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 I-AA.org'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 nderiso@thenewsstar.com.

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.

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