One person's thoughts may change the world
1976. A long time ago. But, the instant I looked at this picture, I remembered it like yesterday. I have not seen it in 35 years, but once I saw it, I knew exactly where I was sitting, and which team this was. It was the Cass Technical High school JV team of 1976, the best team I ever played on. I was 4th from the right, first row, next to Motley, who decided to put his helmet on, and Singleton with the huge afro. Coach Norman Lewis was standing to the right, and the rest of this rage tag unit, which no one ever knew their exploits, except for us.
We were so ragged, that we didn’t have practice uniforms or at least not all of us. The jersey I was wearing in this picture was the same one I had the previous year on my little league team. When equipment was handed out, all the practice jerseys were gone. So I wore my torn up one from the previous year for good luck, but we really didn’t need it, this team was good, and I mean really good. We didn’t even have game uniforms. We had to borrow them from the varsity players who reluctantly let us use them.
This team, as with all teams was full of a cast of characters, who, could play football. The names may have faded a bit, but their play was legendary, but, to only those who saw them play, which was… nobody. Not even our parents. I don’t recall a single parent coming to our games, which were strung out amongst the southeast divisions teams, all away games, we didn’t even have a legitimate home field. We had nothing going for us:inferior uniforms, equipment, practice field, but, we were the best JV team in the city of Detroit in 1976, that nobody knew of.
Carlos, Harry, Gary, Keith, Rob, Steve, Dewayne, John, Reggie, Dave, Anthony, Belvin, Ray, Andre, Kevin, Mike, Matt, Thunderfoot, Monk, Phil and a host of others made up this team. Only 50 of use made it out of a tryout of 150. Of that the competition to play was the most highly competitive I ever played with, and against.
From a pure talent perspective, Monk.. aka Keith, was the best I ever played with. He had huge hands and a very accurate arm. Rob was the anchor at center. Gary and Steve play guard. Keith and Banks were the tackles. Carlos and Harry were the tight ends. Reggie and Anthony were 2 of the three backs. And then there was me.
I scored either 2 or three touchdown per game. I was usually standing on the sideline by either halftime or the third quarter because the game was over, we mercies most of the teams we played. I use to have a friend by the name of Robert, who would come by my Geometry class and ask me who won. After I told him I scored two, he would come by each week, first asking me how many I scored, then whether or not we won the game.
I would get looked at by a girl or two in my Geometry class after giving him the results, but, otherwise, nuttin, not even a smile. I ran some of the longest touchdowns in my life on that team. I would walk down the halls and go to class, and no one, except my teammates knew of our exploits. Nothing in the school paper, nothing… It was one of the weirdest feeling I ever had. No one knew how good we were, accept one other coach, Dick Cole. Dick Cole was the head coach of Varsity. He was legendary. Well respected throughout the Public School league in Detroit. He came to every one of our games, and kept a keen eye on me.
Just recently, the great Dick Cole passed away. I wrote this exert on his website:
It was a rain-soaked afternoon. First day of hitting for the JV football team. It
was a half day of school, and I had walked downtown with some teammates after
class had let out, but I returned to get ready for practice. Our pitiful field,
wet, muddy, and only grass around the edges. The two designated running backs
decided not to come back to practice, they assumed their positions were set.
I didn’t have that luxury, no one knew me but coach Lewis, who also coached at my
little league football team the year before. When He called that first
offensive huddle, he called out, “Where’s Holloway and Ashley?” Someone
spoke up and said, “They are not here”. Lewis then looked around, saw me
and said, “Myrick get in there”.
Just then Coach Cole walked up. I didn’t have the nerve to look up at him, but I saw
his shoes, I knew who it was. Cole took over immediately. First play he called
was a 48-special. I was almost shivering in my shoes. I finally looked up at
him, and he had that funny way of looking at you, those eyes, that haircut, and
that familiar commanding voice that pierced your ears.
Play after play he kept giving me the ball, telling me what I did wrong, yelling at
me, then complimenting me ( in his own way ), when I did it right. After that
practice, in all that mud and rain, I was dead tired, he shook my hand and told
me I did a good job. I had never been motived and inspired to play for a coach
like that before. He instilled a new-found confidence in me that I didn’t have
That was Coach Cole’s gift, bringing the best out of you. He pushed you to your
limits and beyond. He helped you both on the field and off, and more
importantly, in life. The values he taught through sport are the same values
that resonates with me to this day. In my spare time, I coach high school
football, and I still use one of his favorite lines, which is..”What the hell
are you doing?”…..
This picture means nothing to most. But, at times when you’ve seen something you have not seen in a long time, it’s amazing what memories it can trigger. And to this day, some of these guys are the most outstanding that I have ever met in my whole life…