2012 SWAC Hall of Fame Class Enshrined Tonight
The 2012 SWAC Hall of Fame class was enshrined on Thursday night at the annual reception at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Birmingham. The event kicked off Championship Weekend in the conference and climax with the 2012 SWAC Football Championship game on Saturday at Legion Field between Jackson State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The Hall of Fame class of 2012 consisted of eight honorees, including two from UAPB Hubert O. Clemmons and former Chancellor Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, along with another from JSU, LyVonne LeFlore .
The class also included present and former NFL greats Donald Driver (Alcorn State) of the Green Bay Packers and Harold Carmichael (Southern), formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Joining Driver is another former Alcorn State basketball standout Willie Norwood. Rounding out the list of new Hall of Fame members are former Mississippi Valley track star Herman Sanders and every athlete's best friend, longtime Grambling athletic trainer Eugene "Doc" Harvey.
HUBERT O. CLEMMONS (Arkansas-Pine Bluff)
If former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball coach Hubert O. “Ox’’ Clemmons were still alive, he probably would beam wirh joy each time the Golden Lions fire up a three-point shot.
Even though there was no three-point field goal when Clemmons coached at UAPB from 1956-76, that was his team’s game. He had no problem with the Golden Lions putting up long-range shots, and the Golden Lions had no problem with his style. They were among the top scoring teams n the country year in and year out, and they led the nation during the 1964-65 season, averaging 100 points a game – an unthinkable number of points for a college team during that era.
Clemmons’ high-scoring, shoot-first philosophy paid dividends as he compiled a 296-217 record and was seventh among Division II coaches in victories when he retired in 1977. Clemmons, who died in 2002, will be inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame Thursday night during a reception in Birmingham, Ala.
“Coach Clemmons was a coach who recognized what talent was all about,’’ says Jesse Mason, a SWAC Hall of Famer who played for Clemmons at UAPB and led the conference with 25.2 points a game average in 1959-60. “He was very open to players. It was about sportsmanship, academics and excelling on and off court. He instilled in us playing as a team. It was fun playing for him.”
Other members of this year’s SWAC Hall of Fame Class are Green Bay Packers receiver and Alcorn State alumnus Donald Driver, former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff president Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., former Mississippi Valley State track All-American Herman Sanders, former Jackson State basketball standout LyVonne LeFlore, Philadelphia Eagles Director of Player Relations and former Southern University wide receiver Harold Carmichael, former Grambling State athletic trainer Eugene “Doc’’ Harvey and former Alcorn State basketball standout Willie Norwood. Harvey and Clemmons will be honored posthumously.
Clemmons, a 1949 UAPB graduate, became the Golden Lions’ coach in 1956 following a highly success career at Merrill High in Pine Bluff, where he coached basketball and football. His teams at Merrill won consecutive state championships in basketball from 1952-55 and in football in 1955.
It took Clemmons three seasons to produce a winning record at UAPB. The Golden Lions found their stride under Clemmons in the early ’60s and had seven consecutive winning seasons. The high point was the 1966-67 season when the Golden Lions were 24-7 and won the SWAC championship. Clemmons was named NAIA District Coach of the Year.
However, it is the 1964-65 season that is most memorable. The Golden Lions were 22-4, their first 20-win season while averaging 100.0 points a game.
“He loved that fast pace,’’ says Alcorn State Hall of Fame coach Davey Whitney. “He liked those kids who could shoot the jumper. He always scored a lot of points.’’
Whitney, whose teams were noted for their defense, coached his first SWAC game against Clemmons and UAPB. Both teams scored in triple figures.
“I was kind of expecting it,’’ Whitney says, recalling UAPB’s up tempo of style. “We had a lot of high-scoring teams, but none like that. I liked to control the game, but they were able to control the tempo. I couldn’t slow them down.’’
The Golden Lions were on fire from the start. They connected on their first three shots well beyond what would be the three-point line in today’s game. A stunned Whitney immediately called timeout to settle his team – and himself down.
“They hit them from deep out there,’’ he says. “They had range.’’
Legend has it that the Golden Lions sometimes would take shots from as deep as half court.
“Clem didn’t mind,’’ says former Alcorn assistant coach Lonnie Walker, a SWAC Hall of Famer who played against Clemmons’ team. “They would get up and down the floor.’’
Clemmons’ contributions to UAPB athletics went beyond coaching basketball. He was director of athletics from 1992-2002 at UAPB, a dark period in the school’s athletic history. The Golden Lions’ football program had been hit with the death penalty for rules violations and was deep in debt while playing in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference..
Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., who became UAPB’s chancellor shortly after the NAIA imposed the death penalty, is widely credited for revitalizing UAPB’s athletics program and shepherding the Golden Lions back into the SWAC after a 20-year hiatus. However, he says Clemmons, in his role as director of athletics, was the mover and shaker in the process.
“He was the first to come forward when we had the death penalty, and he restored the football program,’’ says “His personal contact with people in the SWAC, the respect people have for him were a big help. If anybody can get credit for revitalizing UAPB, he gets it. What I did was support him.’’
Marino H. Casem was director of athletics at Southern University when UAPB applied for readmission to the conference. He says the Golden Lions’ return was a win-win proposition. SWAC needed a 10th member in order to have enough schools to go to a two-division alignment, and UAPB needed to be in a conference that provided the school a more lucrative financial outlook. Casem says the marriage between UAPB wouldn’t have taken place had it not been for Clemmons.
“Casem says. “He knew where all the bodies were buried,’’ Casem says. “He was from the old school. He was there when the Golden Lions were the Golden Lions, kicking butt and taking names. He knew all the proper contacts. He knew who to get help from. The conference needed Pine Bluff and was happy to have them back in.’’
Clemmons’ role in the resurgence of the Golden Lions athletics program solidified his legacy at the school.
“It’s unfortunate that we had to go through that,’’ Mason says. “We had a lot to celebrate during the Cooley era, but we had to pay for it. We had to prove worthy of being in the SWAC. Coach Clemmons took the lead in making sure we were in line. Knowing him as a Coach and knowing his love and commitment to the University and what he felt was going to be a part of his legacy, he stepped up and not only took a leadership role, he got others to see that it was a new day.’’
DR. LAWRENCE A. DAVIS (Arkansas-Pine Bluff)
Dr. Lawrence A. Davis’ finger pints are all over the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff athletics program.
Davis, captain of the Golden Lions’ basketball for two years as an undergraduate and a member of the UAPB Sports Hall of Fame, oversaw a revitalization of Golden Lions athletics while serving as chancellor at Arkansas-Pine Bluff for 22 years. During his tenure, the football program came back from the death penalty imposed by the NAIA for widespread violations, and golf, soccer, volleyball, bowling and baseball teams were started. In addition, Davis orchestrated the school’s reclassification from the NAIA to NCAA Division I and its return to the SWAC in 1997 after a 27-year hiatus.
Davis will be honored for his contributions when he is inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame during a reception in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday night.
“I don’t know of an honor that surpasses this one,’’ Davis says. “I consider this the top honor. The reason is because this is a decision made my peers.’’
Other members of this year’s SWAC Hall of Fame Class are Green Bay Packers receiver and Alcorn State alumnus Donald Driver, former Mississippi Valley State track All-American Herman Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles Director of Player Relations and former Southern University receiver Harold Carmichael, former Jackson State basketball standout LyVonne LeFlore, former Alcorn State men’s basketball star Willie Norwood, former Grambling State athletic trainer Eugene “Doc’’ Harvey and former Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball coach Hubert Clemmons. Harvey and Clemmons will be honored posthumously.
Davis grew up on the campus of UAPB, which was known as Arkansas AM&N when he was in school. His father, Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Sr., was chancellor for 30 years. The younger Davis played all sports growing and came to value their importance beyond a competitive standpoint. That is why he was bullish on building up UAPB’s athletics program when he became chancellor.
“.I know what athletics can do,’’ Davis says. “It teaches lessons about life you can’t get any other way. Athletics are very important to a University as long as you remember the tail of the dog can’t wag the dog. It brings attention to the University that you can’t get anywhere else. It brings a lot to the city; it allows people to identify with the University who would never give the University any attention. People don’t get excited about the chemistry department. But they do get excited about the football team. But you have to remember you’re providing an academic opportunity for student-athletes.’’
Getting UAPB athletics on solid footing was a Herculean task. The school didn’t have a football team when Davis became chancellor in 1991, having been shut down by the death penalty. With no football team the Golden Lions faced the prospect of not having a Homecoming, which is the bedrock of HBCUs and the one event that brings alumni together. In a stroke of genius, Davis decided to have Homecoming with a flag football game as the showcase event in 1991 and again in 1992.
The games, which featured former UAPB players divided into black and gold teams – with former Golden Lions from as far back as the 1940s competing – were a hit. The 1992 game was nearly a sellout.
. “Alumni come (to Homecoming) to see each other,’’ Davis says. “We gave them an excuse to see each other. (But) That was painful.’’
Another move that Davis made didn’t go over quite as well. Alumni were in an uproar when he decided to add an additional year to the death penalty that UAPB was serving.
Davis, despite his avowed belief in the benefits of athletics, reasoned that the money used to field a football team would be better used if it were put into paying teacher salaries helping to reduce the $3 million deficit that the school faced.
“You have to understand that you can a school without a football team,’’ Davis says. “But you can’t have a football team without a school. One athlete said to me, ‘You don’t understand. Some of us are here just to play football.’’ I said to him, ‘You don’t understand. You’re at the wrong place.’’’
Davis’ delaying tactic paid dividends. In 1993 he hired Lee Hardman, a highly successful local high school coach, and two years later the Golden Lions were 9-4 and played for the NAIA national championship.
In 1997, Davis led UAPB into NCAA Division I and back into the SWAC. It was journey that was fraught with peril, however.
The Golden Lions were victimized by their winning ways in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference, the NAIA league that they belonged to. Because the Golden Lions were so successful, opponents demanded that they paid a guarantee to play UAPB. In addition, UAPB fans weren’t interested in seeing the Golden Lions play the likes of Ouachita Baptist, Southern Arkansas and Arkansas Tech and the other teams in the AIC, and those schools’ fans weren’t interested in following their teams on the road when they played at UAPB.
The result: While UAPB was in the process of joining the SWAC, the president of the University of Arkansas system informed Davis that the school’s athletic program had $750,000 deficit. What’s more, he gave Davis two weeks to devise a plan – with his signature to ensure that it would be carried out – to eliminate the deficit.
Davis raised the money, Arkansas-Pine Bluff returned to the SWAC and the rest is history.
“Dr. Davis was an important cog in UAPB’s SWAC reentry,’’ says Jesse Mason, a SWAC Hall of Fame basketball who and Davis’ teammate at UAPB. “He’s the individual who made it happen.’’
UAPB has had significant success in across all sports since returning to the SWAC. The Golden Lions had the best record in the conference for the 2012 season while winning their second West Division championship. They play Jackson State for the conference crown Saturday at Legion Field in Birmingham.
The men’s basketball team won the 2010 conference tournament championship and became the first SWAC representative to advance past the play-game in the NCAA Tournament.
The soccer team won the 2011 SWAC title and earned a berth in the NCAA Championships.
“I’m proud of the accomplishments,’’ Davis says, pointing out that UAPB and SMU are the only programs ever to receive the death penalty. “SMU never recovered. We did recover.’’
Mason says he is not surprised that became his alma mater’s leader as its chancellor. That was the role he filled when they were teammates.
“He was a leader,’’ Mason says. “We had two guards, two forwards and a center. He would be a point guard today, the leader of the team. He had the highest GPA. He knew the game; he was scrappy and a thinker. He kept the team together.’’
Mason was a high-scoring guard, who 25.2 points a game to lead the SWAC in 1960. He says fans would get on him at times for shooting too much. When they did, it was Davis who put things in perspective for him.
“He would tell me, ‘Jesse, don’t worry about people talking about you shoot too much,’’ Mason recalls. “Just tell them you were open. He was an inspiration to me.’’
Davis describes himself as an average athlete who loved playing all sports. He didn’t become a starter until his junior season.
“To me, athletics was just the fulfillment of a college education,’’ he says. “I never was a person who focused on athletics. My teammates respected me. I would see to it that they were supposed to do.’’
Even though Davis wasn’t the Golden Lions’ star, he played under heavy pressure since his father was the chancellor. Davis went by his father’s office after each home game and they would verbally replay the contest.
“It was stressful,’’ Davis says of being an athlete and the chancellor’s son.” I played better when we were not at home. He would always say something to keep me from getting the big head. He kept me humble.’’
The elder Davis also kept his son from forgetting why he was in school. During his tenure as chancellor – and even now – the younger Davis hasn’t forgotten.
“We’re giving (student athletes) an opportunity to get a degree,’’ he says. “If you allow them to leave without it, you’ve exploited them.’’
DONALD DRIVER (Alcorn State)
If Shakespeare had it right when he said, ‘’all the world is a stage,’’ Donald Driver has performed on the biggest of stages.
The former Alcorn State wide receiver, a 14-year NFL veteran and the Green Bay Packers’ career leader in catches and receiving yards, helped the Packers win Super Bowl XLV while playing in front of 103,219 fans at Cowboys Stadium, and he won the Mirror Ball Trophy in front a television audience of millions in season 14 of Dancing With the Stars.
Driver, who will be inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame during a reception Thursday night in Birmingham, Ala., says it’s unlikely he would have achieved any of his accomplishment had he not attended Alcorn.
.”I’m glad I went there,’’ Driver says. “Had I gone anywhere else, who knows where I would be?’’
Other members of this year’s SWAC Hall of Fame Class are former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff chancellor Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr, former Mississippi Valley State track All-American Herman Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles Director of Player Relations and former Southern University receiver Harold Carmichael, former Jackson State basketball standout LyVonne LeFlore, former Alcorn State men’s basketball star Willie Norwood, former Grambling State athletic trainer Eugene “Doc’’ Harvey and former Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball coach Hubert Clemmons. Harvey and Clemmons will be honored posthumously.
Driver dominated the SWAC in track as a high jumper as well as in football when he attended Alcorn, and he is one of the most versatile athletes in the history of the conference. He was All-SWAC in both sports his senior year, and he was the SWAC Athlete of the Year in track three consecutive years.
Still, he says going into the conference’s Hall of Fame is a humbling experience.
“For me it means everything,’’ Driver says. “It solidifies me as one of the best of the best to play the SWAC. That’s where I always wanted to be. When you start thinking about your legacy at Alcorn State, you probably would have never thought you’d be inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame. When I got the call, I almost lost my breath. I was like, Wow! I’m getting inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame. I’m glad to be part of the greatest to play in the SWAC and also in the National Football League.’’
Had Driver gotten his wish, he probably would never have been part of the SWAC. The University of Miami (Fla.), the scourge of the college football world in the mid-1980s and ’90s was still among the kingpins in 1994, Driver’s senior season at Milbry High in Houston, and he had heart set on becoming a Hurricane and following in the footsteps of Michael Irving, Brett Perriman and Bennie Blades. Plan B was stay home and play for the University of Houston, Texas or Texas A&M, schools that he reasoned could provide him “the big stage’’ that he craved.
Driver’s thinking changed when Cardell Jones, the Alcorn coach at the time, paid him a visit. Jones brought a long a copy of Sports Illustrated with Steve McNair, the Braves’ record-setting All-American quarterback who finished third in that year’s Heisman Trophy voting, on the cover. Jones promised Driver that he would get the ball. That put Alcorn on Driver’s radar, but he wasn’t completely sold on the Braves.
Jones upped the ante and went to Driver’s grandfather. Instead of talking football, Jones talked about the opportunity Driver would have and how Alcorn would ensure that his grandson would get a great education.
“My grandfather always instilled that,’’ Driver says. “My grandfather didn’t care about me playing football. He cared about me getting an education, and he wanted he wanted me to go to an all-black college. He didn’t want me to go anywhere else. He said ‘make my wishes come true’, to go to an all-black college. Once he said that, he kind of made my decision for me.’’
Driver says he never second-guessed himself for foregoing any of the bigger schools.
The thing is when you make those choices you make the choices it from the kindness of your heart,’’ he says. That’s what I did. I made it for my grandfather. If I had gone to Texas or Texas A&M, I don’t know if I would be in the National League now. The work ethic of going to a smaller school made me work harder than any of the guys who go to the big schools.’’
Jones remembers that Milbry High didn’t have a great team Driver’s senior season and had only a few good players. Driver stood out.
“You could see the potential that Donald had,’’ Jones says. “He had great speed. He great leaping ability, and he played hard every play.’’
Driver sat out his freshman season, but he practiced with the scout team.
“He was eating defensive players alive,’’ Jones says. “I knew he was going to step up and be a very good player. He had the work habits. He was very disciplined to be a young guy. He was focused on the field, off the field and in the weight room. Every time he came on the football field, he wanted to get better.’’
Driver ate opposing defenses alive his sophomore as a backup receiver. He only caught 12 passes, but he averaged 20.7 yards a catch. He established himself as one o the most dangerous deep threats in the conference his junior season, averaging 26.5 yards a catch. Driver had six 100-yard receiving games his senior season and led the Braves with 55 catches, 1,128 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Driver’s track and field career was equally as impressive. He qualified for the 1996 Olympic Trials with high jump of 7 feet, 6 ½ inches, best in the nation that year. He was the SWAC indoor and outdoor champion in the long jump, triple jump and decathlon his sophomore and junior seasons. He was the 1998 SWAC indoor champion in the long jump, triple jump and high jump. He repeated as indoor champion in the long jump and triple jump in 1999 before sitting out the outdoor season to prepare for the draft. Still, he qualified for the 2000 Olympic Trials in the high jump with a jump of 7-6. However, he opted to skip the trials and a shot a performing on the biggest stage of his life to that point
Driver was in his second season with the Packers and would have had to miss training camp. He and Packers general manager Ron Wolfe discussed Driver’s options, and Wolfe simply told him to make a decision – play football or go jump.
“I think I chose the right sport,’’ Driver says, adding that the Olympics are a big stage that he never imagined having an opportunity to perform on.
“At first (the Olympics) was never a dream,’’ he says. “I loved the Games and watched on TV but when you get the opportunity to get that far, you start to think maybe this is an opportunity to go someplace where not too many athletes goo. In 1996 it was a great accomplishment (to compete in the Olympic Trials), and then I decided that maybe I cold do it again (in 2000). (I thought) If I go and be a part of USA team, that’s special. The whole world loves you when you win a gold medal. People have asked the question would you take a gold medal or a Super Bowl ring? I’d take both. But most people look back and say they would take a gold medal because you represent the United States.’’
Driver’s appearance on Dancing With the Stars in 2012 was an unexpected chance to perform on the unlikeliest of stages. Nielsen ratings had already voted him the most marketable athlete in Wisconsin the previous year. When he was crowned the champion of season 14 of one of the most popular shows on TV, his profile was raised even higher.
“Dancing was one of the greatest experiences in my life,’’ Driver says. “Moving my entire family to la and getting an opportunity to do something that I never had to, completely taking me out of my comfort zone. It opened up an avenue of things to come. Millions of people know now that I’m not just a football player. I’ve entered into the entertainment world. When I go places now people – and it’s mostly women – they say ‘you’re the guy who won Dancing With the Stars.’ They don’t care about me being a football player.’’
Driver is at the center of advertising campaigns for a number of top companies; he is in his eighth season as host of Inside the Huddle, a statewide TV show in Wisconsin; he has a working relationship with the top-rated radio station in Milwaukee, and he is likely to perform on many more big stages when he is done playing football..
However, he has never forgotten that it all started on a small stage at Alcorn.
HAROLD CARMICHAEL (Southern)
Harold Carmichael didn’t just beat the odds – the former Southern University wide receiver trampled on them.
Carmichael came to Southern as an unknown walk-on. When he graduated in 1971, everyone knew who him. He was the Jaguars’ top receiver and a three-year starter with All-SWAC and All-American honors on his resume. Carmichael will add another entry to his resume Thursday when he is inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame during a reception in Birmingham, Ala.
“To be selected and to be in the same area as some of the other guys is most definitely an honor,’’ says Carmichael, Director of Player Relations for the Philadelphia Eagles. “I’m excited about it.’’
Other members of this year’s SWAC Hall of Fame Class are Green Bay Packers receiver and Alcorn State alumnus Donald Driver, former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff president Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., former Mississippi Valley State track All-American Herman Sanders, former Jackson State basketball standout LyVonne LeFlore, former Alcorn State men’s basketball star Willie Norwood, former Grambling State athletic trainer Eugene “Doc’’ Harvey and former Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball coach Hubert Clemmons. Harvey and Clemmons will be honored posthumously.
Carmichael’s first day on Southern’s campus gave little indication of the kind career that was ahead of him. He came to Southern with idea that he had a scholarship. But not only did he learn that there was no scholarship, the coaching staff had no idea he was coming and hadn’t made arrangements for a dorm room for him.
Southern coach Robert Smith had seen Carmichael play during his senior season at Raines High School in Jacksonville, Fla. Smith was actually recruiting one of Carmichael’s teammates, but somehow Carmichael thought the coach was looking at him. When Carmichael didn’t receiver a recruiting letter from Southern, he didn’t think anything of it and dismissed it as the letter had been lost in the mail.
He boarded a train with several other blue-chippers from Florida who were going to Southern and headed to Baton Rouge, La. When he got there, reality hit him between the eyes.
“That was a bad feeling,’’ he says, replaying the emotions he felt when he learned that the Jaguars didn’t have a scholarship or a room for him. “I had a one-way ticket, and there were no cell phones back then to call home and tell your parents you’re at the train station.’’
That certainly wasn’t what Carmichael had in mind.
Carmichael was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing football, baseball and basketball. He says most people thought his future would have been in basketball or baseball. He was a strong rebounder and decent scorer in basketball, averaging about 15 points a game, and a number of colleges were interested in him playing hoops.
In baseball – his best sport – he started out at third base but switched to first base.
. “Football has always been my love,’’ says Carmichael, recalling how he idolized Baltimore Colts tight John Mackey as youngster playing tackle on the grassy sandlots of Jacksonville and touch in the streets. “I kind of wanted to do the things he did. One person wouldn’t bring him down.’’
And Carmichael didn’t let not having a scholarship or a dorm room deter him.
The coaching staff permitted Carmichael to walk on. He started show what he could do and worked his way up to No. 3 on the depth chart at wide receiver. By the sixth game, he had become the starter.
“My mom always taught me that if someone gives you an opportunity to make a living or to do something you want to do, make the best of it,’’ Carmichael says. “I was prepared to show what I could do.’’
Carmichael’s big opportunity came when the Jaguars played Wiley in Shreveport, La., and the starting wide receiver was injured. For some reason the coaching staff sent Carmichael into the game ahead Isaiah “Butch’’ Robertson, the future All-Pro linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams, who was the second string wide receiver for Southern.
Backup quarterback Picayune Smith, who picked Carmichael up at the train station when he arrived in Baton Rouge, was also in the game. The two had developed chemistry with each other in practice and it paid off for Carmichael. They hooked up on the winning touchdown pass, and Carmichael was the starter from then on.
Carmichael’s height – 6-8 – speed and hands made him tough cover for opposing defenses.
“He was tall and rangy and could run the way he ran,’’ says SWAC Hall of Famer Marino H. Casem, who was head coach at Alcorn State when Carmichael played for the Jaguars. “You just throw the ball up and let him run get it. You would have to double team him, have somebody on him at the line scrimmage and a man over the top. A lot of people couldn’t do that. They didn’t have people to run with him.’’
Carmichael went on to a 13-year career after being the Philadelphia Eagles’ seventh-round draft in 1971. He was a four-time Pro Bowler. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 1973 when he was named first-tem All-Pro, and holds 11 Eagles records.
Carmichael, the 1980 NFL Man of the Year, says playing at Southern, where he went against future Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount in practice every day for three years, helped prepare him for the pros.
“He was one of the guys who took me under his wing,’’ Carmichael says of Blount, who was a year ahead of. “He toughened me up a little bit. He helped me understand how to play college ball.’’
Carmichael had to prove himself with the Eagles the same as he did at Southern. He supposedly was too skinny and wouldn’t last long, at least that was the word on him when he got to training camp;
Before the draft, he had been projected to be selected between the first and third rounds. Inexplicably, 160 other players were chosen ahead of him. Carmichael says he learned several years ago from an Eagles personnel executive that Philadelphia had him listed on their draft board as a 6-8 defensive back who could also play the receiver position, and that’s why he wasn’t drafted earlier.
“The last time I played defense was a couple of times in high school my senior year,’’ Carmichael says. “I don’t know how they got to that.’’
Just like at Southern, it didn’t take long for Carmichael to show the Eagles who he was – a receiver, not a defensive back.
He was the Eagles’ fourth receiver behind Jackson State product Harold Jackson, Ben Hawkins and Garry Ballman. But he started six games at tight end and averaged 14.4 yards on 20 receptions. The Eagles took note of Carmichael’s ability to get deep his second season. He started nine game and averaged 13.8 yards a catch. He became a full-time starter his third season and led the Eagles with 67 catches for 1,116 yards and nine touchdowns.
Still he was a relative unknown, just like at Southern. Carmichael recalls watching a segment on NFL called Lost Treasurers that spoke to his anonymity.
The producers had a camera on O.J. Simpson during an Eagles game against the Buffalo Bills. The camera never showed Carmichael, but Simpson is seen asking a teammate, “who is that guy’’ after Carmichael made a big play.
The teammate said “Carmichael.’’ Simpson then asks, ‘’Where is he from.’’
“Southern University,’’ was the answer.
Then Simpson wanted know what round he was drafted in. When he was told Carmichael was drafted in the seventh round, an incredulous Simpson said, “Seventh round? All these computers and this guy gets drafted in the seventh round.’’
At least Carmchael didn’t have worry about not having a room.
EUGENE "DOC" HARVEY (Grambling)
Grambling State has produced some of the biggest stars in SWAC history, and Eugene “Doc’’ Harvey is the man who helped them shine so brightly.
From Willis Reed, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, to Richard Stebbins, the Olympic gold medal sprinter, to Doug Williams, the Super Bowl XXII MVP and current Grambling football coach – and countless others before and after them – Grambling athletes for four decades counted on Harvey, the Tigers’ head athletic trainer, to make sure that they were ready to compete. Those who knew and nd depended on him, say he performed his duties skillfully and cheerfully.
Harvey, who died in May of this year, will be recognized for his contributions and dedication when he is inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame Dec. 6 in Birmingham, Ala.
“He’s in the archives of the history of Grambling when it come to athletics,’’ says SWAC Hall of Famer Wilbert Ellis, who coached baseball at Grambling for 43 years – 26 as head coach and 17 as an assistant. “:You couldn’t have a better person go into the Hall of Fame.’’
Other members of this year’s SWAC Hall of Fame Class are Green Bay Packers receiver and Alcorn State alumnus Donald Driver, former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff president Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, former Southern University receiver and current Philadelphia Eagles assistant coach Harold Carmichael, former Jackson State basketball standout LyVonne LeFlore, former Mississippi Valley State track and field All-American Herman Sanders, former Alcorn State men’s basketball star Willie Norwood and former Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball coach Hubert Clemmons, who will be honored posthumously.
Harvey, a Navy Veteran and graduate of Xavier (La.) University, earned a Master’s Degree at Indiana University, where he launched his career as a student trainer and completed requirements for a Physical Therapy Certificate from the American Institute of Science in Indianapolis. He came to Grambling in 1959 after spending four seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, his first job, where he was a part of their 1955 World Series championship team that included the famed Boys of Summer – Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Don Newcombe, Gil Hodges and Pee Wee Reese.
At Grambling, he perfected his trade of preventing, treating and rehabilitating injuries.
“I tell you what, if you’re talking about a cornerstone of athletics and taking care of the needs of athletes, he would be the cornerstone,’’ Ellis says. “He was willing and able. Wherever you go into arena of (injury) treatment, Doc Harvey was always mentioned. If you had running back hurt on Saturday and Coach Rob (football coach Eddie Robinson) wanted him ready for he next game, Doc would have him ready.’’
Harvey’s skill in handling injuries prompted Robinson to say, “Doc always kept the Tigers healthy and ready for the next game.Doc was as much a part of the team as the players.’’
James Harris, Grambling’s SWAC Hall of Fame quarterback who was the first black signal caller to begin an NFL season as his team’s starter, recalls having a badly sprained ankle his senior season prior to the G-Men’s game against Morgan State at Yankee Stadium in New York. Harris says Coach Eddie Robinson didn’t think Harris would be able to play. But thanks to Harvey, Harris was able to play in the fourth quarter.
“The time he put in with me, I appreciate tremendously,’’ Harris says. “His contributions were significant. He was ahead of his time in the treatment of injuries and getting people back. He had a wealth of knowledge, and he was as nice a human being as there was. He was able to work with players and get there trust.’’
Former All-SWAC tight end Mike Moore, who played at Grambling from 1973-77, says while Harvey excelled in getting the G-Men back on the field, he never rushed of them back into action before they were ready.
“He was very cautious,’’ Moore says. “During our time we didn’t understand the consequences of injuries. “We thought most were fatigue or associated with being scared. We thought we could play through things. We only worried about it Monday in the training room. With the excitement and adrenaline of the ballgame, a lot of things you could play through.’’
Moore says Harvey was more than the team’s trainer. He was also the G-Men’s father confessor and confidante.
“Doc had a tremendous relationship with all the players,’’ Moore says. “He was a father figure to all of us. We came to him with all our problems. If anything was going on, we could go to Doc and he’d point you in the right direction. You never would have known he was as famous as he was with his background with the Dodgers and all. He was just easygoing and just kind of simple. Things that we thought were complicated, he could see through for what it really was. I always felt better after talking to Doc about it. He put it in proper perspective. You could talk to him about anything from relationships with girls to whatever. He would take time to talk to you.’’
Harvey was widely known and respected in his field, and he used his influence and connections to ensure that Grambling athletes got the best treatment possible. He made arrangements with area hospitals in Ruston, Shreveport and Monroe to perform surgery on injured G-Men, and because of his Grambling football players preparing for the NFL were able to use the weight room and training facility at nearby Louisiana Tech,, which had equipment that Grambling lacked.
In addition to treating the athletes at Grambling, Ellis says Harvey also kept the Tigers’ coaches up and running.
“He worked on us and our old knees and stuff,’’ Ellis says. “He’s the one you could always call on.’’
Harvey retired from Grambling in 1998, but he continued to work for the school on a part-time basis as Coordinator of Sports Medicine. He also operated a private clinic in the Grambling community, treating retirees and senior citizens.
Harvey was no longer involved with Grambling athletics when Williams returned for his second stint as football coach in 2011 after an eight-year absence. This spring, just days before Harvey died, Williams worked out reached an agreement with Harvey for him to return as a part-time trainer with the football team .
“After all these years, that’s how important he was,’’ Williams says. “Doc had his way of doing things modern day trainers can’t do. He had a way of getting guys ready to go when you thought they wouldn’t be ready. When I came to Grambling, I didn’t know who Doc was. My first year I found out who he really was, and how important he was to Grambling. I never heard anyone utter a bad word about Doc. He never met anyone who he wouldn’t help. He not have had time, but he would find time.’’
Harvey received numerous awards and honors in his field. He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1980 and the National Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame in 1986; in 1982 he became the first African-American into the Louisiana Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame, and he became a member of the Grambling State Legends Hall of Fame. He was a candidate for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame at the time of his death.
“Harvey was a special type of individual,’’ Ellis says. “He had been exposed to the best. He brought all that to the table when he came to Grambling. He just made a difference from the first day he got here until the day that he left us. I don’t know what we would have been without a person like Harvey.’’
LYVONNE LEFLORE (Jackson State)
Imagine a trimmer version of Charles Barkley in his prime playing in the SWAC in the early 1960s. That will give you an idea of the type of basketball player LyVonne “Hoss’’ LeFlore during his career at Jackson State.
At 6-5 ¾, LeFlore wasn’t the Tigers’ tallest player. Still he played center and was among the top rebounders in the SWAC while earning All-Conference honors three consecutive seasons.
LeFlore was that guy in the SWAC.
“He was a man among boys,’’ says SWAC Hall of Famer Lonnie Walker, whose Alcorn State teams had some heated battles with LeFlore and Jackson State when Walker played for the Braves.
LeFlore will be honored for his exploits when he is inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame Dec. 6 during a reception in Birmingham, Ala.
“It’s a dream that came true,’’ LeFlore says of his Hall of Fame selection. “It wasn’t expected. I enjoyed playing in SWAC. It was stiff competition. It was a good conference.
When I came through, other colleges in the South weren’t open to black players. I enjoyed playing in the SWAC. If I had it to do again, I would even though a lot of colleges are open (black athletes).’’
Other members of this year’s SWAC Hall of Fame Class are Green Bay Packers receiver and Alcorn State alumnus Donald Driver, former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff president Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., former Southern University receiver and current Philadelphia Eagles assistant coach Harold Carmichael, former Mississippi Valley State track All-American Herman Sanders, former Alcorn State men’s basketball star Willie Norwood, former Grambling State athletic trainer Eugene “Doc’’ Harvey and former Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball coach Hubert Clemmons. Harvey and Clemmons will be honored posthumously.
LeFlore earned the nickname Hoss because he was a workhorse on the inside for Jackson State while playing against the likes of All-Americans Willis Reed of Grambling State Willis Reed and Zelmo Beaty of Prairie View A&M, both of whom went on to star in the NBA, Charles Hardnett, another Grambling big man who played in the NBA.
“I was kind of rugged, pretty rugged,’’ he says. “I held my own.
LeFlore made up for what he lacked in height with sheer determination, guile and jumping ability.
“He didn’t look to shoot the jumper, but he would get a lot of points,’’ Walker says. “He’d get the rebound and put it back, and he would run the floor. He could run like a deer. He could outrun all the centers. You don’t find that kind after the game.’’
LeFlore’s tenacity and sportsmanship are what Walker remembers most about him, though.
“He was always hungry when we played them,’’ Walker says. “After the game, he would pat you on the butt and say, ‘Good ballgame.’ I respected him for that.’’
LeFlore says the hunger and tenacity that he showed on the basketball court were by-products of his upbringing in Carthage, Miss., where he was a member of the last team that played its home games on an outdoor court and won the State Championship.
“I guess at the time coming out of the cotton field, picking cotton and I finally got a chance to go to college on a scholarship,’’ he says, “I did my best to do my best. I was a hungry player.’’
LeFlore’s jumping ability was the foundation of his game. There was no such thing as measuring athletes’ vertical leap when he played. That was a time every black college conference seemingly had at least one jumping jack with pogo sticks for legs who could just about jump out of the gym and supposedly take a quarter of the top of the backboard.
“I was that guy,’’ he says.
LeFlore also prided himself in being a heady player who studied the game.
“I tried to use footwork, make sure my opponent was blocked out and that I got position,’’ he says. “I had to play smart because players were so much larger than me. I wasn’t the power forward like I should have been.’’
The teams that LeFlore played on at Jackson State were loaded with talent. His teammates included Ed Manning, who played 11 seasons in the NBA, and Jerry Yarbrough, a two-time All-SWAC pick. Cleveland Buckner, who scored 33 points for the New York Knicks in the game that Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA record with 100 points, was Jackson State’s starting center LeFlore’s redshirt freshman season at Jackson State.
“I didn’t mind being redshirted,’’ LeFlore says. “Coach (Harrison Wilson) had told me before hand, and I expected to be redshirted. It helped me develop having that extra year.’’
LeFlore and his Jackson State teammates made history his junior season when they faced Evansville in the first round of the 1964 NCAA Division II tournament. A Mississippi law prevented schools in the state from competing against integrated squads. The previous year, Mississippi State coach Babe McCarthy sneaked his all-white team out of Starkville, Miss., to play Loyola of Chicago, which had four black starters in the NCAA Tournament in East Lansing, Mich., and the law was struck down.
Jackson State lost 97-69 to Evansville, which featured future NBA player and coach Jerry Sloan, but the Tigers gained a place in history as the first black school from Mississippi to compete against an integrated team.
“I’m very proud of that,’’ LeFlore says. “That was important.. I can look back at it and talk about it and see how far the school has progressed. Now you can play anyone you want to play.’’
Ironically, The Baltimore Bullets chose Sloan in the second round of the 1965 NBA draft and LeFlore in the seventh round. Sloan played one season for the Bullets before he was traded to the Chicago Bulls, where he became one of the top defensive players in NBA history. LeFlore suffered a different fate. Too small to play center, he moved to power forward, where he had to adapt to playing facing the basket. The transition wasn’t a smooth one, and LeFlore ended up playing for the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriots in the Eastern League after the Bullets released him.
LeFlore worked on his game with the Patriots. He learned to play facing the basket and improved his ball handling, intent on making an NBA roster, and was named All-Eastern League for the 1965-66 season. However, he suffered a knee injury in his second season with Harrisburg when an opponent undercut him while he was in the air. He underwent surgery and when through physical therapy and tried to rehabilitate the injured knee, but it was never quite right again, and his career was over.
“I was determined I was going to come back,’’ LeFlore says, “but it just didn’t go that way. One of my strongest points was my jumping ability, and it wasn’t the same. I was disappointed because that was something I wanted. I worked and worked but it never completely recovered’’
Playing professional basketball had been Plan A for LeFlore. After his injury, he moved on to Plan B, which was teaching, and taught and coached in the Harrisburg School
I guess at the time coming out of the cotton field and picking cotton and finally got a chance to go to college on scholarship, I did my best to my. Hungry player, team player. I kind of rugged. Pretty rugged. I held my own.
During that time, Lyvonne Leflore – it’s a dream thjat came true. It wasn’t expected. I don’t know ho long it usually takes to hae privilege of nbeng hall of famer. I enjoyured plaing in swac. Had it do it again, I would. Evfen though a lot of colleges are open. When I came thorugh ver open to black players in the south. I really enjoyed. It was a good conference. Stiff competition.
Being my size, 6-5 ¾ played center. Willis reed, zelmo beatty, Charlie hardnett. I had goodjumping ability, I teas able to hang with them. One of top reb… always hard fought battle with reed. Left-handed, wide body, had height on you. We did pretty good able to beat him a couple of times. He was a very interesting players.
I guess at the time coming out of the cotton field and picking cotton and finally got a chance to go to college on scholarship, I did my best to my. Hungry player, team player. I kind of rugged. Pretty rugged. I held my own. I considered myself a smart player. Tried to use footwork, make sure opponent nblocked out and get position. Had to play smart. Because players so much larger and smaller. In the mold of charles barkley. I wasn’t the powr forward like I should have been, with my jumping abiolity I could out jump all of my teammates.
Jerry yarnbrough, ed manning… when I first entered jsu 1960 redshirted. Played behind Cleveland buckner…. Was at center. Became center .. I didn’t mind being redshirted. Coach had told me before hand. I expected to be redshirted. It helped me develop having that extra year. Played against jucos. Went undefeated. Yarbrough, joe nelson james
Played two years in the easern league. Drafted by the Baltimore bullets. Had played with back to basket. No wa I could play cener they had walt bellamy. And had quotas, two black, gus and bellamy. Only draftee who made team was jerry sloan. Harrisburg patriots in eastern league….. when you change coaches a lot of hings happened. Buddy jennette was coaching when he was drafting. Brought in paul Seymour. I had to learn to play the forward position. Was doing well. Got hurt knee injury. Had surgery nevr fully recovered. This 65-66 season. Work and work but never get completely recovered. Al butler went under him while he was in the air.. the whole knee went haywire. Csme back pretty but never was right. Decided to go to plan B. good tikng had a degree went into taching anfd coaching….. bob love in eastern league, Wilbert frazier from grambling.
Tom stith, Julius mccoy out of Michigan stte. Charles hardnett phil Newton from auburn… it was pretty tough…. Porter from tenn. State… hubie white from villanova
It was different. Coming out of an all black school. Had played against southern ill. And Evansville. It was strange. Something I had to get a feel for. It was a little different. Can’t look at that, hae to do best you can… I felt a little out of place. I moved out of my position. I was not a good dribbler. As I moved into eastern league, thngs turned around for me, and I ended up getting hurt. I was detemined I was going to come back. But it just didn’t go that way….. I was disappointed because that was something I wanted. I had a plan a and plan b. plan a wads to play pro basketball one day. Afgter getting hurt, that was a hard pill to swallow. Came back a little too early and reinjured it a little bit. One of my strongest poits was my jumping ability. I wads very disappointed. One of those guys who could take a quarter of the top of the back board.
Junior year couldn’t plahy in ncaa or naia if there were whites on team. Babe mccarty at miss. State. Had won sec slipped team out and played loyala of Chicago. Opened it …first team from miss. To play integrated school. Played Evansville, southern ill. Walt frazier…. Postseason division II tournament…. It was a brand of ball. You got beat down. The refs didn’t see the pushng and stuff none ofthat was nbeing called. In you mind say what’s goinmg on. At that time, just the eay iwas. The officiating was uneven for a small school like Jackson state. Larger schools pretty did what they wanted to do…very proud of that. That was important.. I can look back at it and talk about it and see how far the school has progressed. Now you can play anywhere want to go. It was a little black school at that time.
“It was a good thing I had a Plan B,’’ he says.
Even though Plan A didn’t work out the way he hoped, LeFlore says he cherishes the opportunity that Jackson State gave him to play with and against so many outstanding athletes. However, he laments how times have changed and that Jackson State and other HBCUs have such a difficult time attracting the kinds of athletes that they routinely signed when he played..
“We had pretty much had the best players out the state of Mississippi,’’ LeFlore says. “You had to attend a black college. Now you can go anywhere you want to, and it’s hard to get the top athletes anymore. It really and truly does pain me. But I can understand. You would think they would look at things a little different, but such is not the case.’’
HERMAN SANDERS (Mississippi Valley State)
Former Mississippi Valley State track and field star Herman Sanders over the past two decades has often wondered what might have been.
What might have been if during his career at Mississippi Valley State from 1977-81 he had access to the training techniques and equipment that are available to today’s athletes; what might have been if he had concentrated on his primary event and the mile relay instead of filling in wherever the Delta Devils needed him; what might have been if the United States had boycotted the 1980 Olympics, the year that he was one of the top quarter-milers in the world.
Sanders and seven other former SWAC greats will be inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame during a reception in Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 6. While that won’t answer Sanders’ what ifs, it does make him know that his accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed.
“It’s just the idea of being in the category with all of those who have been inducted (into the SWAC Hall of Fame) before me,’’ Sanders says. “That says a lot, just being a part of the all the great (SWAC) athletes who had great careers. It’s a lot of guys. It makes me feel much better. It’s tops in my career.’’
Other members of this year’s SWAC Hall of Fame Class are Green Bay Packers receiver and Alcorn State alumnus Donald Driver, former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff president Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., former Southern University receiver and current Philadelphia Eagles assistant coach Harold Carmichael, former Jackson State basketball standout LyVonne LeFlore, former Alcorn State men’s basketball star Willie Norwood, former Grambling State athletic trainer Eugene “Doc’’ Harvey and former Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball coach Hubert Clemmons. Harvey and Clemmons will be honored posthumously.
Sanders was a three-time All –SWAC performer in the 400 meters and 800 meters and a two-time NAIA All-American. He also led Mississippi Valley State to back-to-back NAIA National Championships in 1980 and ’81.
“He was super for me,’’ says William Brown, Sanders’ coach at Mississippi Valley. “He was a quarter-miler and half-miler who could run whatever.’’
Brown recalls entering Sanders in the steeplechase in a SWAC Championship Meet because the Delta Devils needed points even though he had never competed in the event or practiced it.
“I told him ‘I know you haven’t been practicing on this. Just be careful and don’t try the hurdles,’’’ Brown says. “I don’t know if he won, but he scored.’’
Sanders also ran cross country, rarity for quarter-milers, and earned All-SWAC honors.
“It was conditioning thing for me,’’ Brown says. “He had no problem with it.’’
Sanders says he was simply trying to fulfill his role as a captain – a position he held for four years – and team leader.
“I had seen people run it.,’’ he says. “It was a tough event. But I was well prepared (physically) for it. I was in tip top shape. I won’t say I loved it, I did it for the team. I just had so much respect for Coach Brown and the school. I led by example. I was a team player. If I focused on primary event and the mile relay, I would have been a lot better. I just ran everything.’’
Sanders was the dominant figure on Mississippi Valley’s track squad from the moment he set foot campus. He had been Mr. Everything at Shaw (Miss.) High, where he played all sports. He earned the nickname Super Crab as a freshman as he won the first of four MVP Awards at Mississippi Valley.
“Out of high school I had a lot of talent,’’ Sanders says. “But I hadn’t been exposed (to a high level of competition). I learned I could compete with other guys who were good. I began to have success, and I said, ‘Man, this is nice.’’’
Sanders wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. However, after an impressive freshman year at Mississippi Valley, a number of bigger schools tried to persuade him to transfer.
“I decided to stay because Mississippi Valley was one who paved the way for me,’’ he say, adding that he graduated in four years and was an honor student in addition to being a star athlete. “Valley has been good to me.’’
Sanders – one of nine siblings – says his parents and Brown are responsible for the success he had in track. Brown helped him develop his talent. His parents, who insisted Sanders work while he was growing up, ensured that he and his siblings stayed involved in sports.
“It kept us focused,’’ says Sanders.
Six of the nine Sanders siblings attended college. Eugene was also a track star at Mississippi Valley and Ernest played football for the Delta Devils.
Sanders led Mississippi Valley to the 1980 NAIA National Championship even though the Delta Devils only had a seven-man squad. They repeated in 1981 with a 10-man squad.
“We competed against the best,’’ Sanders proudly says. “We could hang with the best.’’
The Delta Devils’ 1980 National Championship is the highlight of Sanders’ career because all seven team members were from Mississippi.
“That made it special,’’ he says. “We could hang with the best.’’
Sanders may well have been the best of the best in the world in the quarter-mile that year but he’ll never know because the USA’s boycott of the Summer Olympic. He was ranked among the top runners in the world in his event, but since the United States wasn’t going to compete in the Moscow Games, he opted not to attend the Olympic Trials as did a number of other top track and field athletes.
“I feel I was at the top of my game, doing what I needed to do, and fell short,’’ Sanders says. “If you have the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, you work so hard and come up short. That’s just tough. It made it seem like all that work went down the drain. That was my four years of competing.’’
Sanders wasn’t prepared to invest another four years in competing and chasing his Olympic dream. He graduated with a degree in Health, Physical Education and Recreation and moved on to a career in coaching.
Track and field wasn’t Sanders’ first love. Basketball was. However, he says he realized track and field was his ticket to college and whatever success he would have in the future. But that didn’t keep him from playing hoops every opportunity he got even after he became a track star at Mississippi Valley, and that almost proved to be disastrous. He suffered a knee injury playing for the track squad’s team in the intramural league.
Sanders says he developed a passion for track as he became more successful in the sport Ironically, however, has become more noted in his high school coaching career for his success in basketball than in track.
Still, he says, “I’ll never give track up. I grew to love it.’’
Sanders has coached track and boy’s basketball at Wingfield High in Jackson, Miss., the past 19 seasons. He has led the Falcons basketball team to five District Championships, two City Championships, one South State Championship and a South State second-place finish. Wingfield was 27-0 during the 2009-10 school year and had a overall 30-1 record, the best in Jackson Public School District history.
Ten of Sanders’ team members have gone on to play collegiately.
“I try to be a role model for my players,’’ Sanders says. “I encourage them to go to school and get an education. That’s the most important thing.’’
WILLIE NORWOOD (Alcorn State)
Willie Norwood, a legendary figure in the annals of SWAC basketball, will be among the eight inductees into the conference’s Hall of Fame during a reception in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday night.
Norwood’s career at Alcorn State ended in 1969, and it would be understandable if he were upset that it has taken more than 40 years for him to be officially recognized as one of the conference’s all-time great. But he is not.
“It took a long time, but finally got here,’’ says Norwood, who is No. 2 the Alcorn career scoring and rebounding lists. “It’s something that my kids and grandkids can say, that I’m in the SWAC Hall of Fame. It’s just a blessing to be up there with the other great players and the ones going in with me. I thought about it; I anticipated it; I looked forward to this day. I’m still very humble. A lot (of athletes) came through who haven’t gotten noticed and inducted. I’m grateful. I almost broke down in tears when I got the call. Coming from small hometown of North Carrollton (Miss.), I didn’t know what I was going to do (after high school). I was able to come from being an average player to the Hall of Fame. What more can you as?’’
Other members of this year’s SWAC Hall of Fame Class are Green Bay Packers receiver and Alcorn State alumnus Donald Driver, former University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff president Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., former Mississippi Valley State track All-American Herman Sanders, former Jackson State basketball standout LyVonne LeFlore, Philadelphia Eagles Director of Player Relations and former Southern University wide receiver Harold Carmichael, former Grambling State athletic trainer Eugene “Doc’’ Harvey and former Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball coach Hubert Clemmons. Harvey and Clemmons will be honored posthumously.
Norwood scored 1,973 points and grabbed 1,413 points during his four-year career at Alcorn, and he was All-SWAC his last three years, and the Braves were 73-12 during that span. He was a linchpin on the Braves’ 1969 squad that was 29-0 before losing to Texas Southern in the NAIA National Championship Game.
“If you rate him for everything, he was one of the best players I ever coached,’’ says Bob Hopkins, the former Grambling State star who coached Norwood for three seasons at Alcorn and also coached in the NBA. “The guy didn’t have a great shooting touch, but Lord, could he score. He had all the moves.’’
Norwood was a sculpted 6-7, 220-pound power forward when he played. He excelled in creating and-one scoring opportunities by using his body. He was also adept stealing the ball by playing passing lanes and blocking shots.
“He could read and analyze,’’ says Hopkins, who is still incredulous that Norwood was not invited to the 1968 Olympic Trials.
Norwood credits Hopkins for developing him into the player that he came. He says “I was just a raw, athletic talent’’ until he encountered Hopkins his sophomore season at Alcorn.
“He taught me the game of basketball,’’ Norwood says. “There is no other teacher like him. He taught me the basics of the game.—the pick and roll, how to box out, how to avoid fouls – everything. He molded me into a basketball player.’’
Norwood says he never went home for Thanksgiving or Christmas because the team stayed on campus and practiced, usually three times a day with Hopkins giving him personal attention.
“The drills were tough but he taught you things didn’t know,’’ Norwood says. Back in the day I didn’t appreciate any of it. I look back on it and I appreciate all of it.’’
Ironically, Norwood wasn’t overly impressed with Hopkins when they initially met. E.E. Simmons recruited Norwood and coached him his freshman season. However, Simmons was killed in a car crash, and Hopkins, who had played four seasons in the NBA, replaced him.
“When I first met him, he said. ‘You can play pro ball,’’’ Norwood recalls. “I thought he was the biggest liar in the world.’’
Hopkins got Norwood in the gym worked with him one-on-one for hours on end, and his words came true. The Detroit Pistons picked Norwood in the first round of the 1969 draft, and he played seven seasons in the NBA.
Norwood never wanted to attend Alcorn even though all of his family members were Alcornites. Mississippi Valley State, which was five miles from his home, was his first choice.
“I wanted to go to Valley State but they couldn’t use my talent,’’ he says. “I tried to eat them up every time we played. It was personal.’’
Norwood was an all-sports star in high school, playing football, baseball and basketball. In those days, in order to get a scholarship, Alcorn required athletes to play two sports. He came to the Reservation primarily to play football. Basketball was his second sport.
However, he was injured during fall football practice and his gridiron career never got off the ground. .
His basketball career blossomed, however, thanks to Hopkins.
“I found my niche, and I never looked back,’’ he says, adding that football was his best sport.
Norwood was listed as a defensive end and tight end, but he says in high school “I just played football’’ and lined up all over the field. Even though he didn’t play at Alcorn, the San Diego Chargers picked him in the ninth round of the 1969 NFL draft. The Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association also drafted him that year, making him the only athlete in school history drafted by three teams in the same year.
SWAC Hall of Famer Lonnie Walker, Norwood’s teammate at Alcorn, says Norwood could have easily played in the NFL given his tenacity and aptitude.
“He was dominant type athlete,’’ Walker says. “He was determined on offense and defense. He had that desire to tear your head off, and he would study the game. That’s how to beat you.’’
Norwood was injured in car accident after the Pistons drafted him, and he played in Italy for 15 months before signing with Detroit in 1971. He never reached star status in the NBA. However, Hopkins says Norwood was such a fundamentally sound defender that Pistons coach Earl Lloyd would use him to demonstrate defensive techniques.
Guarding future NBA players such as Bob Love, Bob Christian and Rich Johnson during his days at Alcorn helped prepare Norwood for his role in the NBA.
“It was hard to think that I could get drafted coming out of Alcorn,’’ Norwood says. “Playing in SWAC helped me physically. The talent was just as good (as anywhere else). Playing in SWAC helped prepare me physically.’’