With football season coming upon us again, high school fields will light up on Friday nights, college fans will sport their favorite colors on Saturday afternoons and Sundays will find us parked in front of our big screens or tailgating in some NFL parking lot.
Football weekends are back, and America’s teams will be squaring off on the gridiron again. Can it get any more exciting than that?
I say again, “Yes.” What could be more exciting than rooting our favorite teams on to another victory? How about realizing that those guys playing out there could quite possibly be one of your neighbors. “Huh?” you say. That’s right! There’s a good chance that you should not only root for your team but for one of our own on that team.
Living along the coast, we are usually so involved with our coastal pleasures that we forget the young men who work hard all summer long to create that fall spectacular. They start playing football in high school, and many play their final games in college, but quite a few of our coastal athletes have played in the NFL over the years. About 50 of them.
Who are they? Where do they come from? Some you may know, and some you may not. But they are all our neighbors. Coastal Carolinians who made good in the NFL. And we here at Livin’ Out Loud want to honor them as we enter yet another glorious season of friendly battle.
It would take a book to do justice to them all, so we would like to mention their names and the towns they hail from. If you know of anyone we left out or have information about someone you think we should include, contact us so we can amend our records, too. It’s a great honor to be represented by these athletes who make their marks at such high levels. Go Coastal Carolina!
In Wilmington, there is Roman Gabriel and Sonny Jurgensen as well as Algernon Crumpler and Arnold Brown and Keever Jankovich. There’s also Steve Kenney and James Norton representing the city and the coast in fine fashion. Jurgensen is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Gabriel changed the NFL idea of quarterbacks by showing what a big quarterback (6’-5”) was capable of, and Crumpler is a four-time Pro Bowler. Impressed? Read on.
Jumping inland a little to Lumberton, we have Bradford Edwards, Terzell Leach, John Small, Jamain Stephens, Lawrence Thompson and Timothy Worley. Leach signed an $11 million contract with the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, making him the highest paid fullback in history.
In Windsor, we have James Robbins, Abisha Pritchard, Jethro Pugh and William Haggard. Pugh played 14 seasons, all with the Dallas Cowboys. He is the fourth longest tenured Cowboy ever. Bosh Pritchard is also the earliest entry into the NFL from our coast. He started playing professionally in 1942.
Whiteville is represented by Chester McGlockton, Reggie Singletary and Hal Stephens.
Jacksonville seemed to be a veritable football garden, producing the likes of Mike Sutton, Andre Purvis, Isaiah (Ike) Reese, Quincy Monk, Marcus Jones, William (Dee) Hardison, David Greene, Robert Grant, Francis Case, Troy Barnett and Mike Frier, with 29 seasons between them. Go, Jacksonville!
Southport gives us Michael Johnson, and Elizabeth City produced Paul Winslow, John Walton, McKinley Boston and Lee Rouson.
From Camp Lejeune we get James Vellone and Robert Patton as well as Keith Denson and Richard Baldinger. Vellone was a star guard with the Vikings and helped them win the 1969 championship before being forced to retire after five spectacular seasons due to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
New Bern sent Brian Simmons, Jeremy McDaniel, Aaron Martin and George Koonce to represent our area in the NFL. From 1992-1999, Koonce helped the Green Bay Packers return to dominate the NFL. In 128 games over his career, he had 720 tackles. That’s an impressive six tackles a game.
Out of Ahoskie comes Tim Newsome, Jason Horton, Bobby Futrell and Quinton Ballard. For eight seasons, Newsome was a Dallas Cowboy. He blocked for the likes of Tony Dorsett and Herschel Walker. In 1990, he was selected to the all-decade Cowboy team.
Kinston birthed Reggie Smith, Marion Hart and Dwight Clark. Clark was one of Joe Montana’s favorite targets. He played nine great seasons and has two Super Bowl rings.
Morehead City gives us Calvin Daniels and Vaughan Johnson. Johnson was a four-time Pro Bowler and member of the feared Dome Patrol of the New Orleans Saints. Last but not least, out of Havelock comes A.J. Jenkins.
Fifty-four top athletes who made it into the National Football League. Since 1942, they have represented our coastal communities in a grand way. Between them, they have more than 169 seasons in the NFL playing at the top of their games. We have always had a lot to be proud of here on the coast. Now we have one more thing to add to our list of things to crow about.
It’s not just a Sunday afternoon game. Those are our neighbors out there, and we stand and give tribute to their achievements. LOL
By: Jim Jones