Johnathan Williams, Grambling State University’s quarterback, received one of two United States Marine Corps Excellence in Leadership Awards during a special Bayou Classic lunch last Friday. Audry Thompson, a Southern University defensive lineman, received the other.
Before the big battle on the field Saturday, the Grambling State and Southern football teams, administrators and supporters gathered for the 42nd Annual Bayou Classic Coaches’ Luncheon. The leadership awards recognize players that display some of the same qualities of the Marine Corps: integrity, decisiveness and dependability.
“Coach [Broderick] Fobbs and his staff stress that graduation is just important as playing the game, because there is life after football,” said Williams, 23, of Tampa, Florida.
Williams, a graduate student with a 4.0 GPA, is pursuing a master’s in civil engineering and criminal justice. He graduated with a bachelor’s in engineering technology in May.
“[Williams] exemplifies everything you would want in a student-athlete,” said Obadiah Simmons, GSU’s interim athletic director. He added not only is Williams a model student, he plays “beyond expectation.”
“Not only is he great on the field, he shows that same enthusiasm in the classroom,” added Wanda Sykes, director of academic enhancement for athletics at GSU. He is active in his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., and he is committed to community service.
Stephen Dennis, a GSU alum, and Pastor Danny Donaldson Sr., a Southern alum, received the alumni honors at the luncheon.
The Hyatt Hotel banquet room was divided into two. Whenever someone from one the universities spoke, cheering and chatting erupted from the respective side.
Yet, it wasn’t all trash talk.
“We are in this thing together,” said Simmons. “We do work together. This is not the end but a continuation.”
The universities congratulated each other for their season’s success. Grambling State (8-2; 8-0 SWAC) is undefeated in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and secured a seat to the conference championship in Houston on Dec. 5, playing Alcorn State University. Southern (SWAC 6-4) is on a two-game winning streak.
Grambling’s football coach Broderick Fobbs said that GSU’s eight-game winning streak is “good and all” but there is a “bigger purpose.”
“Coaches are failing these young people,” said Fobbs. “They win football games. But, they go out into life and have no clue of what to do. They have no foundation.”
Fobbs said his goal is to create players that will be productive citizens. The G-Men’s GPA has improved from a 2.2 to 2.7 overall in two years, boosting academic progress rate (APR) from 888 in 2011 to 970 this season. The G-Men also stop at historical sites in Selma, Alabama; Little Rock, Arkansas; Dallas, Texas and elsewhere to give players a sense of history, purpose and vision.
“It’s a bigger purpose (at Grambling),” said Fobbs.