2.21.2018

Grassfield's A. Smith Looks To Develop R.E.A.L. Men

As seen on UltimateRecruit.com

“Who is the President of (the University of) Alabama?,” asked Grassfield High assistant football coach Anthony Smith to a group of 30 or so in attendance at his character education seminar at last weekend’s Nike Coach of the Year clinic., held at the Dulles Westin in Herndon, VA.

As the room sat in silence, Smith presented another question. “OK, who is the football coach at Alabama?” This time, several attendees were quick to verbalize the answer. “Nick Saban.”

Smith’s point had been made. Coaches are powerful figures within their institutions of learning, and in many cases, better known than the people they work for.

From this baseline, the coach of 21 years explained the R.E.A.L. Man program. In its briefest version, the acronym stands for:

R: Respect all people.

E: Especially women.

A: Always do the right thing.

L: Live a life that matters.

Smith, who lived in public housing as a young man in Virginia Beach, played football for Joe Taylor as an athlete at Hampton University. He used Taylor as an example of a man dedicated to building character and culture throughout his program. Inspired by his mentor, Smith transitioned into coaching after his playing days were through, but found rough sailing as a young coach, particularly at his first school, Indian River.

“We lost four starters due to crimes,” said Smith, adding that of the 20 people he played ball with as a youngster, only he and one friend graduated from high school and only he went on to college. The retrospective memories showed the loss he endured. “We just lost them – one by one,” adding that drugs or street violence was usually the cause.

Statistics back up his life story. Smith noted that the number of children living without fathers has skyrocketed, from about eight million in 1960 to over 20 million today. Seventy-one percent of pregnant teenage girls live without a father, as do 85% of incarcerated youths.

But there is an answer, said Smith, looking around the room while pronouncing that “Coaches are father figures.”

Smith went on to tell the story of Frank DiCocco, a young man who seized his coaching job as an opportunity to develop athletes off the field. DiCocco died at the young age of 29, but through his book, he laid out the steps of character development, affectionately called “Frank’s Mission.”

So why teach character? As coaches, Smith said, “it is our job to do more than just win games,” encouraging them to use their positions of power to influence our student athletes and help them succeed in life.

The obstacles are real. “There are three downfalls of man,” said Smith – “Sex Drugs and Alcohol.” His next point grabbed the attention of the listeners. “If weed isn’t addictive, then why do some athletes lose their million dollar contracts, just for a 15-minute high?”

Smith, who has been involved with R.E.A.L. for eight years, also gave an explanation of the program, noting that each year, the H.O.P.E. Foundation offers its scholarship at a public ceremony.

“It’s all about mental toughness,” said Smith in a final message to his fellow coaches. “By mental toughness, I mean, having the ability to face adversity and failure with a positive attitude and enthusiasm.” For coaches, involvement with R.E.A.L. Men could offer a chance to become transformational. “It is the number one attribute for a coach.”

2.08.2018

Newport News Elks #315 Hosts Hoop Shoot

HOOP SHOOT

Twenty-five youngsters took to the basketball courts Jan. 13 as part of the annual Elks National Hoop Shoot, with the B.P.O.E. Lodge 315 hosting the Newport News event at the United Methodist Church in Denbigh.
The Hoop Shoot is a free-throw shooting competition for youths from ages 8-13. Its past national winners include former NBA players and current college coaches Chris Mullin and Steve Alford. According to event director Richard Means, the Newport News competition has been taking place since the 1960s.
The age-group winners, who advanced to the regional competition held last weekend: age 8-9 girls: Bella Francisco; 8-9 boys: Leo Barrett; 10-11 girls; Vanissa Barretto; 10-11 boys: Keylen Hopkins; 12-13 girls: Kayana Cloud; and 12-13 boys: Kobe Bryant.
The 2018 Hoop Shoot National Finals will take place April 21 in Chicago.


1.30.2018

Penn State Bound Ricky Slade is RecruitNoVA.com's Player of the Year

For Hylton running back Ricky Slade, a winter of accolades for accomplishments past is slowly transitioning into a spring of conditioning for accomplishments future.

Slade, who has been selected as RecruitNoVA.com’s Player of the Year, is ready to start the next chapter of his life, one that promises a lifetime of memories, perhaps more than 100,000, which happens to just about equal the number of fans that will fill Beaver Stadium at his next football home – Penn State.

On December 20, Slade, who rushed for 1,978 yards and 30 TD’s for Tony Lilly’s 9-4 Bulldog team, officially signed with the Nittany Lions, solidifying a commitment that has verbally been in place since February. Having his college choice in place before the start of his senior season, Slade was able to avoid distractions and reach for greater heights than his junior season, which saw over 1,500 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. With over 2,500 total yards and 40 TD’s (rushing, receiving, and returns) this season, the 5-9, 185-pound senior usually played a level above his competition, and his noteworthy games saw numbers that would constitute a good season for many of this peers.

Take the game against Colgan, for example. In a 64-35 win against the Sharks, Slade took the teeth out of the opposing defense on just 13 carries, gaining 353 yards with five touchdowns. That didn’t count the touchdown reception and two kick return scores. In all, the fleet tailback gained over 500 total yards and scored eight times.

Amazingly, he had previously scored eight TD’s in a game, three years before, as a freshman. However, Colgan was a young team, only in its first varsity season, and there were some fans who wanted to see Slade produce video game numbers in a contest of consequence.

The moment of truth came in this season’s second playoff game. Against previously undefeated Freedom, Slade sliced and diced the Eagle defense, gaining 326 yards on the ground and four touchdowns as Hylton upset Freedom 45-28.

According to Slade, the game served as the high point in a season full of them.

It only took eight days to hit the low point. Against a stifling Woodbridge defense, Slade was held to 34 yards on just 12 carries and a pair of short receptions, as the Vikings put an end to the Bulldogs’ Cinderella playoff run, winning the 6A region championship game 28-14.

In the end, Slade’s career numbers speak for themselves – 5,400 rushing yards and 91 combined touchdowns. The fans of Happy Valley are in for a treat.

Since the end of the Hylton season, Slade has maintained a busy schedule. He played in the Under Armour Bowl in Orlando, Fla., and scored a 14-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass against some of the best defenders in the nation.

Asked about his experience at one of the premier national All-Star games, the quietly confident Slade spoke of the game as another step in his upward trajectory.

“Everybody is fast,” said Slade, who has been timed at 4.48 in the 40-yard dash. “It’s not like high school where you can just outrun everybody.”

The other highlight was getting to play with some of his future Penn State teammates, including receivers Justin Shorter and Shaquon Anderson-Butts, along with end P.J. Mustipher. As fellow blue-chip players, the three new Nittany Lions are not strangers.

“We’ve known each other for a while. We’re real close!”

Last week, Slade traveled to Hawaii to take part in the Polynesian Bowl, keeping him away from most of the snow and slush that surrounded many of his friends and family in Prince William County.

The transition continues.

Slade will begin his tenure at State College when he leaves Virginia on June 23rd. In the meantime, he is heavy into his preparation phase.

“They gave me my (off-season) workout program, and I just switched over” said Slade, who has noted in the past that he plans on bulking up from his current 185 points to 205-210. “I have been working out four times a week.” Asked about the changes in the Penn State regimen compared to what he was doing previously, he noted that “it’s not really much different, with the (amount of) lifting and the running, but there’s just a little more.”

In essence, the Slade era at State College may have already begun. The Nittany Lions Class of 2018 football commits has been ranked as high as fourth nationally, and Slade, ranked as the second best all-purpose back in America as a five-star recruit is at the top of the crop.

Penn State, under coach James Franklin, just completed an 11-2 season which concluded with a 35-28 Fiesta Bowl win over Washington. In spite of their success, Slade has been asked to be ready to play --- soon.

“They have told me to expect a lot of early reps,” said Slade speaking of game reps and not practice.

Asked if he was nervous, exhilarated, or excited about the prospect to play in front of 106,572 fans at Beaver Stadium, Slade concluded with another understated, but frank response.


“All of the above.”

1.24.2018

RecruitNoVA.com Defensive Player of the Year - Spencer Alston (South Lakes)

Spencer Alston finished his junior year at South Lakes as one of the most prolific scorers in the
state of Virginia. The Seahawk running back found the end zone 20 times as a rusher and nine more times as a receiver, tallying just over 1,800 total yards in the process. Combined with fellow back Albert Mensah, the pair were the highest scoring teammates in Northern Virginia, if not the whole state, with their 49 touchdowns.

But for their entire collective offensive prowess, both Alston and Mensah were also defensive standouts, Alston as a safety, and Mensah as a 205-pound havoc-wreaking defensive end.

Mensah continued to excel at both positions in 2017, serving as the Seahawks main ball carrier and all-region defensive end. However, Alston played in a higher stratosphere, on both sides of the ball. At offense, he averaged over 12.6 yards on 119 carries for a total of 1,509 with 22 TD’s. His receiving duties were curtailed a bit, as the senior back caught 43 passes, as opposed to 54 as a junior, but gained 824 yards with 11 more scores. Altogether, Alston’s total yardage boosted by over 500 yards, and he scored four more times. His final tote – 162 touches, 2,333 yards, and 33 touchdowns.

However, Alston was also the Seahawks shutdown cover in the secondary, picking off three passes while holding down most team’s top receivers, leading to All-Region and first-team Washington Post All-Met honors as a defender. For this reason, Alston has been chosen as the recruitNoVA.com Defensive Player of the Year.

South Lakes, under coach Trey Taylor, finished the 2017 campaign with a record of 11-2, losing to eventual state champion Westfield 27-7 in the regional final. The offense was prolific, topping 40 points on ten occasions. Yet it was the defense, with Alston leading the secondary, that allowed 14 points or less in all but two of South Lakes’ games – not so coincidentally, both of them losses. In their 11 wins, the Seahawks allowed a mere 72 points (6.5 ppg).

Perhaps the most amazing statistic of all is that Alston, although a tinge smaller than some college coaches would like (5-10, 185) for a running back, will not be playing football in college, which would seem to be a travesty as he will be attending Ohio State in the fall. As it turns out, Alston may be a better lacrosse player, one who has made All-Conference since his sophomore year, and he has verbally committed to the Buckeyes as a midfielder.

Whether he’s carrying a football or a lacrosse stick, Spencer Alston is arguably one of the top-three all-around athletes in Northern Virginia.

1.18.2018

RecruitNoVA.com Loudoun Player of the Year -- Daniel Thompson (Stone Bridge)

Photo by Rick Wasser - Loudoun Times-Mirror
At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Stone Bridge’s wide receiver Daniel Thompson stands out among his peers. With his 4.46 speed in the 40-yard dash, route running ability, and Velcro-like hands, seeing Thompson catch balls on the gridiron is like watching Larry Fitzgerald play against high schoolers.
And after a stellar senior campaign, with 57 catches for 1,454 yards and 21 touchdowns, the senior left little doubt that he stands out among the players of his region, which makes him the RecruitNoVA.com Loudoun County Player of the Year.
Thompson was better known as a tight end last year, and rated just behind Lake Braddock’s Andrew Park as the top among Northern Virginia position players. With the move to wide out, Bulldog coach Mickey Thompson was hoping to take advantage of his star’s enhanced speed, and the receiver was quick to come into his own, as the Dogs rattled off 12 straight wins, before falling to Tuscarora in a heartbreaking 28-27 region final.
In Week 2, he scored three touchdowns, catching four passes for 147 yards, while adding two more as a rusher, as Stone Bridge thumped Lake Braddock 46-13. He followed that performance with six catches for 237 yards and three scores in a surprisingly easy 35-10 win over a Madison team known for its defensive prowess.
But the coup de grace for the speedy ball catcher came with his playoff performance. In the Bulldogs three games, Thompson caught 22 passes for 498 yards and nine touchdowns, as Stone Bridge easily manhandled Lee (42-21) and John Champe (45-22) before the disappointing finale in Ashburn.
However, it was Thompson’s clutch catches and sturdy hands that kept Stone Bridge even with Tusky. Many of his nine catches for 162 yards came on balls that forced him to leap and dive, while maintaining possession of the football with his hands acting like a vice grip – holding on to passes from Mason Tatum that a lesser receiver would have dropped.

Thompson would normally have moved on to basketball season, but has decided to hone his football skills, which are drawing increased interest. To date, he has visited JMU and ODU, while Towson and Howard have extended scholarship offers.