A running reflection in the life of a track coach

“Coach Ed” was born surrounded by fields full of cotton and grapes.  The only child of Millie and Valo, he thrived in the tiny farming community of Earlimart, California where he grew up.  He had the run of the town and, like most boys of this era, he spent his time working in the fields and playing every sport that was offered.

Football and Track were his main passions and put him on a path that led to Delano High School and then Fresno State College (now university).  Without football and track, Ed probably would not have attended college- the two sports gave him the incentive and the economic help to attend college.  He took full advantage of this by attending college for about 7 years!

After receiving his college degree, Ed began teaching and coaching.  His coaching path led him to Corcoran High School as head coach in the mid-1960s. There he worked with assistant coach Arthur Calloway  “the convincer”  who had played football at Grambling College under the legendary Eddie Robinson.  Coach Calloway enticed Coach Rob to fly up to Corcoran to speak at its athletic banquet while he was in California on another speaking engagement.  This is where Ed met Eddie, and the rest is the beginning of Coach Ed’s Grambling history.   

Coach Rob offered Ed an opportunity to spend the summer of 1969 in Grambling studying football – at the end of which he offered Ed a job – a job that lasted 18 years.

Coach Rob said he couldn’t expect the White universities and the NFL to accept his Black players and coaches if Grambling didn’t welcome White players and coaches.  This was a novel ideal in 1969, but he found a willing partner in Coach Ed.

Corcoran had a special high school quarterback whose abilities were brought to Coach Rob’s attention.  Coach Robinson was intrigued by his ability as well as the chance to integrate Grambling’s football team – that quarterback, Jimmy Gregory, was “Grambling’s White Tiger” of movie fame.  Several other athletes from Corcoran joined them that 1969 school year  including  Manuel Porras(football), Joe Ashford (Track & football), Ricky (Baseball), Monte Wyatt (Baseball), and Anthony Martinez (Baseball) and Grambling was integrated.  

Coach Ed became the linebacker coach, film coach,  and weight training coach for 18 years and the woman’s track and field coach for 15 years.  He stated that it “was fun being part of the ‘Grambling Glory years’.”  He was shown in the Sports Illustrated “Here’s to you Mr. Robinson” article and in a couple of the Oldsmobile commercials that also featured Coach Rob.

We all know the successes of the football team in that era, traveling to major stadiums across the country and to Japan ,but the women’s track and field program was his pride and joy. 

 In the early ’70s, Coach Stevens began a woman’s track program.  Due to no prior recruiting efforts, it got off to a rocky start. The initial team was made up of “walk-ons” who were students already enrolled at Grambling.  Their first year showing was so pitiful at the SWAC championships that Coach Rob called Coach Ed  to the stands and told him to “go recruit”!   

Having been described in that season’s football program as “The charismatic Stevens is a recruiting work horse.  Like a man who makes his living with a rod-and-reel, he can bring them in.” He now needed to turn his recruiting abilities into a nationally competitive women’s track team.  The search was on!

Well, after losing a bid for a recruiting budget, most of the recruiting took place from Coach Stevens’ little blue Volkswagen Bug, along with numerous telephone calls to high school coaches and referrals from other athletes.  He recruited from within the state of Louisiana without a great deal of success. He got some good athletes ,but not enough to be competitive within SWAC

He recieved a break wen a  Nigerian representitive came to Grambling campus looking for a home for Nigerian athletes. 

Coach Stevens recruited three Nigerian athletes who later became SWAC champions.  This led him to recruit three Trinidad and Tobago athletes who also became SWAC champions.  He later recruited twin sisters, Brenda and Linda Gullege, athletes from Illinois, and then in 1978-80, he recruited three athletes from Jamaica, and Grambling became nationally competitive!  From that point, it became easier to attract the best athletes from all over the United States, including our hostess tonight, All-American Alice Jackson from Georgia.

 Coach Ed’s phenomenal team of outstanding female  athletes won individual and relay titles from Texas Relays, Drake Relays, Penn Relays, and LSU Relay meets where we earned national championships in the 4X2 relays.  We were 1983 NCAA Div 1 National 4X2 Relay Champions.  In 1985, we were tied for first place in the Syracuse, NY NCAA Div 1 National Indoor championship  with one event left to go and were disqualified and left with a 4th place finish in the team championships.

4×800 Relay Squad ranked #1 in nation, #2 in world… Revah Knight, Yolande Small, Cynthia Green, and Gail Emmanuel.

A few of Coach Stevens’s star performers of the time were:

Debra Armstrong -1976 & 80 – Olympics Team – 9th in 200m at Olympic Games

Janice Bernard – LA games Olympian, All American

Doreen Best

Diedra Best

Christine Bain

Joy Bryson

Gail Emmanuel – LA games Olympian, All American, 4×800 Relay Squad ranked #1 in nation, #2 in world

Michelle Flagg

Cynthia Green – LA games Olympian, Indoor national Champion 500m/record holder – 4×800 Relay Squad ranked #1 in nation, #2 in world

Millicent  Jenkins – All American

Bernadette John

Revah Knight – All American, 4×800 Relay Squad ranked #1 in nation, #2 in world

Betty Mitchell – Shot put, SWAC champion

Henrietta Nancis – All American

Bernadette O’Connor

Ashanti Obi – All American

Yolande Small – All American, 4×800 Relay Squad ranked #1 in nation, #2 in world

Michelle Willis – All American

Verone Weber – All American and many more. Sure some have been over looked, but all are dear to his heart.

In 1987, Ed returned to his roots in California with his wife Verone and young son Christopher.  He taught and coached at the high school and junior college level and had a dream realized when his son was recruited and played for the University of Washington as a linebacker earning the first ever special teams player of the decade award from the University of Washington.

Recently retired and winning a battle against cancer, Ed is looks forward to spending more time with his wife and son in California and his three daughters and seven grandchildren in Texas.  Post-retirement and health permitting, Ed’s future plans include volunteer coaching at a local high school’s track and field program… yep… he can’t stay away from it!