

Williams played quarterback for Robinson from 1974-77 before an NFL career that included Super Bowl MVP honors in 1988. He then succeeded Robinson as coach at Grambling, winning a trio of league championships between 2000-02.

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It's time
April 09, 2007

By Nick Deriso
It's been eight years since the Legislature approved the idea of a state-run Eddie Robinson Museum. There's still no museum.

For all that time, the mantra amongst the organizers was getting it done before Robinson passed. That day has come, and gone.

There's still no museum.

But those who believe in the project think the museum could gain new life in the aftermath of Robinson's death, that some glimmer of hope might emerge from the grief over losing an American hero.

Doris Robinson, the late coach's wife of more than 65 years, is one of those people. (She was the one who asked the information on donating to the museum be distributed during today's memorial in Baton Rouge.) So is Doug Williams, Robinson's most visible protege this week.

"It's unfortunate that it took his going home for so many people to know what we already knew about Eddie Robinson," Williams said. "He was more than a football coach. He was more than 408 wins and 200 guys in the NFL. He was a great American."

I don't know why Robinson had to pass for us to get to that place, even though I'm glad that it might be possible.

After all, Robinson didn't send any more players to the NFL this week. He didn't win a 409th time. All that happened long ago.

It's time. Time for the university to sign off on the space. Time for the alumni to gather itself in mighty support. Time for this thing to happen.

There's still no museum. And that's a shocking rebuke to everything that is happening around Robinson right now. All of these tributes mean nothing if there isn't action to back up the sentiment.

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'His spirit will be with us'
Thousands come to Grambling to say goodbye to Eddie Robinson
April 12, 2006

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — They talked about the son of a sharecropper who rose to national fame, about a racial pioneer who refused to let the country's inequities dim his passion, about a football coach who cared more about people than games.

Services for Eddie G. Robinson, who had a 57-season tenure at Grambling, were Wednesday. He died April 3 at age 88 from complications related to Alzheimer's.

"Let's grieve and let's celebrate," said Willie Davis, a key member of Grambling State University's undefeated 1955 team before joining the legendary Green Bay Packers teams of the 1960s. "But let's walk away feeling better because he touched our lives."

The crowd, which numbered in the thousands, included scores of former Grambling players like Davis. Several of them spoke during the event, including Pro Football Hall of Famers Willie Brown, Davis and Charlie Joiner; former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams; and James "Shack" Harris, one of the NFL's highest ranking black executives.

Davis admitted that Robinson's very constancy made his passing seem impossible.

"You can never prepare for an occasion of this type," said Davis, who later became a business leader in California. "We are witnessing a legend passing on, but his spirit will be with us forever."

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu announced a proclamation recognizing Robinson's accomplishments and presented the former coach's family with a flag that flew over the Senate during the body's deliberations.

Wednesday's event included comments from GSU President Horace Judson; Secretary of State Jay Dardenne; Grambling Mayor Martha Andrus; Robinson biographer Richard Lapchick; civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and former Grambling president Joseph Johnson and Shreveport pastor E.E. Jones, both of whom also played for Robinson.

"As we say goodbye to Coach Robinson, I know God is saying hello," said Joiner, now an assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Williams revealed that he and Brown — an assistant with the Oakland Raiders, where he played pro ball — had a side bet on who would cry first. Williams won, but only because he spoke last.

"I loved the man," Brown said, then moved away from the podium to compose himself. He pointed at Williams and nodded, before continuing.

Brown said he had been overcome when his gaze fell on Doris, Eddie Robinson's wife of more than 65 years.

"Thank you for letting Coach Robinson be a part of our lives," Brown told Doris Robinson, finally.

Williams cut his own message short as he again was brought to the verge of tears.

"Coach used to say that the first to cry was a sissy," Williams said. "I've been a sissy all week."

Harris, a Monroe native, brought the crowd out of its solemn mood by remembering some of Robinson's best-known lines, comments that many of the players around him then echoed word for word.

"Coach always said he wanted a piece of us," Harris said. "Today we are all better for having a piece of him."

The Robinson family had asked that donations be made to the long-delayed Eddie Robinson Museum effort in lieu of flowers.

"I stayed with him until the last," said Wilbert Ellis, a close friend and former GSU baseball coach, as he too fought back emotion. "He was a great man, who stood for great things. He loved dear old Grambling."

Robinson's memorial was the first event to be held at Grambling's newly constructed Assembly Center, a project first envisioned when Johnson was president of the school in the late 1970s. Flags in front of the new building flew at half-staff in honor of Robinson.

"This facility will forever be a special place," said Judson, "a consecrated place."

Robinson family friend George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, couldn't attend, but sent a representative in his place. Singer Mary Griffin, a Grambling product, performed, as did the GSU choir and its Tiger Marching Band.

The services ended with Eddie Robinson IV, the former coach's great-grandchild, re-enacting one of Robinson's signature morning rituals — ringing the bell to wake his players for school.

Jackson's thoughts
Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson called the late Grambling coach Eddie Robinson a national treasure, saying his legacy of commitment would remain an important lesson to every American.
"I say to (former Grambling players) James (Harris) and Doug (Williams), you don't have a monopoly on Coach," Jackson said. "He was everybody's coach."

Jackson was added to the list of speakers when he made a surprise appearance Wednesday to honor Robinson, who established a Division I college football record for wins in a career that spanned 11 presidents and several wars between 1941-1997.

Jackson went on to connect Robinson's accomplishments in breaking through racial barriers with heroes from biblical times as well as the decade of the 1960s that produced Jackson's mentor, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In closing crescendo, he led the crowd in a rousing cheer for Robinson: "Put your hands together like Grambling is playing Southern!" Jackson exhorted.

He then knelt before Doris, Eddie Robinson's wife of 65 years, and son Eddie Jr. and spoke privately with the family.

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A break in the clouds
April 12, 2007

By Nick Deriso
As somber and quietly sorrowful as the Monday memorial for Coach Robinson had been in the state capitol, his final services back in Grambling were a consistent celebration.

Maybe it was an air of reunion that surrounding the school's new assembly hall, as generations -- literally -- of former Robinson players gathered, many for the first time since graduating.

Maybe it was because that earlier day in Baton Rouge had been so reverential.

The campus gathering was typified by comments like those of longtime Grambling trainer Eugene "Doc" Harvey, who had worked with Robinson for 32 years. He certainly mourned the passing of this giant, but there was a good bit more joy in the remembering.

"When we awoke today, it was clouded up," Harvey said on Wednesday, "and on days like that (when Eugene and Robinson worked together with the team), sometimes we would be slow going to the stadium to dress. Coach Robinson never understood that. He'd say: 'Why are you guys not dressed? It's not going to rain in Grambling!'"

Robinson, the enternal optimist, had given his old friend one last boost.

"I thought about that today, when the sun came out just before the service," Harvey said, moments before Robinson's casket was closed for a final time and the memorial began.

"He was a great, great man," Harvey added, then paused. "A great man."

Remembering: Coach Rob's best

EDDIE ROB: Coach’s best
Six decades of Grambling talent are hard to narrow down
April 9, 2007

By Nick Deriso
BATON ROUGE — They’ll gather, some of Eddie Robinson’s most noted pupils, to say goodbye today.

Former Grambling State players have been invited to a private ceremony, to be held at 9:30 a.m. in the State Capitol Memorial Hall, before Robinson’s public viewing.

“This is an opportunity for us to show our appreciation, a last hurrah for Coach,” said ex-GSU player and coach Doug Williams, who helped organize the event. “A viewing at the capitol is major credence to everything Coach accomplished. He deserves it.”

The bells of St. Joseph Cathedral will toll as the fallen coach’s body is carried up the capitol steps this morning at 9. Public viewing will then follow from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and then from 6-7 p.m., after a memorial ceremony in the House Chamber.

Still, most of today’s attention will fall on the athletes who come to pay their respects.

That got us to thinking about the best of the best. So, we compiled our own top five players from each of the six decades of Grambling football under Robinson.

Here are our suggestions, listed by decade and alphabetically:

1. Fred Hobdy: A guard on Grambling’s renowned “un” team in 1942 — which went unbeaten, untied and unscored upon — Hobdy returned from the war and coached young men for most of the next five decades. He worked first as an ends coach on the football team (he was an assistant on 1955’s undefeated squad), and then as Louisiana’s most successful college hoops coach ever. He was a member of the GSU Hall of Fame’s second class, along with Robinson, in 1981.

2. Willie “Automatic” Joseph: His name says it all: Joseph, over the 1947-49 seasons, established a 48-point school record for career points by a kicker that still stands. Grambling wouldn’t lose more than three games in a season over that span.

3. Legolian “Boots” Moore: Helped Grambling to its seminal 21-6 win over Southern University in 1947, a first-time-ever moment that Robinson always said put the program on the map. Later toured with the Harlem Globetrotters.

4. Dan H. Washington: A member of Robinson’s first squad, as well as its subsequent “un” team in 1942, Washington then touched thousands of lives as team trainer for 45 years before his death in 1996 at age 74.

5. Paul “Tank” Younger: Despite playing from 1945-48, still holds GSU record for career points with 369. His 86-yard blast against Morgan State in 1946 also remains the school’s longest non-scoring run.

In all, Younger scored 60 touchdowns — at the time a collegiate record, and still tops at Grambling — during his storied career under Robinson. Named black college player of the year in 1949, he was the first Grambling player inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame, in 1973. Induction into the GSU hall followed in 1982.

Significantly, Younger went on to become one of the highest-ranking early black pro executives ever. He entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000, but died just days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

1. Willie Davis: A two-time black college All-America defensive tackle in 1954-55, Davis anchored Grambling’s first national black college championship team — the 10-0 squad from 1955.

“Willie had hitting power,” Robinson once recalled. “He was our captain, an outstanding leader.”

Davis, after a Hall of Fame pro career, became one of black America’s most important business leaders. He was GSU’s second SWAC Hall of Famer in 1977, and was inducted into GSU hall in ’82.

2. Willie Brown: So deep was Grambling’s roster in the late 1950s, the only NFL player to intercept a least one pass in 16 consecutive seasons never played cornerback. Still he lettered all four years at split end and outside linebacker, and GSU won a title in 1960. A 1983 GSU Hall of Fame inductee, Brown has shepherded countless NFL careers as an assistant with the Oakland Raiders.

3. Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd: At 6-9 and 315 pounds, Ladd arrived in the late 1950s as arguably the biggest GSU star ever. A first-team all-league defensive lineman in his final season at Grambling in 1960, he helped Grambling to its first-ever SWAC championship. Inducted into the GSU hall in 1989, Ladd was an activist for players’ rights as a pro player and, later, an prison evangelist before passing last month after a long bout with cancer.

4. Melvin Lee: As quarterback of the offensive line at center on Grambling’s undefeated 1955 championship squad, Lee had an astonishing impact on generations of men at his alma mater. He would work for the next 40 seasons as a Robinson assistant, tinkering and perfecting Robinson’s fabled Wing-T offense.

5. Edward “Bo” Murray: A critical piece of Grambling’s 1955 undefeated team, the then-redshirt sophomore won the Orange Blossom Classic on scoring runs of 75 and 8 yards. He also kicked the extra point on his winning TD, beating Florida A&M 28-21. A 1995 GSU Hall of Fame inductee.

1. Junious “Buck” Buchanan: From his sophomore season onward, this tackle earned a trio of All-America and all-conference honors while helping Grambling to a 23-5-2 record.

Robinson would often gush about Buchanan’s dominance, even in practice: “If we went to the right, he would tackle us. If we went to the left, he would tackle us. If we went right at him, he would tackle us. Boy, he was really tough.”

Buchanan, a 1987 GSU Hall of Fame inductee, passed away in 1992 after a long bout with lung cancer. He was posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

2. James “Shack” Harris: Harris passed for 4,128 yards and 43 touchdowns as Grambling went 24-5-1 between 1965-68, winning three straight SWAC titles.

“Coach Robinson had the utmost confidence in me that I could play, and that meant a lot, knowing how he felt,” Harris said. “Eddie Robinson is perhaps the greatest person that I’ve ever been around.”

In his senior season alone, Harris passed for 1,972 yards and 21 touchdowns on only 225 attempts. He was first-team All-SWAC in 1967-68, and also earned SWAC and GSU hall of fame honors.

Just as importantly, he broke barriers as an early starting NFL quarterback, and now serves as one of the league’s top-ranking pro personnel executives.

3. Charlie Joiner: Led all Grambling receivers from 1966-68, gaining 2,066 yards, on the way to a trio of conference titles. An amazing 78 of quarterback Harris’ 289 career completions at Grambling were hauled in by the steady Joiner, who led the team in touchdowns in 1966-67.

“Charlie goes all out,” Robinson once noted. “Beating the man, that’s where he excelled.”

He was named first-team All-SWAC three times, then joined the GSU Hall of Fame in 1986 and the SWAC hall in 1996. He has worked for years as a pro football assistant coach.

4. Frank Lewis: A do-it-all player who led Grambling in receiving in 1969-70 and in rushing in 1969, as well. He scored 28 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons, averaging 18.65 yards per catch.

“I played with Frank and I don’t know if I have ever seen a better athlete than Frank,” Harris said. “I don’t know of anything that Frank couldn’t do.”

Lewis was named first-team all-conference as a junior and senior, and was second team as a sophomore when Grambling won the SWAC in 1968. He is a community leader in his hometown of Houma, working with the disadvantaged.

5. Jerry “Ghost” Robinson: A two-time first-team All-SWAC halfback from 1960-61, a stint that included Grambling’s first-ever league title in 1960. Led all Grambling rushers over those two seasons, running for 1,300 yards.

1. James “Hound” Hunter: A first-team All-SWAC honoree in 1974-75, he helped Grambling to the ’74 SWAC title. Hunter was the team leader in picks for two years, pulling down 16 passes in 1973-74. His eight in 1974 ranks fourth all-time at GSU; still shares school mark for most career returns for a touchdown.

2. Gary “Big Hands” Johnson: Holds the school record for most tackles in a career, with 367 between 1971-74 as GSU won four straight SWAC titles.

In his senior season of 1974 alone, Johnson had 134 tackles, 89 unassisted, and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. That led to coveted invites to both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl — and Johnson was named Most Valuable Player in both.

Johnson earned first-team All-SWAC in 1972-74, followed by 1996 induction into the GSU Hall of Fame, and then 1997 honors in both the College Football and SWAC halls of fame.

3. Robert Parham: Grambling’s leading rusher from 1978-80, he amassed 2,700 yards over that span as GSU won three consecutive SWAC titles. He was a first-team all-conference running back in each of those seasons.

4. Sammy White: Inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2005 in recognition of a collegiate career that included two school-leading years for receptions in 1973 and 1975 — and a co-offensive player of the year award as a senior. White was also first-team All-SWAC in ’73. He has shaped youngsters as an assistant football coach at his alma mater now for nine seasons.

5. Doug Williams: Williams, who established school passing marks that stood for nearly 25 years, started quickly — winning a SWAC title as a redshirt freshman in 1974.

“I was blessed to have some veterans around me and Coach Robinson ran a conservative offense that didn’t put too much pressure on me,” Williams said.

He would win another SWAC championship as a senior in 1977, earning second-team All-SWAC honors in 1975 and then offensive player of the year honors in his final collegiate campaign. He was inducted into the GSU hall in 1985 and the SWAC and College halls in 2001.

A groundbreaker as a Heisman Trophy finalist and a Super Bowl MVP, Williams is now a part of a second revolution as an NFL executive.

1. Trumaine Johnson: The 1980 and ’82 SWAC offensive player of the year (when he had 1,000 yards and averaged 14 yards a catch), Johnson was also first-team All-SWAC in 1981. Grambling won the conference championship in ’80. His 16 scores that season is still tied for fifth best in school history.

2. Fred Jones: GSU’s best receiver during the 1987-89 seasons, collecting a total of 2,000 yards as well as a SWAC title in his senior campaign. He also led Grambling in scoring in ’88 with 10 touchdowns, and earned first-team All-SWAC honors in ’88-89.

3. Albert “Snow” Lewis: Was first-team All-SWAC at cornerback in 1981-82, after leading the team in interceptions in 1981 with seven. A stellar performance earned him a starting position by popular vote in 2002 on the 50th anniversary all-time Senior Bowl team. Has worked as an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers, in NFL Europe and at his alma mater.
4. Everson “Cubby” Walls: Still holds the school record for most interceptions in a season, 11 set in 1980. Was All-SWAC that season. Made national headlines recently for an act that said much about his character, donating a kidney to a former NFL teammate.

5. Mike Williams: Williams, brother and successor at quarterback to Doug, won SWAC titles in 1978-80 and was named first-team all-conference as both a junior and senior. He threw for 3,700 yards and 46 touchdowns at Grambling, and remains active in support of Grambling.

1. Curtis Caesar: Led all Grambling receivers in 1993-94, averaging 868 yards per season. A second-team 1994 All-SWAC honoree, his numbers for his final two years are still in Grambling’s all-time Top 20. Grambling shared its last co-championship in the SWAC under Robinson in 1994.

2. Walter Dean: The first SWAC player to win the Walter Payton Award, Dean was also the conference’s offensive player of the year in 1990. No senior has ever run for more than his 1,401 yards. Dean was also first-team all-conference in 1989, when GSU won the SWAC.

3. Eric Gant: A two-time All-SWAC first-teamer beginning in 1991, Gant is one of only 17 Grambling players ever invited to the Senior Bowl. Still holds school records for yards in season (1,417 in 1992) and yards in a career (3,795), as well those for rushing yards by sophomore and junior.

4. Gilad Landau: His 188 career total in PATs was a state record. An All-SWAC first-team kicker in 1992-93, Landau earned All-America honors in 1993 from The Sports Network — becoming a significant figure in the history of Jewish sports in America.

5. Kendrick Nord: Passed for 6,600 yards in 1993-95, beating Alcorn in an epic Robinson Stadium battle and also winning a SWAC title as a senior. Those career yards, not to mention his marks for completions and touchdowns, have only been bested twice ever at Grambling.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Grambling greats: Tramon Douglas

Douglas brings East West glory on home
July 12, 2003

Grambling State wide receiver Tramon Douglas' selection to the 2004 East West Shrine Football Classic roster means two distinct things to his coach.

· Douglas' credentials, even before his senior season gets under way, are in order.

· We're back, baby.

"He's been selected before the end of the year," says GSU's Doug Williams, who's quick to note that the game won't be played in San Francisco until January 2004. "That speaks volumes for what he's accomplished. They watched his work - and they liked him."

But Williams, as expected, brings the conversation back around to the big picture for his alma mater.

"He's got a chance to move us back where we used to be," says Williams, who was the MVP of the East West Shrine Game in 1977.

Amazingly, Douglas is the first GSU player selected for the game since fullback Eric Gant a decade ago.

You have to go back to Williams' glory days to find other Tigers who achieved the honor: Wide receiver Carlos Pennywell and defensive back Mike Harris were also invited in 1977; defensive back James Hunter and wide receiver Sammie White (GSU's current receivers coach) in 1976; and defensive tackle Gary "Big Hands" Johnson in 1974.

Douglas is aware of this rarefied company in the Grambling State family.

"I've seen a big difference in him since he's been selected," Williams says. "We've never had problem with Tramon's work habits - but he has stepped it up a notch."

Douglas earns this newest honor after an amazing junior season, where he broke the Southwestern Athletic Conference single-season receiving yards record with 1,704 yards on 92 catches - including 18 touchdowns.

The previous record holder, at 1,682 yards, was a certain Jerry Rice - the future Hall of Famer at San Francisco and Oakland who played collegiately at Mississippi Valley State.

Douglas was a consensus first team All-America selection - named to the Associated Press, the Sports Network and the Sheridan Broadcasting Network teams. He was also a first team All-SWAC selection.

"The East West game is one of the bigger games, along the lines of the Senior Bowl," Williams said. "A lot of the kids who get a chance to play there go on to play on Sundays. The rest of it will be left up to Tramon."

In fact, 86 of last year's roster were named to the NFL Draft or were signed as free agents. At least one East West Shrine Game player was signed by each of the 32 NFL teams.

"What I tried to let him understand is, if you can get this kind of shot, it's a different ballgame," Williams said. "He has to concentrate a little more. He might have to cut back on his fun a little bit."

That shouldn't be hard for the Douglas, a dedicated student who - even while leading Division 1-AA in average receiving yards per game - carried a 3.0 grade-point average. Douglas is also Grambling State's single-season receiving record holder in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

The adjustment comes in a season where every opposing defense is sure to make him the primary focus.

"Here's a kid that had 92 catches last year," Williams says. "But with the quality of guys we have coming back, if he got 65 or 70, he still has done his job. Going into a football game, people now know Tramon. But if the others stand up and do their jobs, he will be just as effective."

LSU's Nick Saban will be the head coach for the East team, while Oklahoma's Bob Stoops will direct the West squad.

All proceeds from the East West Shrine Game support children who receive medical care, at no cost, from the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children throughout North America. To date, the game has raised more than $14 million for Shriners Hospitals.

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GSU's Eugene, Douglas preseason picks
July 17, 2003

The preseason football recognition is stacking up like cordwood at Grambling State University.

Quarterback Bruce Eugene and wide receiver Tramon Douglas - both seniors - have been named as first-team selections to the Sports Network's Division I-AA 2003 preseason All-America team. Douglas was named to the roster of January's East West Shrine Game recently, as well.

"If you look back over the past five years, and what we've done, the guys who are getting this recognition have earned it," says Grambling coach Doug Williams. "Bruce and Tramon deserve all the accolades."

Eugene was third overall in balloting for the first team. In all, 77 players from 12 different conferences were selected to the team, along with one player from an independent program.

Eugene, a 6-1, 245-pound junior, was a consensus offensive player of the year selection by the Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C., Sheridan Sports Network Black College and the SWAC - as well as being named a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top NCAA Division I-AA offensive player by the Sports Network.

Douglas, meanwhile, led the nation in receiving yards for I-AA, by averaging 142 yards per game. He is also the only person in SWAC history to record more than 1,700 receiving yards in a single season.

Together, they highlighted an explosive Grambling State offense that helped the Tigers to an unprecedented third straight National Black College and Southwestern Athletic Conference championships, with an 11-2 overall record.

Now, it's Williams' job to make sure they don't get weighted down with the awards.

"As coach, I have to protect against them becoming complacent," he says. "It's the same thing I was going through when I was getting them, and Coach Rob told me: `You've got to keep your feet on the ground.' We are fortunate that with people like Bruce and Tramon, they are going to keep their feet firmly planted."

Eugene, a New Orleans native, completed 269-of-543 passes for 4,455 yards including 43 touchdowns while rushing for 535 yards on 137 carries including nine touchdowns.

He also set a pair of SWAC single-season records in both total offensive plays (680) and passing attempts.

Meanwhile, Baton Rouge's Douglas is now also single-season receiving record holder in receptions, yards and touchdowns at GSU.

Williams thinks performances like those from players with another year of eligibility will ensure a few sniffs from the National Football League. The preseason recognition helps, too.

"I think it's a credit to our program," Williams said, "and it's certainly a credit to them."

The Big Sky Conference leads all I-AA leagues by placing 14 players on the Sports Network's I-AA preseason team, including five selected to the first team. Big Sky co-champ and 2002 national quarterfinalist Montana placed two on the initial squad, while Idaho State, Montana State and Northern Arizona each garnered one selection.

Other players of Louisiana interest who made the first-team squad include cornerback Chris Thompson of Nicholls State; and offensive guard Dwight Hudler, linebacker Roderick Royal and defensive tackle John Paul Jones, all of McNeese State.
Linebacker Ryan Garrison of McNeese and safety Lenny Williams of Southern were honorable mention picks.

The Sports Network also administers two awards named for Grambling figures - the Buck Buchanan and Eddie Robinson awards, presented annually to the division's top defensive player and coach, respectively.

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Ball control
GSU's Tramon Douglas does it all again, finally
September 24, 2003

GRAMBLING - A record-breaking receiving day for Grambling State's Tramon Douglas, in the end, didn't mean that much to him.

"I would rather have one catch and we win, than have all those catches in a loss," the senior receiver said. GSU fell 31-20 to McNeese State on Saturday, while Douglas set a new school mark with 17 grabs.

What it meant to the team, however, is something else entirely: As goes Douglas, so goes Grambling State.

And, like the offense, Douglas started slowly.

"He's giving us everything he has. He's made some tough catches for us," says Tigers coach Doug Williams. "But that little bruise on his knee hasn't always let him be Tramon Douglas."

He's talking about the Tramon Douglas who averaged nearly eight catches a game in his All-American junior season at Grambling State - on his way to breaking Jerry Rice's Southwestern Athletic Conference single-season receiving yards record with 1,704 yards.

After an opening loss in 2002 against McNeese, when Douglas had only one catch, the Tigers reeled off 10 straight wins - on the way to a third-straight SWAC championship.

But Douglas didn't practice much during the summer, hobbled by that nagging knee problem. The week before GSU's season opener, he wasn't even in pads at practice.

Douglas, of course, started - but again wasn't a factor in Grambling State's second-straight season-opening thrashing, pulling in just two catches for 30 yards as the Tigers were blanked 29-0.

"He's working hard every day. He's not sitting down on it," Williams says. "It's not that anything is torn. It's just one of those bruises that you can't shake."
The loss underscored the complementary nature of Douglas' success and that of his quarterback.

The longer it took Douglas to get healthy, the longer it clearly would take for Bruce Eugene to get on track this year.

The Tigers' impressive showing in this year's rematch against McNeese, the nation's top-ranked Division I-AA school, is just the latest example.

Douglas's 17 catches - only two fewer than all of the other GSU receivers combined - served to keep the game whisker-close until the very end. He broke the previous school record of 16 set by former wideout Nate Singleton against Virginia Union on Sept. 14, 1991.

"I knew the team needed me this game," Douglas says. "I wanted to step up and show them that Grambling can play with the best of them."

He was rewarded with the most rare of honors: Douglas has been named one of The Sports Network's Division I-AA players of the week - the first from the SWAC to receive that designation this season. He also was named one of's All-Stars and the SWAC's co-offensive player of the week.

Something interesting happened, however, as Douglas slowly found his footing.

Grambling State discovered some of its other receivers: Eugene threw to an astounding nine different people in a win over Alabama A&M - including scoring passes to juniors Moses Harris and Chris Day.

"The good part about it is, Moses Harris made some good plays for us," Williams says. "Tim Abney is making tough catches. We're getting a lot of people involved. I was glad to see Chris Day score a TD; that helped his confidence level."

While Douglas was smashing records against McNeese State, Harris and breakout freshman star Abney piled up 125 yards receiving combined.

"We knew coming into this, after Tramon had a breakout season last year, that he wasn't going to be able to get as many passes," Eugene says. "Our focus has been to get other people open, then come to Tramon. So far this year, that's what's been happening."

Still, without his go-to guy, Eugene sometimes looked tentative in the first two games - like he was thinking too much.

"You can't depend on just one guy," Williams says he told Eugene. "He was feeling it. You can't just look Tramon's way, especially when he's not there."

Then that first touchdown finally came - with nine seconds left in the half in Week 2 at Lorman, Miss. The 20-yarder was hauled in, of course, by Douglas.

Grambling State has played better every successive quarter since.

"The fact that Tramon is still not 100 percent has hampered us in certain situations," says Tigers offensive coordinator Melvin Spears. "Overall, though, we've got some guys who can come along. It's just that Bruce has to be a little more patient. Mechanically, he still was not always in a good throwing position. A lot of his pre-snap routine wasn't as good as it has been."

After having scored just that one touchdown in the previous game and a half, Eugene and the Tigers then exploded for 12 scores in the next eight quarters of play.
Eugene-to-Douglas accounts for five of them. Eugene has run in four more by himself.

And so it goes.

"It slowed him down, but one thing about Tramon: He's a fighter. He'll never quit. He'll never give up," Eugene says, sounding ever more confident. "Although the knee isn't 100 percent, he's still going to be out there giving it his all. We're grateful for that."

Getting better
Tramon Douglas has gotten steadily more involved in the Grambling State offense this year, as he's recovered from a lingering knee problem:
· At San Jose State: Two catches, 30 yards, no TDs.
· At Alcorn State: Seven catches, 83 yards, two TDs.
· Vs. Alabama A&M: Six catches, 75 yards, one TD.
· Vs. McNeese State: 17 catches, 216 yards, three TDs.

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Douglas will sit out Prairie View game
October 1, 2003

GRAMBLING - Grambling State wide receiver Tramon Douglas - coming off minor surgery to torn meniscus cartilage in his knee - won't be starting against Prairie View on Saturday in Dallas.
Not that he doesn't want to.

"I told him yesterday that he should be ready by (the Oct. 11 home game against) Mississippi Valley - and he said, `No, Prairie View,'" sixth-year GSU coach Doug Williams said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

"That's Tramon. He's a tough kid. The type of surgery that he had - on torn cartilage - is usually a two-week type thing with the way doctors go in now. It's not a major process. Basically, he can play - if we coaches let him."

The meniscus is a shock-absorbing cartilage in the middle of the knee.

Douglas leads the SWAC in receiving yards and receptions - with 32 catches for 404 yards and six scores in the first four games of the year. That includes a now-understandably quiet opening week, when he pulled down just two passes for 30 yards.

Douglas - who also leads the SWAC in scoring - says he woke up on Sept. 21, after his record-breaking 17-catch performance against McNeese State, and the pain was simply too great.

He's been playing with what he thought was a bruised knee for weeks. When Douglas went to the doctor that Monday, he found out he'd had the cartilage tear since two-a-days last summer.

"When you want to play - and you want to win - you don't think about it until after the game," Douglas says. "The injury was slowing me down, but I just wanted to help my team."

Douglas mingled with his teammates during Tuesday afternoon practices, taking a short break from rehabbing with laps at Robinson Stadium.

"He running and doing everything else," Williams says. "I still don't think we're going to play him."

That means Tigers quarterback Bruce Eugene will have to continue to spread it around. He has completed passes to eight, then seven receivers in the past two weeks.

"What makes Tramon such a good, clutch receiver is: When it's time to make a play, Tramon knows how to make a play," Williams said. "If we can get the other guys to play and think like Tramon, we'll be a lot further along."

Douglas, for his part, thinks the Tigers will be fine as he finishes healing up.

"Our offense is designed for anybody to make plays. I don't think they are going to miss a beat," Douglas says. "You've got Bruce back there at quarterback - and that's enough right there."

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GSU still in good hands
Young receivers continue making big impact
October 12, 2003

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - Senior Tramon Douglas rejoined his team briefly Saturday for pregame warmups, under a dark and rolling sky at Robinson Stadium.

Not that Grambling State really needed him against still-winless Mississippi Valley State. GSU breezed to a 45-6 victory.

I've seen the future - though, with just 6,397 in attendance, I was one of the few - and it is Tiger receivers Moses Harris, Tim Abney and Chris Day.

Given an opportunity when Douglas missed a game after minor knee surgery, Abney and Day each caught two touchdowns against Prairie View. Harris answered the call Saturday with an 111-yard day and a touchdown.

"We have had a couple of soldiers down," GSU receivers coach Sammy White said. "But that is no excuse. Everybody in this group should want to be as good as Tramon Douglas."

Over the past two weeks, they have been.

Spreading it around is not only helping Grambling State win football games while their All-American heals up - and win big - it's helping ensure the team's future during quarterback Bruce Eugene's final season in 2004.

"We work together every day in practice, so it depends on my getting the ball there," Eugene said. "You're going to miss Tramon - he's an All-American receiver. He's going to make plays and get open. But this has been a chance for our young receivers to see what we can do without him."

Day, the Troy State transfer, scored on a touchdown pass of 35 yards in the second quarter against Valley. Catches by Day of 25 yards and Abney of 24 yards keyed a Tigers' drive that would make the final score 45-6.

That was the second time running back Ab Kuaan scored - one of five players to reach the end zone for Grambling State.

Not that it started that way.

In fact, it seemed as if Grambling State - loose and effective for the good teams, lazy and disorganized for the bad ones - had only just met in the inflatable Tiger during pre-game ceremonies. That trend was personified in Eugene, benched for not attending class this week.

But, once again, the Tigers shook themselves awake late in the game - primarily through the play of the defense, which held the Devils to negative yardage in the second half.

Even so, the plays that seemed the most important were those by Harris, Day and Abney, a sign of good things to come as the competition gets tougher - and as Douglas approaches the end of his college eligibility."

When somebody goes down, one of the other guys step up," said Harris, a smoking junior from Dallas. "You can't just key in on one person. With our depth, we can't be stopped."

Abney, a former Neville High standout who just turned 19, has became known as a go-to receiver for the tough yards. He was third in team yardage going into the Valley game, trailing only Douglas and Harris.

"There's more than Tramon on this football team," GSU coach Doug Williams said. "Tim has gotten better each week. You're talking about a freshman who has played big for us."

Williams chuckles: "I don't think he even knows what he's doing yet."

His coach is kidding, but a couple of key drops early in the season prove that Abney hasn't quite rounded the learning curve yet.

"He needs a little more patience," said White, a Richwood High alum who started for Minnesota in two NFL championship games, logging a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XI. "He gets in a hurry, once the ball gets to him. Trying to get upfield, he doesn't always secure the ball. That's cost him at least two touchdowns this year. That comes with time."

Harris said he was proud of his play on Saturday, but he's not finished.

"That's to be continued," said Harris, smiling broadly.

Day is clearly gaining confidence with every game, as well.

"When you've got four, five or six guys catching the ball," GSU offensive coordinator Melvin Spears said, "that says a lot about our receiving corps and the job that Coach White is doing. We'll be going to a lot of guys down the stetch."

Douglas, you see, is expected back next week.

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GSU's Douglas returns to take on next SWAC foe
October 18, 2003

GRAMBLING - The lethal combination of quarterback Bruce Eugene-to-receiver Tramon Douglas sparked a third consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference championship for Grambling State last season.

So, teams at the bottom of the conference standings might have thought they'd found an opening when Eugene's favorite receiver went down for three weeks in September after minor knee surgery.

Not only did GSU's junior signal-caller find new targets, but the Tigers discovered a rushing attack to help close off opponents. They haven't lost a SWAC game, even without their All-American receiver.

Re-enter Douglas - now all healed and, well, pumped.

"When I get back," he said, "it's going to make my job a lot easier. We've got a lot of people now who can step up. Bruce doesn't have to look for me every time now. He's got a lot of weapons to choose from. They won't be able to double team me now."

Pity Prairie View A&M and Mississippi Valley State - neither has a conference win - which nevertheless lost to a hobbled GSU by a combined 110-13 in the last two weeks.

Up next is the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, sitting just above PVAMU in the West standings with a 1-3 SWAC record.

Now, the Golden Lions not only have to worry about the return of the SWAC's best pitch-and-catch tandem, but also a cast-of-thousands receiving crew as a second option - then a dangerous new running game led by sophomore Ab Kuaan, who has 225 yards on the year.

"Working on rushing against some teams that aren't as good is going to help us in the long run, against the Jackson States, the Alabama States - and particularly in the Bayou Classic, where you've got to run the ball," said Melvin Spears, GSU's offensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

Standing in sharp contrast is Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which has managed just one score and a couple of field goals in two weeks.

"They lost a tough game this past week, 7-6 to Texas Southern," said Grambling State coach Doug Williams. "There wasn't a whole lot of offense."

That also doesn't bode well against a Grambling State team with a resurgent defense.

"Except for some spurts here or there - against McNeese, they missed some tackles - overall, I think they have played pretty well," Williams said. "If the offense can be as consistent as the defense, it makes for a pretty good game."

The return of both Eugene and Douglas for a full game suggests the offense will be.

Eugene sat out the first quarter against MVSU after missing too much class, allowing the Devils to keep the game within one point. He then threw four touchdown passes on the way to an easy 45-6 victory.

Douglas was named a Division I-AA player of the week by the Sports Network after a school-record number of receptions two weeks before against McNeese State, but hasn't played again after surgery to repair torn cartilage.

Still, even with Douglas and Eugene in and out of the lineup, Grambling State remains the No. 1 in SWAC passing offense, first downs, third-down conversions and total offense.

"We won't be able to control the game like we did last Saturday," UAPB coach Lee Hardman told The Pine Bluff (Ark.) Commercial. "But that is the whole goal. We want to control the ball - and keep Eugene off the field."

Good idea: Though he's also missed parts of two other quarters in blowout wins so far, Eugene is still the SWAC's top passer and total offense leader.

"Bruce has worked very hard this week," Spears said. "He's been coming in on his own time, doing some extra conditioning. He knows now that we are very serious about him going to school."

That offense squares off against another of the best defenses in the SWAC, the No. 3 ranked Golden Lions. GSU is the No. 4 defense in the conference.

"I think they have some talent," Spears said. "They mix their scheme up on defense. I'm sure they are expecting us to come in as a wide-open team, trying to adjust to some of the things we did last year. But we've got some wrinkles for them. One of the things that has made us tougher, week-in and week-out, is that there is always a different mix."

GRAMBLING - Texas Southern tried to play keep away with Grambling State.

After a scoreless first quarter, however, all TSU could do was try to keep up.

GSU posted 28 unanswered points to finish the half, then another 20 to win 48-15. Both of Texas Southern's scores came when the game was already decided.

Junior Grambling State quarterback Bruce Eugene finished with an eye-popping five TD strikes - and no interceptions.

"It felt really good to get back on track," said Eugene, who had his worst day in more than a year last week against Jackson State.

Senior receiver Tramon Douglas' 29-yard reception to the TSU 15 set up the first of six touchdowns by Grambling State, which moved to 6-0 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference's West Division.

Two consecutive TSU mistakes led to 14 more GSU points in the next 10 minutes of play - first a botched snap on a punt, then a blocked punt.

"When they started making mistakes, we went up 21-0 - and that took them out of their ballgame, which was keep away," said GSU coach Doug Williams.

Eugene would also throw Grambling State touchdown passes to Henry Tolbert, Chris Day - and two to Moses Harris. Ab Kauuan added a score on the ground.

Brian Morgan missed a long field-goal attempt as the half ended, but finished Grambling State's first scoring drive of the second half with a 37-yarder to give GSU a 31-point lead. A 41-yard GSU field goal opened the fourth quarter.

Texas Southern added some mild late drama, as the gutsy scrambling of quarterback Gerred Lunnon led to TSU's first points of the day. Kicker Vincent Patrick turned a botched snap on the extra point into a two-point conversion when his pass was bobbled then caught, then fumbled and then recovered by Adam Penna - sending the crowd into a frenzy.

"I'm just sorry we didn't get to it any earlier than we did," said TSU coach Bill Thomas, whose team falls to 3-2 in the SWAC. "Who knows what might have happened?"

TSU briefly subbed Carlos Pierson for Lunnen in the fourth, and he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Damarcus Jenkins - just Texas Southern's second scoring pass on the year.

Lunnon and Pierson had 139 yards passing combined.

Eighty-seven of Texas Southern's 127 yards on the ground came from scrambles by Lunnen.

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Back in really good hands
· A return to form by WR Tramon Douglas allowed GSU's homecoming fans to leave game happy.
November 2, 2003

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - This was an afternoon of receiving redemption for senior Tramon Douglas, the day he finally looked like No. 5 again. Thanks to him, Texas Southern will almost surely lose its ranking as the SWAC's No. 1 pass defense.

"Tramon Douglas made two catches that I thought were outstanding," Grambling State coach Doug Williams enthused - still smiling broadly, after broadsiding Texas Southern 48-15.

There was Douglas, still recovering from minor knee surgery, pulling in a dramatic 29-yard catch that set up GSU's first score of the day, five minutes into the second quarter.

There was Douglas, making a heart-splashing, one-handed catch for a first down - then a di-i-i-i-i-iving catch on a 36-yard TD pass to put GSU up 38-0 late in the third quarter.

"I don't even know how he made that one," Williams said. "People were draped all over him."

He led all Grambling State receivers in every quarter of play - finishing with 135 yards, more than his last two games combined.

"He's not all the way back," said GSU quarterback Bruce Eugene, who threw five touchdowns to four receivers on this day. "But he's almost there."

Douglas' problems started in training camp, when the coaching staff thought he had a bruised knee. As the season wore on, the pain worsened - and after Grambling State's Sept. 20 home game, a doctor's visit revealed torn cartilage.

Since the team had a bye week, then two games against SWAC cellar-dwellers, Douglas decided to have the minor surgery four games into his senior year.

He thought he might miss two weeks. The truth is, he wasn't up to speed for more than a month.

"I have pain - Monday through Friday, in practice," Douglas admits. "In the game, though, I really don't feel it.

Yet, while he'd hauled in eight touchdown passes before facing TSU, Douglas had had only one since returning from the knee problem.

Injuries can change players, making them far too reflective. That seemed to be what was happening with Douglas.

"He was not being aggressive," said Melvin Spears, GSU's offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. "He was too tentative. It was like he was replaying it in his mind."

Douglas, you'll remember, set a new school mark for receptions in that Sept. 20 game - and on a bum knee - against McNeese State. Tentative is not his style.

Yet, in his first two return appearances, Douglas had just 111 combined yards in receiving - well under half of what he had gained in that record-breaking game alone.

"Tramon has not been giving us what we really need," Williams said. "I don't know whether he is still favoring his leg or not. He needed to play better."

Coaches brought him in - for film work, for long talks.

"There were battles he used to win 100 percent of the time - and now he wasn't," Spears said. "We told him: `You've got to make a determination on whether you are actually ready to participate.' "

The light came on, and he played lights out Saturday - averaging 17 yards per catch. Meaning, when you threw it to Douglas, he moved the chains. Just like the old days.

"I went to the sideline, after his TD catch," Williams said, "and I told him: Now, you look like Tramon Douglas."

These last few games couldn't be more critical for Douglas, as his senior year dwindles away. Several NFL scouts have passed through Grambling State's practices, many more are attending the games - and each expects to catch a glimpse of the SWAC's record holder for receiving yards in a single season. (He eclipsed a mark set in 1984 at Mississippi Valley State by future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.)

"I'm thinking - and hoping - that most of Tramon's situation has been in his head," Williams said. "When you have a knee injury, it's not something that you get over. You've got to believe that you're not going to hurt your knee again. I'm hoping he's there."

All through this week, it appeared that he was certainly on this way. Saturday's eight-catch afternoon proved it: Douglas made pinpoint cuts and seemed to have regained his burst off the line - one that looks like he's starting in third gear.

Compare that with his performances at Pine Bluff and JSU, where you saw a player using technique to get open. Nothing wrong with that. But it meant something was missing with GSU's No. 1 target.

"It's something," Douglas said, "that will get better with time. Playing the season, you'll have some injuries. I know I'm not going to be 100 percent. But I've got to play through it."

Grambling State's coaches have let Douglas do that - and it's paid dividends, finally. The talk he had with Williams clearly played a role, too.

Douglas said it was a pride thing.

"He said: `Coach, you called me out,' " Williams recalled. "We had a good heart-to-heart talk. The real Tramon Douglas showed up."

Nick Deriso is sports editor at The News-Star, 411 N. Fourth St., Monroe, La., 71201. Contact him at (318) 362-0234 or at

A highlight-reel, finger-tip interception by senior Grambling State defensive back Octavius Bond in the end zone saved a score to open the game by Texas Southern. The drive was keyed on a 1-yard fourth-down dive by TSU quarterback Gerred Lunnon and a huge penalty in the red zone, when junior GSU linebacker John Petty was charged with a late hit - giving TSU first and goal.

TSU's Lunnon, on the first play of the third-quarter drive, took off on a quarterback draw - fooling the Grambling State defense into giving up 22 yards. Lunnon's scrambling play briefly envigorated Texas Southern, which was down by 38 points. Texas Southern ran the same play three more times on that drive - getting 14 yards on one try and, ultimately, a touchdown. A two-point conversion by TSU made it 38-8.

Two minutes into the game, junior defensive tackle Jimmy Zachary exploded through the line to smack Timothy Boutte on Texas Southern's first drive of the day. Zachary's tackle sent Boutte back two yards, leaving TSU with second-and-two. Zachary later recovered a fumble on the TSU 13 to open the third quarter.

TSU was still holding slim upset hopes before the half, as it was only down by a touchdown. Then disaster struck on successive drives: Punting from the TSU 40, the snap went wide on punter Adrian Vera. Senior GSU defensive back Travis Massey recovered the fumble at the Texas Southern 20. Then a blocked punt on the next series gave GSU the ball on the TSU 9. Both miscues led to touchdowns.

GSU started slow - again. The difference? Texas Southern started slower. GSU's early inconsistency meant GSU's punters couldn't help the defense much in the first quarter. Texas Southern's second and third drives began at midfield. But TSU had its own problems on offense: Both possessions ended with punts. So, the first quarter was scoreless. But then GSU followed its usual script, piling up 38 points in the second and third periods - all before TSU got its first touchdown of the day.

Tiger bites: Legendary former GSU sports information director Collie J. Nicholson was an honorary captain for the game. ... In the last meeting between Grambling State and TSU, Corey Alexander returned three kickoffs for 186 yards - including a 98-yard touchdown. ... There was an overflow crowd for homecoming at "The Hole," as Robinson Stadium has been dubbed by some of the players. Announced crowd was 21,065.

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GSU seniors close out stellar careers
November 30, 2003

NEW ORLEANS - The Grambling State seniors of 1999 were the last to see their season end in New Orleans.

Each group since has played two weeks after the Bayou Classic in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.

Saturday's slim 44-41 loss to Southern changed that.

"When I look at these players who are in their last Bayou Classic or their last game at Grambling, and what they have contributed, you want to put your arms around them," GSU coach Doug Williams said. "There has been blood, and sweat, and tears."

Two of the hardest-hit seniors were wide reciever Tramon Douglas and linebacker Antoine Smith.

Douglas had his lowest total yards since playing UAPB on Oct. 18, Douglas' first game back after minor knee surgery caused him to miss a month of the season.

Smith was involved in a scary first-half collision that broke his shin.

"It's disappointing because I didn't even finish the second quarter - and it was the last game of my career at Grambling," Smith said. "I was in so much pain it was tough for me to focus on everything that was going on on the field."

Douglas leaves GSU as the school leader in receptions (for a year and in a game), receiving yards and touchdowns - and the SWAC leader for receiving yards in a single season, a record previously held by future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice.

"I love him with all my heart," said GSU quarterback Bruce Eugene, who counted Douglas as his favorite target. "I'm hurting because we went out like this - for this to be his last game."

Douglas had a team-leading nine catches for 83 yards on Saturday.

"It's didn't hit me all week, and now it finally has - I'm losing my top receiver," said GSU receivers coach Sammie White. "We thought we were going to play another one."

Seniors this year include: DE Calvin Arnold; DB Octavius Bond; SS John Brantley; DB Earin Bridges; WR Corey Brownfield; DL Traveres Comegys; WR Calvin Colquitt; TE Gershone Jessie; DB Seneca Lee; and OL Warner Stewart, among others.

"It becomes emotional in that dressing room," Williams said. "I always go back to something my dad used to tell me. We'd sit around, when he was living, and he'd say: `Man, the best of friends must part sometimes.' "

Bond finished with 146 yards on kickoff returns. Colquitt had four catches for 47 yards.

"It hasn't hit them yet," Williams said. "But they will miss Grambling. When Randy Hymes first left, and he was in Baltimore that first year, he'd call me. He'd say: `Coach, I wish I was still at Grambling.' It's just something about it. You missed being there. You miss being a part of it. It takes some getting used to."

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Stopwatch can't measure heart
March 22, 2004

By Nick Deriso
He averaged more yards per catch than celebrated Minnesota receivers like Cris Carter, Anthony Carter and Ahmad Rashad.

But Richwood High product Sammy White might never have become a three-time All Pro in today's NFL. He simply wasn't fast enough in a league that now values a player's score on the 40-yard dash more than any intangible.

"It's totally different now," said White, who has been named offensive coordinator at Grambling State, his alma mater. "I think speed is overrated. When it comes down to it, it is all about execution - fast, slow, big, small, you've got to execute."

White, even a step behind Rashad on what would be a Super Bowl team, succeeded because he was all heart.

"He was tougher than boot leather," former Vikings coach Bud Grant once said. "He practiced every week, played every game. He got beat up a little bit, but he was tough."

Certain Hall of Famer Jerry Rice - another former all-Southwestern Athletic Conference receiver - wouldn't have been chosen by these speed-obsessed modern teams. Prospects at positions like defensive tackle are even evaluated by their 40 times today.

That made the running portion of Friday's pro day for Grambling State players all the more important. There, Earin Bridges, Octavius Bond, Calvin Colquitt, Tavares Comegys, Chris Day, Tramon Douglas, Gershone Jessie and Seneca Lee were measured and tested for possible draftability.

They were weighed. They jumped. Some lifted weights.

But it all came down to those four 10-yard lengths to be run at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston.

Douglas, trying to recover from a knee injury in the off-season before his senior year, scored a disappointing 4.84 on his first try - but seemed to have wobbled a bit instead of running in a straight line, something that would have added to his time.

A second run a few minutes later was only slightly better, as Douglas finished at 4.83.

"I've been trying to get to where I was," said a disappointed Douglas, who added that he'd been timing at 4.5 on a track in Houston where he is rehabbing the injury. "A 4.8 kills me, though. It's hurts my pride."

Yet, despite that high number, Douglas is the same player who set a new school record for receptions in a single contest on Sept. 20 - just days before he was forced to have surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage on his knee.

"In the McNeese game, I was dying out there," Douglas said. "It was like I was a wounded animal - and that's the worst animal you want to mess with. I didn't know if it was going to be my last game and I wanted to give everybody something to think about."

He leaves Grambling State holding every significant school record for receivers - and that's saying something in this pass-first offense.

"If you question his toughness, just look at last year," White said. "He played through pain. He showed he could come through time after time."

In the end, Douglas had the production - he averaged 92 yards a game, despite missing three in 2003 - to warrant a look in the NFL Draft. But he didn't display the speed for the pro scouts.

That 4.8 means Douglas will have to try to get on somewhere after the draft.

The team that takes a chance on Tramon Douglas will be happy it did.

"He's like a Sammy White," Spears said. "He'll make the team, at first, because he's an outstanding special-teams player. Then, they'll discover that he's elusive in the open field - and that he produces."

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Grambling passing attack will be minus Douglas
March 27, 2004

GRAMBLING - An injury to departed senior Tramon Douglas early last season taught Grambling State something about its young crew of receivers: There were other talents on the team.

"We showed that we have a great group of receivers," said interim GSU coach Melvin Spears. "It was a blessing, in a way, because they stepped up to the plate when Tramon Douglas wasn't in there."

Spears was promoted from offensive coordinator in February when sixth-year coach Doug Williams left for an NFL job. Spears then promoted receivers coach Sammy White to take over the offense.

They led the Grambling State offense through its first spring drills in an evening session on Friday. The players were so excited about getting started that they began workouts half an hour early. Spring practice continues at 10 a.m. today.

"We've got a really young group of receivers," Spears said. "But they are very talented."

The most experienced wideout - and perhaps speediest - that GSU will work with this spring is senior Moses Harris.

"Under the tutelage of Coach White, he's just going to get better," Spears said.

Harris was the team's second-leading receiver in 2003, with 50 catches for 713 yards and six scores.

Also returning this year: Neville High product Tim Abney, who led the team in average yards per catch among receivers with 10 or more receptions. His six TD grabs as a freshman tied him for second on the team in 2003.

But because of a lingering groin injury, Abney sat out Friday's practice and may miss a large portion of the spring.

One of the most intriguing new receivers is Frank Green, a transfer from East Tennessee State.

"He's another speed merchant," Spears said.

Green had 16 receptions for 242 yards and a touchdown, while also returning a kick for another score last season.

Junior running back Henry Tolbert will also play wide receiver this year, lining up in early spring sessions in the slot.

Look for Paul Hardiman, a redshirt last season, to become more involved in the passing game. A 6-0, 170-pound receiver out of Valley Christian High in Phoenix, Hardiman could have a breakout season based on impressive work in practice.

"He's going to catch the ball," Spears said. "He's a big-time pass catcher. He runs good routes. We're just trying to make sure right now that he knows a little bit more about playing football in the Southwestern Athletic Conference."

Tiger bites: San Jose State has invited Morgan State to play in the second Literary Classic. GSU was the original opponent, but couldn't get terms worked out to continue in 2004. ... Senior receiver Chris Day has been trying to get back a year of eligiblity lost when he sat out the 2002 season, but hasn't gotten an answer from the NCAA yet. Meanwhile, he had a private workout with the Green Bay Packers this week. ... A feature from The (Brandenton, Fla.) Herald on Devil Rays pitcher Dewon Brazelton highlighted his love for throwback jerseys. Included in his collection are three Doug Williams' pieces, one from Tampa Bay and two from Grambling State.

Departed Tramon Douglas
Had 77 catches for 917 yards and 10 TDs last season.
Returning Moses Harris
Had 50 catches for 713 yards and six TDs last season.
Injured Tim Abney
Had 38 catches for 637 yards and six TDs last season.