As the Grambling State University track and field team reflected on its championship season, GSU President Frank G. Pogue was touched to hear each team member say what it means to be a part of this special team.
“It has done my heart justice to hear the brotherhood, respect and love you have said (you have) about yourself, your coaches and Grambling,” said Pogue, who sat attentively listening to each team member. The president said there are things “that many people do not get to hear.”
Pogue honored the team for winning the 2014 Southwestern Athletic men’s indoor track & field championship with a luncheon in his private, presidential dining room in McCall Dining Hall Wednesday afternoon. It was the first time most had been in the room, and the first time some had been so close to Pogue. The team won the championship in Birmingham, Ala., in late February.
It was the third consecutive SWAC men’s indoor title and the fourth in the last five years for head coach Bertram Lovell, who won SWAC coach of the year honors. Athletic Director Aaron James joined the group. The 23 young men honored during Wednesday’s luncheon were appreciative, respectful and deeply rooted in Grambling State tradition, showing a clear “brother’s keeper” commitment to their teammates and parent-like respect for their coaches, Lovell and assistant coach Ashley Curry, who graduated from GSU with a bachelor’s in biology in 2007 and a master’s in sports administration in 2013.
The team has established strong bonds of camaraderie, a great love and respect for each other as brothers and a desire to help each other with academics, studying and generally bettering their lives.
Each of the young men credited Lovell and GSU for giving them a chance when other universities had given up on them or made it obvious that they were only concerned about what they did on the field and the track. After dining on smothered chicken, sautÃ©ed vegetables and peach cobbler, each team member took a turn to say a few words to their teammates, and the coach who has meant so much to them.
“Coach Lovell teaches his vision through us,” said senior Jamael McTear, 21, a criminal justice major from Detroit. “He cares more about academics than track, asks what is going on in our lives and he’s just very supportive of us as individuals.”
McTear’s teammates shared similar ideas as they recalled how Lovell and their “mother away from home” Curry are involved in their sports careers, and lives, on and off the track.
Sylvester Baisden, 22, of Riverdale, Ga., a senior majoring in criminal justice, said he chose Grambling State University because Lovell “made me feel at home” and “other universities were just putting on a show.” He said he felt a GSU family bond immediately.
“Coach Lovell cared about my education, what I’d do after college … he cared about me and has become like a father,” added Anthony Hall, 22, a senior from Kansas City, Mo.
Senior Deonte Pope, 23, a 3.0 GPA student from Detroit said he was recruited to go to Michigan State University but turned down the predominantly white institution to grow and excel at the historically black university he chose, GSU.
Lovell expressed appreciation to his assistant, Curry, saying he couldn’t do as much without her and he’s glad the GSU grad decided to return to give back to her alma mater. He said his GSU “sons” keep him going. “Strength keeps me going, and you guys are my strength,” Lovell told them as he delivered an emotional chat about why he stays at Grambling State after offers to go elsewhere. He said he stays in part because “all money isn’t good money.”
Pogue presented Lovell with a letter from Sam Seemes, CEO of U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, for his hard work on and off the field with his athletes and acknowledging their most recent championship. Lovell graciously accepted it as his team gave him a standing ovation.
“This is a great group of young men and we are so proud and thankful to be recognized by Dr. Pogue,” added Curry.