Last Game In The Hole

Anthony McGhee will never forget the day Grambling State University’s football team grabbed national headlines. He doesn’t consider last fall’s boycott a bad thing either; instead he sees it as something positive that brought the team together.

“Regardless of what you have been through, you can always get something greater out of it,” said McGhee, a senior from Monroe who transferred from UTEP.

Throughout their years at Grambling State, 19 seniors on the football team have seen it all. From being part of the 2011 Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship team to having the worse season possible two years in a row. Not only did these young men witness their head coach–the man who recruited them– lose his job, they didn’t know if anyone still believed in their talent. 

Then Grambling hired alumnus Broderick Fobbs as the new head football coach months before the season started. Although people questioned if the team would be able to adjust to a new head coach — let alone a new coaching staff — the transition was more successful than expected.  

“Head coach Fobbs came in and was very detail-oriented,” said Ricky Jackson, the director of football operations. 

Jackson said Fobbs knew exactly what he wanted, and what the coach wanted was for the players to “buy in.”

“If they wanted to play football for Grambling, they had to do it coach Fobbs’ way,” Jackson said.

“Since (Fobbs) first got here, he said we had the talent to win now, which a lot of people didn’t believe,” said McGhee.

A month into being head coach, Fobbs held a meeting with all the players and told them that they were going to design the championship ring. He even gave the players three options to choose from.

“At first I deemed this to be a bit crazy, as we were just a 2-22 team the previous two years,” said Anthony Cherry, a senior from Chicago. “But I guess he (saw) something different in us, he saw a championship team.”

One thing that another senior noted was how the new coaching staff treats players as equals, regardless if you are the star player or a someone who doesn’t dress out on gamedays. 

Earl Williams III, a senior from Bossier City, didn’t understand what it meant to be a G-Man until last semester.

“The main thing that I like about them (the coaching staff) is that you can see that they care,” said Williams. “They can yell at me on the field, but after practice I can talk to them about life.”

Williams then added how the coaches are the reason he understands what it means to be a G-Man and what it means to put on a Grambling jersey. 

“Even the ones who didn’t go here, they all have an understanding of the G, like Coach Graves.”

Terrence Graves is the linebackers and special teams coach who went to school at Winston-Salem State in the early ‘90s. Prior to Grambling, Graves was the interim head coach at Mississippi Valley State, and before that he coached at Southern University for 15 years. 

Of the 10 coaches on the football team staff, only five have played for Grambling State: Fobbs, his father Lee Fobbs, Eric Dooley, Kendrick Nord and Jackson.

Within a short time, the players had bought into Fobbs’ vision.

The seniors have seen a significant difference in the football program and see the team working its way back up.  They take pride in playing for Grambling and want to be remembered as never giving up and seeing through the challenges that they faced over the years. 

Before the season started, Grambling was predicted to finish last in the SWAC. No one saw the potential in Grambling; they only saw what the team did in the past. In the 2012 season, Grambling was 0-9 and in 2013 they were 1-8. 

The Tigers are now 7-0 in the SWAC going into their last home game against Alabama State University in the Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium, Saturday at 2 p.m. But to the football team, they know this stadium as “The Hole” – a second home filled with memories and a place where the tradition continues.  

Along with Williams, McGhee and Cherry, other seniors who will not be returning to Grambling next season are Jeremy Runner, Aaron Breed Jr., LeAndre Vallot, Tyree Hollins, Edward Cutno, David Smith, D.J. Williams, Steve Orisakwe, L.J. Parker, Giovanni Randolph, Juwan Martin, Johnny Hedgemon Jr., Shawn Jackson, Gregory Oshotse, Kenneth Milo and Phillip McClain.

“Now as I look back and think, who would’ve thought (Fobbs) could make such a quick turnaround in the program,” said Cherry.

McGhee could only agree with Cherry.

“We still got a long way to go, we are still not done yet, but to be where we are at now is a great feeling.”