Howard W Tennis Makes Strides Even In Setback

DOVER, Del.  – Howard University women’s tennis team dropped another tough Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) contest on the road at Delaware State (DSU), 2-5.

Despite the setback, HU (0-3, 0-2 MEAC) continues to make strides as a team.

In singles competition, junior Kendall Addison (Charlotte, N.C.) and sophomore Emnet Simunyola (Lorton, Va. and pictured above) each won their respective matches.

After falling in a tough three-set contest the day before (April 2), Addison rebounded to defeat DSU’s Cassandra Boltman in a hard fought three-set match (6-3, 2-6, 6-2). For Simunyola, the Virginia native secured her first collegiate singles victory over Delaware State’s Anastasia Belkina in straight sets (6-1, 7-5).

In doubles play, Simunyola and fellow classmate Alexandra Blackwell (Austin, Texas) took down the Lady Hornets’ Iris Leder and Daria Julia, 6-4.

On April 16-17, both teams travel up the Beltway to meet Loyola (Md.) and conference foe Coppin State. Friday’s contest (April 16) versus the Greyhounds start at 3 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. match time for Saturday’s (April 17) clash with the Eagles.

About Howard Athletics

The Howard University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics sponsors 21 NCAA Division I men and women varsity sports. The programs represent five conferences: the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Northeast Conference (NEC), Sun Belt Conference (SBC), Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and Atlantic Sun (ASUN) Conference.

For more information, visit the Bison Athletics website at www.HUBison.com.

Pistol Pete Maravich’s Play Amongst The Greatest

When thinking of sporting records that will never be broken, there are a few that come to mind instantly. Usain Bolt running a 9.58-second 100-meter dash would be one of those. Wilt Chamberlain dropping 100 points in an NBA game would be another. Cal Ripken Jr. playing in 2,632 consecutive games – a streak that began in 1982 and lasted until 1998 – would be a third. The general population should have some idea about these well-known records.

However, one premier player feels like he may not get his due when it comes to his legendary achievement. That player is ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich, and his record is his insane scoring average as a college basketball player in the late 1960s.

The second-highest scorer in the history of D1 Men’s Basketball is Freeman Williams. Williams played for Portland State from the 1974-75 season through til the 1977-78 season. In this time, Williams accounted for 3,249 points, and he maintained a scoring average of over 30 points per game in his final three seasons at the school. It is a stunningly impressive number – until you look at what Maravich did at LSU.

‘Pistol’ Pete went for 3,667 points with the Tigers. This is a total of over 400 points more than Williams, or the equivalent of 13 or 14 more games, with Williams scoring at his over 30 point average. If that isn’t crazy enough, Maravich put up his 3,667 points as a premier player from the 1967-68 season through the 1969-70 season. That means that Maravich scored more points than anyone in the history of the sport, even though he was only able to play for three years because, at the time, first-year players had to play on the freshman team at their school and weren’t eligible for varsity play.

Maravich’s averages were as follows:

  • 1967-68 – 43.8 ppg
  • 1968-69 – 44.2 ppg
  • 1969-70 – 44.5 ppg

Maravich never had a single collegiate season where he averaged under 43.8 POINTS PER GAME. Adding to the insanity of this accomplishment is that Maravich played when there was no three-point line. He also played when there was no shot clock so opposing teams could kill the ball in games as and when they wanted. In other words, his scores were kept lower by the rules in place at the time. Given his shooting stroke and with more possessions per contest – plus an extra year of varsity eligibility – it isn’t unreasonable to think that Maravich could have scored over 5,000 points with a different set of rules in place. Former LSU coach Dale Brown once charted every shot ‘Pistol’ Pete made at LSU and said his career average would have been a video game level 57 points per game if the three-point line was drawn in.

Some of Maravich’s game totals were absurd too. He scored at least 60 points in a game four times – against Vanderbilt (61), Kentucky (64), Tulane (66), and Alabama (69) – with no other player ever having more than two such games against other D1 opponents. His score of 69 points as a senior against Alabama is the second-most in history behind Kevin Bradshaw, who scored 72 points for U.S. International against Loyola Marymount in 1991.

Maravich was one of the youngest ever inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Part of this is due to a knee injury that saw him play just 658 games in 10 NBA seasons, but even in that time – and constantly battling with the knee problem – he became a five-time NBA All-Star and was the NBA scoring champion in 1977 when he averaged 31.1 points per game. A fascinating snapshot of what this premier player could have been comes from the NBA installing the three-point line in Maravich’s final injury-ravaged season. He was able to take just 15 shots from behind the arc, but he hit 10 of them, meaning he had a career three-point percentage of 66.7%.

Perhaps the best creative player in the game’s history, Maravich passed away at just 40-years-old in 1988. This means that the legend didn’t make it to the age of the internet and social media – where it is easy to be remembered – but this premier player and his sheer ability to score the basketball was on par with anyone to ever play the game.

Article By Premier Players

Fans Add Another Title
To Mahomes’ 2020 Season

Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes got the nod from fans that he is The 2020 Premier Player of Pro Football.

There aren’t too many superlatives that we can give to Mahomes that haven’t already been said. He was the NFL MVP in 2018. He was the MVP of Super Bowl LIV as he led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. He is a one-time first-team All-Pro, a one- time- second-team All-Pro, and a three-time Pro Bowler. Oh – and least we forget – Mahomes will still be just 25-years-old at the beginning of the 2021 NFL Season. To say there is more to come is almost moot at this point.

Mahomes’ numbers in 2020 were once again outstanding. They were below his 2018 numbers – but that was an all-timer of a season that saw over 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns passed which is the sort of stat line that a player can even dream to reach once in a career. This fall, Mahomes passed for 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Those numbers are outstanding despite Mahomes sitting in the final contest with the Chiefs already having wrapped up the top seed in the AFC. He also rushed for a career high 308 yards and another two touchdowns. Interestingly, his completion percentage of 66.3% – completing 390 of 588 passes – was the best of his career so far.

Mahomes has the advantage of having Travis Kelce at tight end – the best pass catching player at that position that the NFL has ever seen – and Tyreek Hill at wide receiver who is almost impossible to cover when he puts on the afterburners. These two outlets are ones any quarterback would want, but it is the genius of Mahomes – and his relationship with the ultra-inventive pair of head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy – that makes the Chiefs the most feared offensive team in the NFL.

Mahomes plays without the benefit of a consistent running game the likes of which most other high volume passers – see Aaron Rodgers this year with Aaron jones in his backfield – rely on. Yes, he Chiefs use more motion, options, and plays that are schemed into easy completions than anyone else in the league, but it is the skill of the premier player that they have under center that allows this type of offense to be successful. Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 14-1 season – we aren’t counting the last game where he didn’t play – and the Texas Tech product continues to outperform the incredibly lofty ceiling that he has created for himself in his three years leading the Chiefs’ offensive machine.

What sets Mahomes apart are the head-scratching, miracle plays that no other quarterback in the league can pull off. The most famous of these was his no-look pass to Demarcus Robinson against the Baltimore Ravens in 2018, but Chiefs fans will know that there is at least one such play – be it a no-looker, a mad scramble followed by an impossible completion, or (as is often the case) something brand new and indescribable – each and every week. This is the stuff that energizes a fan base and – in better times – sells out stadiums. Mahomes has an aura about him, but he also has a humility that belies his skill and status to the point that he just fits as a quarterback in a hardworking, football and barbeque loving place like Kansas City.

It is not just that Mahomes wins games – which he does with a seemingly easy regularity – it is how he goes about doing it. He is a gunslinger, yet he is one who seems to have little regard for traditional mechanics as he completes almost as many passes with funky motions as expected ones. Mahomes is a transformative player, a generational talent, and now he was the Premier Player of NFL Football in 2020.

Article by Premier Players

Schottenheimer Leaves Lasting Impact On The NFL

If there is one NFL premier coach who has a legacy defined by winning in great numbers and then losing in the bigger games, then that would be Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer enjoyed an astonishing 200 career wins as a head coach as he led four teams to become the eighth-winningest coach in the history of the NFL. Those four teams – the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, and the San Diego Chargers – combined to go 200-126-1 under the premier coach who died at the age of 77 on February 9, 2021.

You know that a coach has had an impact on the game when an entire style of play is named after him. Schottenheimer believed wholeheartedly in “Martyball”. This method of winning football games relied on a hard-nosed approach from hard-nosed players. As the league was evolving around him in the late 90s and through the 2000s, Schottenheimer continued to preach “Martyball”, building the success of his teams – and their entire roster – around an overpowering running game and a defense that would lay their bodies on the line whether it was 3rd-and-30 in the first quarter or 4th-and-one with the game on the line.

Schottenheimer – a man who lived by his mantra of “one play at a time” – could never find the success he deserved in the postseason. The coach with a career winning percentage in the regular season of 61% was never able to make his style of football work in the playoffs. Schottenheimer went 5-13 when coaching in the postseason, a career winning percentage in those games of just 28%. This included first-round playoff exits with teams such as the 13-3 Chiefs in both 1995 and 1997, along with the 14-2 Chargers in 2006.

That Chargers team – perhaps the best overall squad that Schottenheimer ever coached led by NFL MVP LaDanian Tomlinson – imploded in what was to be Schottenheimer’s final NFL game. They lost a home divisional round game 24-21 to Tom Brady (that guy again) and the New England Patriots. It was a loss – combined with the tension between Schottenheimer and general manager A.J. Smith –that saw Schottenheimer fired in a move that shocked the NFL world given the team they had put together and Schottenheimer’s obvious ability to win football games and have his team believe in his methods and his tactics.

While some of the losses may have been down to poor clock management or a stubborn belief in the power of his system, it is hard to look at this premier coach as not being a tad unlucky to have never reached a Super Bowl. He lost twice to John Elway-led Broncos teams in the AFC Championship Game while coaching the Browns in games that became known as “The Drive” and “The Fumble”. To have one game lost in a way that gives it a name that lasts down the decades is rough, to have it happen twice is downright cruel.

It is with the Chiefs that Schottenheimer is synonymous with most fans. You can lay a direct path from the work that Schottenheimer produced in Kansas City through the Dick Vermeil era and to the Andy Reid-led team that is one of the most feared in the league today.

“When Marty arrived in 1989, he reinvigorated what was then a struggling franchise and quickly turned the Chiefs into a consistent winner,” Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. “Marty’s teams made Chiefs football a proud part of Kansas City’s identity once again, and the team’s resurgence forged a powerful bond with a new generation of fans who created the legendary home-field advantage at Arrowhead Stadium.”

After that, it was to San Diego and another brutal playoff loss that came from a player mistake and not a coaching one. With the Chargers up by eight and with six minutes to play, Marlon McCree picked off Brady and the game should have been sealed. Instead of dropping to the turf, however, McCree was hit and fumbled with the Patriots recovering. On such small margins are playoff football games won and lost and Schottenheimer, for all his outstanding coaching, often seemed to be on the wrong side of them.

To dwell on that, though, is to diminish a career. The NFL is a better place for Schottenheimer having been involved and when premier players like Tomlinson and Drew Brees speak of Schottenheimer’s work ethic, wisdom, and attention to detail it tells you everything about what kind of coach he was.

Article by Premier Players

Rivers Takes His Stellar NFL Career To St. Michael Catholic HS

Philip Rivers might have just been a quarterback playing at the wrong time. The 17-year NFL veteran decided to retire this offseason after a glittering career that was denied multiple Super Bowl berths thanks to a combination of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (and now Patrick Mahomes) dominating that spot in the AFC.

Rivers has retired at a point where he seemingly has plenty left in the tank. He didn’t choose to bow out after a down year or two, with this premier player calling it quits after guiding an Indianapolis Colts team that was 7-9 in 2019 back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record in 2020. Rivers took to Indianapolis like a duck to water after 16 seasons on the West Coast with the Chargers. He passed for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions and there were many who expected him to be back in a Colts uniform in 2021. Instead, Rivers has chosen to meander off into the sunset with his Indy stint a footnote in a career that will see him go down as one of the greatest Chargers to ever play the game.

The 39-year-old passer will be one that is strongly discussed when it comes time to vote on Hall of Fame matters after his five years of non-playing are up. This could – and probably will – be five years from now, but you have to imagine that if a legitimate contender in the next two seasons needs a quarterback late in the season after an injury that Rivers will be one of the first calls they make. This is especially true because while Rivers is retiring from the professional game, this premier player is going to give back to the sport and he has already been hired as a high school coach at St. Michael Catholic just outside of Mobile, Alabama.

Rivers’ legacy is secure because of his numbers. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler. He ranks fifth all-time in the NFL (upon his retirement) in both passing yards (63,440) and in touchdown passes (421). Rivers would be considered one of the NFL’s all-time greats at his position in terms of toughness. The quarterback made 240 consecutive regular-season starts, a stat that puts him tied for third on the all-time list with center Mick Tinglehoff. The only more durable players in the history of the league – by this measure at least – are legendary tough guy quarterback Brett Favre and legendary all-around tough guy Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall.

The only taint to his legacy – a legacy that includes an NFL record for touchdown passes between a quarterback and a tight end for the 89 times he and Antonio Gates hooked up for scores in San Diego – is Rivers’ post-season woes. Rivers had an astonishing 12 seasons where he passed for over 12,000 yards, yet he was never able to lead the Chargers (or Colts) to a Super Bowl and his career 5-7 record in the playoffs contains just one AFC Championship Game appearance.

Even that, however, comes with a caveat when Rivers is considered. It was the 2007 AFC Championship Game that Rivers reached with the Chargers and nothing was going to stop this premier player from taking the field against the New England Patriots. The Chargers lost 21-12. Rivers was not at his best as he passed for just 211 yards with no touchdowns and two picks. It was a hard-fought win for Brady and the Patriots, one that they achieved with Rivers limping through the game with a torn ACL. Rivers’ knee had to be unlocked after the injury suffered just one week before in the Divisional Round but it is that level of toughness and mental fortitude that will remain the defining features when Rivers’ name comes up in debates about quarterbacks.

Article by Premier Players

Smith Only Needed Half The Game To Shine Brightest Among Stars

It feels crazy to think that coming into the 2020 college football season all eyes on the wide receiver position at Alabama were on Jaylen Waddle. Waddle – still a mighty receiver in his own right – fractured his ankle early in the season and seemed to leave a void at the position for the Crimson Tide. Circumstance can lead to greatness, however, and that is exactly what happened this fall as DeVonta Smith exploded onto the scene as one of the premier players in the country and as potentially the greatest college wide receiver (in a single season) of all time.

Smith was domineering in the first half of the National Title game. He outgained Ohio State on his own, catching an insane 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. He made the whole thing look incredibly easy – gliding around the field like he owned it (which he did) while the Buckeyes’ defenders were running in mud and chasing his shadow. The game was all but over thanks to Smith as the Crimson Tide were up 35=17 at the half on the back of their premier player, and it would have been very interesting to see what type of numbers Smith would have put up if he hadn’t picked up a pretty disgusting looking finger injury right at the start of the second half.

They say that the stars shine brightest in the biggest moments, the biggest games, and with all the star power on the field – Mac Jones/Najee Harris/Justin Fields – it was Smith who simply took over the contest.

Smith did everything he wanted in this game. He was able to score touchdowns beating double-coverage with his peerless route running. He was able to beat tough one-on-one coverage from the Buckeyes’ best cover guy in Shaun Wade because his feet and balance are so good that Smith is able to catch passes that most playing on Sundays would struggle with. He was able to use matchups and schemes to his advantage – anyone that can give me a reasonable explanation why linebacker Tuf Borland was covering Smith on his final touchdown I’m here for it – to out think and out run the entire Buckeyes’ team. It was incredible to watch.

The wild part of all of this is that Smith being very, very good cannot have come as any surprise to Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and his coaching staff. Smith being the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard of Michigan in 1991 – and even his win was skewed by Howard’s special teams work – was a clue. Other clues would be that Smith led the entire FBS in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,641), and receiving touchdowns (20). Those are huge numbers in any season, let alone one with Alabama having played two fewer games than normal because of the pandemic. Covering Smith had to be priority No. 1 for the Ohio State defense, yet this premier player just took over the game with his skill.

One of the wildest aspects of Smith’s success is that he is far from a big guy. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 175-pounds – though there is a feeling that the NFL Combine will show these stats to be overselling both properties – he isn’t the typical Alabama receiver that overwhelms defenses with a killer trait. The likes of Calvin Ridley, Amari Cooper, and Julio Jones all had elite size, elite speed, or both. Smith really has neither. He just has a feel for the game that can’t be taught and rather than those elite prospects his best comparison might just be to Jerry Rice – the greatest receiver of all time who also didn’t have killer measurable or traits.

Where Smith and his 43 career touchdowns – almost triple that of Jones – goes from here is yet to be seen. What we can say is that for one season – and then one half – this premier player was untouchable.

Article By Premier Players

Premier Players of Pro Football

Football, or any sport, would not bring excitement to millions of people each year if it wasn’t for the fans. Yet, when it came to determining the best players in the country, the fans were mostly left out of the selection process – until now.

Fans voted Lamar Jackson the first recipient of The Premier Player of Pro Football Award in 2019.  Jackson had a breakout season with many video-game-like highlights.  Click on his image below for more information about his award-winning season.

The Premier Player Trophy is an award presented to the athlete the fans voted as the best player in his or her sport.  A poll is released at the beginning of the sports season with 20 of the best players for fans to follow.  In mid-October to early November, up to five more great performing players may be added to the poll while nonperformers are deleted from the poll.  Fans then have until the last conference championship game to vote the Premier Player of the season.

Here’s what one of the best in pro and college football, the late Lee Roy Selmon, had to say  https://youtu.be/7jLk-p0SGAI?t=58s about our award.

Premier Player Award
NFL & Collegiate HOF Lee Roy Selmon and Premier Players founder Carnell Moore

Henry Carries On The Legacy of Great Titans Running Backs

There are few things more entertaining in football than watching a running back take over a game. I was reminded this once again on Sunday as Derrick Henry did his best impression of a human freight train for the Tennessee Titans against the Indianapolis Colts.

While Henry is the latest Tennessee Titans’ running back to be that dominant of a force, he comes from a team with a surprising amount of stars at the position, especially if you go back to their days as the Houston Texans.  Recent fans will remember the speed freak of a back that was Chris Johnson – he of the ridiculous 4.24 time in the 40-yard-dash – while those of a certain age will recall the legendry Earl Campbell, one of the premier players at the position that has ever graced the NFL.

For others – mainly those of us in our 30s and 40s – the player most synonymous with the running back position in Nashville is Eddie George.

While Campbell was a beast for the Oilers in the late 70s and early 80s – a time before the magic of modern television and technology making games accessible to all – George was the lead back for the franchise from 1996-2003. This was a time of explosive growth in both revenue and popularity for the NFL, allowing more eyes to be on franchises weekly wherever you were in the country.

Also – and crucially – George was the back in charge when the Oilers moved states to become the Titans. This makes him the first true running back for this iteration of the franchise, making him feel like a more modern player even if he was rushing between the tackles almost 25 years ago as of writing.

George flashed in his freshman and sophomore seasons at Ohio State, but a couple of costly fumbles in a game against Illinois that the Buckeyes lost saw his playing time never really expand to where it could have been during those two seasons. As a junior he started to break out – he rushed for just under 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns – but it was as a senior that he dominated the college landscape. This premier player won the Heisman Trophy in 1995 on the back of a year where he rushed for 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns at an average of 5.9 yards per carry. It was also this season that George showed the type of power and durability that would become his hallmarks on Sundays.

George was the 14th overall pick of the 1996 NFL Draft and he was the third running back taken off of the board. He was picked behind Lawrence Phillips and Tim Biakabutuka, but outperformed both massively as they suffered from legal issues and injuries respectively.  George won the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 1996 and then went on to excel as the starting running back for the team without missing a start before moving to Dallas for a year at the end of the 2003 season. George is one of only two running backs to pass the 10,000 yard mark without missing a start (Jim Brown) and is second behind Walter Payton in consecutive regular season games started (130).

Those are names any running back would want to be associated with at the end of a career and help cement the status of George as one of the premier players at his position. George has only increased his legacy in retirement, working with charities including those trying to prevent Type 2 diabetes and even performing on Broadway – pre-pandemic – following 12 years of acting and singing lessons to hone his skills at a new craft. Some people are driving to be the best they can be multiple times in life and this premier player – and maybe one day premier actor – is just such a person.

Article by Premier Players

Utah LB Lloyd Nominated For Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award

While his leadership on the field is evident after being Utah’s total tackle leader in 2019, Devin Lloyd’s character is even stronger.  Therefore, the University of Utah has nominated the junior linebacker for The 2020 Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award.

Lloyd is an avid volunteer in the Salt Lake City community, visiting patients in the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the main hospital, creating a special bond with a patient who was recovering from a skydiving accident.

“Devin Lloyd is one of those guys that does everything right, both on and off the field,” said Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham.   “He excels academically, is an exceptionally hard worker, participates in community service and his leadership skills are second to none. It’s been incredible watching him develop right before our eyes and become the leader and person he is today.  We’re looking forward to watching Devin’s continued success and what’s to come for him this season and in his future.”

Lloyd also visits local retirement homes and has organized drives to hand out water to the homeless. He is a team captain and a part of the leadership council on the team. He represents Utah in the Football Student-Athlete Working Group, started by the Pac-12.   In addition, Lloyd is passionate about social injustice and human rights, organizing marches in downtown Salt Lake City among community members and other student-athletes, speaking at each event on current social issues, and his passion for kindness and understanding.

He is majoring in communications, earning a spot on both the Dean’s List and the AD Honor Roll in 2019 and 2020.

Freddie Solomon played his college football at the University of Tampa (Florida) and went on to play for the Miami Dolphins for three seasons before joining the San Francisco 49ers where he helped win two Super Bowl championships.  His career in the National Football League as a wide receiver came to a close after 11 years.  Then the Sumter, SC, native known as “Fabulous Freddie”, came back to Hillsborough County (Tampa) to make a more lasting impact.  Solomon devoted the next 12 years of his life to the youths of Tampa Bay, working with the Sheriff’s department to teach kids life lessons through football.  His efforts impacted more than two decades of youths and his lessons are still carried on in the community.  The Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award continues Solomon’s efforts to help make the world a better place by annually honoring a collegiate football player who has impacted the lives of others through giving and community service.

Information provided by Jordie Lindley
University of Utah Athletics

Navy Academy Nominates Myles Fells For Freddie Solomon Community Spirit

Myles Fells is known among his Navy teammates and coaches as one who attacks his football and classwork with passion and looks at a turbulent, troubled world with compassion and a yearning to help make it a better place.

In the short term, the senior slotback from Little Rock, Arkansas is preparing to graduate with a degree in political science and commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the United States Marine Corps. He likes the idea of sticking around next season on temporary assigned duty as a graduate assistant coach.

As long as Fells is serving someone or something larger than himself, he is a happy man which is why the US Navy Academy has nominated him for The 2020 Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award presented by The Premier Players Sports Foundation in Tampa, FL.

In the long view, Fells wants to lift and inspire others from a high-profile position of leadership. He talks matter-of-factly about running for public office successfully in his home state. He envisions himself serving the people of his home state as their Governor.

“My main goal is to leave [the world] better than the way I found it,” Fells says. “As I’ve seen things that have happened where I’m from, and as I’ve seen the state of things in various places around the United States, I feel the call to help my community. Life can be better — especially in places like where I’m from.”

There is Fells giving a short and passionate speech at a rally at the state capital in Little Rock. He is venting frustration following the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an incident that angered a nation.

There is Fells, bullhorn in hand, saying much during a snippet of a speech he organized without writing a word down. He estimates he came up with his speech in about five minutes.

“I grew up Black in Little Rock. My mom has had ‘the talk’ with me, about getting pulled over by police,” Fells said, identifying with the cheering crowd that includes many public school teachers and other African-Americans as he relays his own fear.

“I was driving back from a football game, and I got pulled over by three cop cars, for not having a light on. I was terrified,” he continues. “That was the same year [2012] Trayvon Martin was killed — a young Black man who looked just like me. I can’t help but think of my two brothers standing over there. What if it was them? What if it was one of my classmates?

“I couldn’t sleep for the past week, because this is weighing on me. The fact that we have so much traction [protesting racial injustice]…I have hope,” Fells adds. “Do everything in your power to be a strong role model. Continue to educate. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s time to have those conversations. Let’s help the people of Arkansas spread peace around the world!”

The rousing energy behind those words spoken in Fells’ clear and booming voice reflects the same quality he brings to each day on the Yard. Senior slot back C.J. Williams calls Fells “a machine” for the way he works tirelessly on his game and lifts teammates’ spirits. Senior Justin Smith admires how Fells exudes charisma and attracts followers with his need to know things about everyone on the team (Where are you from? How many brothers and sisters do you have? Names?).

As much as they feed off of Fells’ upbeat, day-to-day outlook, the Navy football family marvels at Fells’ mature perspective on a world that has taught him real-life lessons, both heart-warming and tragic.

The son of service-driven parents — his mother, Kecia, is an elementary school counselor and has worked in education for more than three decades; his father, Kenny, is a chemist who processes hazardous waste at a treatment storage and disposal facility two hours south of Little Rock in Eldorado, Ark. — Fells was developing his caring ways, even as a boy barely walking.

“At daycare, Myles was always quick to help the other kids, [for example] by picking up a bottle when one would drop it,” says Kenny Fells, who was drafted in 1986 as a running back by the Washington Redskins. “His work ethic was just different than most kids his age. I’ve told him since elementary school he’s a natural-born leader. People look to him, flock to him.”

Up until nearly middle school, when he attended Pulaski Academy in West Little Rock, Fells lived in the John Barrow section of the city, a neighborhood stricken by the twin scourges of drugs and violence.

The family then moved about 20 miles outside of Little Rock and lived on five acres that represented the picture of safety and security. The boys — older brother JaRon, now a nurse in Oklahoma City, and Morgan, a junior at Joe Robinson High School, Myles’ alma mater — commuted to school in Little Rock.

For financial reasons, Kenny, Kecia, and Morgan moved back to Little Rock after Myles had started his journey in Annapolis. Last spring, when the Covid-19 pandemic erupted, students all over America took to online learning at home. Myles went back to his old neighborhood in March, where he would remain for several months, before returning to Annapolis.

While living back in Little Rock, the killing of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police touched off the nationwide discussion and demands for racial justice in America. Fells says he attended at least half a dozen protests, against the wishes of his worried mother.

“I asked my mother do I want to look back on this time and be someone who played it safe, or do I want to be a guy who made his voice heard?” Fells recalls. “Do I want to tell my kids one day I was out there trying to help or did I run and hide? So many people have been there to help me. I’ve got to help as much as I can.”

One of the things that spurred Fells on to make his speech at the state capital was a terrible run of local tragedy that touched him. Over about 10 days, Fells says five young men whom he’d known as a youth died — four by gunshot, one by opioid overdose.

“I didn’t notice how bad things were when I was younger living in the J.B. neighborhood — the killings, the robberies, the drugs,” Fells says. “We’ve seen shootings, heard gunshots.”

“Myles has been through and seen some things that a lot of us haven’t seen or been through. He’s got a perspective and wisdom a lot of us don’t know,” says Ken Niumatalolo, Navy’s 13th-year head coach, who believes Fells will be an exceptional leader in the military and in politics, should he eventually choose that path.

“[Fells] doesn’t make speeches often, but the guys perk up when he talks,” Niumatalolo adds. “He speaks the truth, [with] no ill will, the best intentions. He’s one of the most respected people on our team because he has a great heart. He’s done a lot of selfless things for our team without complaining. He’s a really good football player. Myles is also one of the best human beings I’ve ever known.”

“Myles is the type of teammate that keeps your head above water, keeps you level-headed and seeing the big picture,” says Smith, who adds Fells helped him to let go of his frustrations as an offensive performer and to embrace his effective roles on Navy’s kickoff, kickoff return, and punt return teams.

“I come from an opposite sort of background in Virginia Beach, compared to the situation Myles comes from. But he doesn’t run away from challenges or adversity, he attacks them head-on,” Smith adds. “He’s got friends who are in jail or have died due to the violence in Little Rock. He’s never satisfied with the way things are. He’s a born leader. I’ve seen examples of it around our team for a long time. He doesn’t do fake energy.”

As an outstanding student-athlete, Fells’ talent on and off the field blossomed in high school, first at Pulaski Academy over two seasons. As a sophomore, he led Pulaski in rushing on a team that won the Class 4A state title. But Fells tore his ACL in the state semifinals and could not play in the title game.

After having knee surgery, Fells transferred to Robinson High in the fall of 2015. He struggled with the knee and wasn’t the same player, but he re-committed to rigorous training and weight lifting to prepare for his senior year. And Fells came into his own in new ways academically.

He was chosen to represent Robinson as a rising junior at Boys State, a week-long camp and immersive program in civics education, operated in part by elected public officials and complete with governing bodies. Fells responded tremendously to Boys State’s focus on participation and personal experience and its design that mirrored the government’s operation in Little Rock.

Fells was chosen by Boys State officials as Governor of Arkansas at Boys Nation.

“Myles has always had this overarching idea of justice and standing up for what he believes is right,” says Damian Patterson, a career educator in Arkansas who coached and mentored Fells as a youngster. “His drive to be successfully kept pushing him in football and he’s driven to serve, just like the people he’s been around.

“We’ve talked a lot about pushing the envelope to change policies and not letting it get too emotional. Be calm and deliberate in your actions,” Patterson adds. “Myles exhibits all of those things. I tell him he’s not responsible for the fate of Black America, just do his piece. When he came back home during Covid, I told him he would be the first Black governor of Arkansas.”

While the knee injury scared off numerous Division I schools recruiting Fells — Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Memphis among them — Navy wanted him by the middle of his senior year in early 2017. By then, Fells was hitting on all cylinders.

He was a two-way starter in football, and shined on both sides of the ball, as Robinson reached the quarterfinals of the state championship tournament. Fells rushed for 928 yards and 14 touchdowns, had 240 yards receiving and seven more scores, but startled everyone by his prowess on defense as a first-time starter at LB, where Fells led 4A with 115 tackles, including 20 tackles for a loss and four sacks.

Fells was one of three finalists for Arkansas Defensive Player of the Year. In addition, as a senior, he led 4A in scoring in men’s soccer, after going nearly a decade without playing the sport. He served as captain of both teams that year.

And after not expressing much interest in running for Class President as a senior, a Robinson administrator urged him to give a speech with the rest of the competitors in the school auditorium, before the vote was held. Fells was the last person to speak. He was voted Class President.

“He is the type of kid everybody gravitates to,” says Tyler Updegrove, who coached Fells at Robinson. “You watch him play, you want to play harder. And you see he truly has a heart for other people.”

Fells has started every game for the Mids in 2020. He has averaged 7.3 yards on 19 carries, caught a career-long, 73-yard touchdown pass, and thrown a slew of crisp blocks.

And those close to Fells are waiting to see how far this born leader takes that part of his game. Kenny Fells gets emotional when he imagines what his son can become.

“If it’s something he wants, you’re not going to stop Myles,” he says. “He’s sitting on the verge of greatness.”

Article provided by US Navy Academy