Family Promise of Irving providing newfound hope, guidance to the less fortunate

IRVING, Texas — A few years ago, Connie Jones and her son faced arguably the most tumultuous time of their lives.

Virtually homeless with nowhere to go and no one to turn to, all Jones and her son needed was a much-needed breakthrough, some much-needed encouragement and unconditional love, some much-needed spiritual guidance and wisdom, all of which she sensed would provide her family with the sense of direction they desperately sought.

As Jones recalls, “thank God” Family Promise of Irving, Texas made a stern commitment to aid and uplift them.

From start to finish.

“Family Promise of Irving helped my son and me in so many ways,” Jones said. “God answered my desperate fear filled prayers of help with an abundance of wonderful special people…family.”

A longstanding, non-profit organization that was established in 1981 by New Jersey-based marketing executive Karen Olsen, this faith-based organization’s mission is geared largely toward assisting homeless and low-income families acquire sustainable independence.

VISIT FAMILY PROMISE OF IRVING AT: http://familypromiseirving.org/home/

Also, Family Promise acknowledges that poverty is a “multifaceted problem that requires a multifaceted response,” according to a spokesperson for the organization. Generally, Family Promise is widely known for integrating educational outreach, smart programming, effective policies, and the hands-on work of thousands of volunteers, many of whom assist in providing food, shelter, and support services for homeless families.

“We provide advice and advocacy for at-risk families to prevent their becoming homeless,” a spokesperson for the organization explained. “And we educate people about poverty and the means to combat it.”

In addition, this nationally-acclaimed organization accomplishes its mission through independent affiliates in approximately 42 U. S. states, a number that is steadily increasing. In fact, Family Promise operates primarily through various communities with the guidance of experts or, according to a spokesperson, “people who live there and know it best.”

Among the experts who have become a fixture for Family Promise is Teri Petty. Petty oversees Family Promise of Irving, Texas. Given the strides this local affiliate has made in recent years, it’s safe to assume this establishment in the outskirts of Dallas has benefited this area mightily.

Organized in May 2012, the Irving affiliate was erected, in large part because of the staggering number of children throughout the independent school district who were deemed as homeless, Petty said. According to the director, 857 children were identified as homeless in the Irving Independent School district.

“And that is only the ones of whom we know,” Petty said.

What that generally meant, Petty said, is that 857 children and their families did not have a fixed, regular, or permanent residence. “Imagine not having control of where you sleep every night,” Petty said. “Imagine what it would be like to not know if you are going to be welcome at the same place tomorrow night. Imagine the stress of living on the hospitality or lack of hospitality of friends or family.”

Since its inception nearly three years ago, Family Promise of Irving has served over 26 families, 91 people, 65 of whom were children, Petty said. As Petty acknowledges, the Irving faith community, in conjunction with the affiliate for which she directs have “opened wide their hearts” and buildings to not only provide shelter and food, but also to encourage and provide hope to families experiencing the loss of a place they once called home.

Family Promise of Irving welcomed its first family nearly one month after its inception.

GalaAs Jones recalled, the Irving affiliate not only expressed love with no restraints, but members of the organization went to great lengths to demonstrate love, routinely reminding her and her son that facing adversity and shortcomings don’t mean that life isn’t worth living.

“They started out as strangers and became my beloved family,” Jones said. “My son, who is a teenager, said that Family Promise restored his faith and hope in humanity. Indeed, they taught me that there is always love and hope even during my darkest time.”

LaTisha Jarrett, FPI’s volunteer coordinator for West Irving Church of God In Christ, works closely with Petty. Jarrett’s primary responsibilities include recruiting additional volunteers, assembling menus, shopping, and overseeing that various tasks have been implemented, among other things.

“Volunteer coordinators go through training to make sure this is a task that you want to take on,” Jarrett said. “This is all done on a voluntary basis. This is truly a passion that you must have, although it may not be your church’s host week to house the families. As a coordinator, your work is never done. There are meetings, fundraisers, and other volunteer services that are needed as well.”

By all accounts, Family Promise of Irving strives daily to achieve its longstanding mission, which is being a nation in which every family has a home, a livelihood, and the chance to build a better future together.

No one, it seems, can attest to such a life-changing encounter more than Jones and her son.

“They gave us a safe, healthy place to sleep in their churches,” Jones said. “They fed us home-cooked meals and visited with us. They helped me get a job and showed me how to keep a budget plan. They took us to the movies, to a baseball game, and many other events. They were our friends and truly cared about us. I love them all and am forever grateful for them.”

From start to finish.

For more information about Family Promise of Irving or to make a donation, write or call: Family Promise of Irving
P.O. Box 177516
Irving, TX 75017-7516
teri.petty@familypromiseirving.org
Teri Petty, Director
972-313-1500

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Randolph on Conley for All-Star appearance: ‘I want the young fella to get in there’

DALLAS — No one, it seems, is more impressed with Mike Conley’s body of work this season than Zach Randolph.

The Memphis Grizzlies power forward, in fact, has been complimentary of Conley’s display since the early stages of the season.

Tuesday night was no exception.

BOLD PREDICTION --- Following the shorthanded Grizzlies’ decisive 109-90 win against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night in American Airlines Center, Grizzlies star Zach Randolph hinted that he anticipates point guard Mike Conley to be named to the All-Star team, a milestone he’s been seeking for some time. (LM Otero, Getty Images)

BOLD PREDICTION — Following the shorthanded Grizzlies’ decisive 109-90 win against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night in American Airlines Center, Grizzlies star Zach Randolph hinted that he anticipates
point guard Mike Conley to be named to the All-Star team, a milestone he’s been seeking for some time. (LM Otero, Getty Images)

Following the shorthanded Grizzlies’ decisive 109-90 win against the Dallas Mavericks in American Airlines Center in which the team was without Conley, Randolph hinted that he anticipates the Grizzlies’ starting point guard to achieve a milestone he’s been seeking for some time.

“It’s big when you can play like that without your All-Star point guard,” Randolph told reporters after posting a game-high 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting and 10 rebounds against Dallas.

While Randolph doesn’t shy away from the notion that he would like to see Conley, his teammate of six years, earn his first All-Star appearance of his career, the seven-year veteran won’t know for certain until Thursday when the East and West reserves are announced.

Just as it has been in recent years, making the All-Star team undoubtedly will be monumental for Conley, in large part because the Western Conference is loaded with a slew of All-Star-caliber point guards such as Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook, among others — all of whom have played in the NBA’s annual midseason showcase.

The 64th annual All-Star Game is February 15 in Madison Square Garden.

While many media pundits believed Conley should have been named to the All-Star team last year, the 27-year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas native certainly has made a strong case to earn a spot for the West this season.

At 33-12, the Grizzlies currently own the NBA’s third-best record and are second in the Western Conference standings behind Golden State. Add to the fact that Conley, Memphis’ second-leading scorer, has been as assertive on both ends of the floor as he’s ever been since he entered the NBA ranks, and it’s no wonder many believe this year could very well be his to crash the All-Star party along with fellow Grizzlies teammate Marc Gasol.

A 7-foot-1 Spaniard, Gasol will be making his second All-Star appearance and his first as a starter.

“You know, it’ll be nice if it happens,” said Randolph, when asked if making his third All-Star appearance was one of his personal goals in this, his 13th season. “I said the other day in Memphis I prefer it be Mike Conley. He deserves it. You know, I’ve been there before. So it’ll be nice if someone else from our team makes it and hopefully it’s him.”

CASE CLOSED? While many media pundits believed Conley should have been named to the All-Star team last year, the 27-year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas native certainly has made a strong case to earn spot for the West this season.

CASE CLOSED? While many media pundits believed Conley should have been named to the All-Star team last year, the 27-year-old Fayetteville, Arkansas native certainly has made a strong case to earn spot for the West this season.

According to a four-panel of CBSSports.com writers who cover the NBA, neither listed Conley as an All-Star reserve in a story that was released Wednesday afternoon. During a preseason interview with MemphiSport, however, Conley reiterated that making his first All-Star appearance was something about which he would strive for this year and that being left off the roster “would suck.”

“Obviously, I want to make my first All-Star appearance,” Conley said.

However, whether the former Ohio State star will be shown some love Valentine’s Day weekend in the Big Apple as a member of the West roster remains a mystery.

At least until sometime Thursday.

“It’ll be nice,” Randolph said of Conley being christen an All-Star reserve. “It’s a lot of politics in the All-Star Game. But I’m not going to lose any sleep (if I don’t make it). Like I said, I want the young fella to get in there.”

Still, regardless of how things stack up when the All-Star reserves are announced, Randolph said nothing overshadows the bigger aspirations for a team that figures to be a legitimate threat to make its first NBA Finals appearances this year.

“Right now, we’re focusing on winning and that’s our big picture right now…especially mine,” Randolph said. “We’re playing good. Our team is playing good. Our bench is playing good. So that’s our main focus right now.”

Something even the team’s starting point guard would agree with as the season progresses.

All-Star appearance or not.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Q & A: Dallas rapper ‘Da Chosen One’ shares life, love, and music in interview with Andre Johnson

Without question, Rene Ruvalcaba loves Dallas, Texas. And, given how he’s gone about becoming a fixture in his native hometown, it’s safe to assume that Dallas loves Revalcaba. So much, in fact, that musically-inclined individuals throughout the Metroplex have embraced this young, vibrant, up-and-coming rap artist as he steadfastly continues to make a name for him in this ever-so-competitive industry. During a recent interview with longtime journalist Andre Johnson, Ruvalcaba spoke about his rise on the music circuit and his plans with his newfound craft in the foreseeable future. Here’s his interview.

ChosenANDRE: Rene, what is your age?
RENE: I am age 26 years old.
ANDRE: Tell our readers where you are originally from.
RENE: I am originally from Dallas, Texas…the Pleasant Grove area. ANDRE: Do you have any children?
RENE: Yes, man. I have one daughter.
ANDRE: Are you married or single?
RENE: I am currently engaged to be married.
ANDRE: Aside from being an up-and-coming rapper, what is your occupation?
RENE: I currently work at BMW
ANDRE: What is your involvement in the music industry?
RENE: My stage name is “Young Chosen.” My mom and friends gave that name, because they always said I was the chosen one growing up and it fits me because I’m good at what I do. Every new thing I try to do, I do it to best of my ability.
ANDRE: So I hear you are popular with the ladies.
RENE: Yeah…I’m a ladies’ man…I’m great with women (laughing).
ANDRE: Describe your work ethic?
RENE: Well, man, I work hard for what I have. Basically what I’m saying is growing up, I was the man with the money the girls, so they called me The Chosen One.
ANDRE: How have people in Texas embraced your mucic?
RENE: A lot of people feel my music because I (rap) about the struggle and I spit stories. Don’t get me wrong, I have turn-up songs as well, but a lot of people can relate to my music because of what I (rap). I really get deep into my music the way I spit music. The new trendsetter I’m going with, people love how very smart I am when dealing with music.
ANDRE: Looking ahead, why is the sky’s the limit for you?
RENE: Well, I plan on writing more songs about the struggle about society more about what’s really going on out here deep in the street. My plan is to make kids smile, make relationships better with a simple song. My plan is to touch young children by giving them a different state of mind when it comes to the streets. My plan is to make project after project that motivates society.
I would like to thank the audience, family, friends, my girl Brittany Jackson, and the supporters and listeners. Out here, I would like to let the world know that this is my first year and three months rapping in the game.

CHECK OUT DA CHOSEN ONE: http://youtu.be/FoR2c2LP4Fo

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

White Station’s Cameron-James Thomas clinging to high hopes as Signing Day looms

As National Signing Day looms, Cameron-James Thomas would like to enlighten college scouts and recruiters of several things with regards to his solid work ethic.

“I am a dependable player,” Thomas told MemphiSport earlier this week. “I am coachable. I am a team player. I am a consistent player. I am a responsible player. I am a work horse.”

DREAM CHASING --- Cameron James-Thomas, who starred as an offensive lineman for White Station High the past two seasons, believes he could have an immediate impact for whichever college grants him the golden opportunity to put his skills on this display this fall. (Photos submitted by K. Thomas)

DREAM CHASING — Cameron James-Thomas, who starred as an offensive lineman for White Station High the past two seasons, believes he could have an immediate impact for whichever college grants him the golden opportunity to put his skills on this display this fall. (Photos submitted by K. Thomas)

It is, by all accounts, because of those key attributes that Thomas, who starred as an offensive lineman for White Station High the past two seasons, believes he could have an immediate impact for whichever college grants him the golden opportunity to put his skills on this display this fall.

Having contributed masterfully to Spartan head coach Joe Rocconi’s squad since being installed as a starter his junior season, the 6-foot, 330-pound Thomas contends his prep resume is such that he’s worthy of playing in the collegiate ranks.

Clinging to confidence and optimism with National Signing Day a little more than a week away, Thomas knows full well that all it takes is one college to say “yes” to his athletic future.

Clinging to confidence and optimism with National Signing Day a little more than a week away, Thomas knows full well that all it takes is one college to say “yes” to his athletic future.

Clinging to confidence and optimism with National Signing Day a little more than a week away, the 18-year-old Thomas knows full well that all it takes is one college to say “yes” to his athletic future.

“I am a leader….I lead by the word of God,” Thomas explained. “I am a fighter. No matter how ugly the situation may get, I will fight to the end. College football is a dream for me because it will allow me to play a sport that I have loved since I was eight years old, all while furthering my education.”

Although Signing Day is just days away and Thomas has yet to garner any official offers, he believes anything can possibly happen, considering he has amassed an array of interest from a number of colleges, particularly after what had amounted to a stellar junior campaign for the Spartans.

According to Thomas’ mother, Kimberly Jackson-Thomas, her son has received letters from from a host of schools, most notably Cumberland University, Victor Valley Junior College, Mendocino Junior College, Bluefield College, and Kentucky Christian University, among others.

Like her son, Kimberly Jackson-Thomas and her husband, James “Bo” Thomas, insist all hope isn’t lost with regards to her son inking his name on a National Letter of Intent.

 

James-Thomas has received letters from a host of schools, most notably, Cumberland University, Mississippi College, Northwest Community College, Hinds Community College, Tennessee State, Alabama A&M, Arkansas Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State, Langston University, Lincoln University, Kentucky State, Murray State, Central State, Arkansas State, Bethel University, Texas Southern, University of North Alabama, Alabama State, and Stillman University, among others.

Thomas has received letters from a host of schools, most notably, Cumberland Victor Valley Junior College, Mendocino Junior College, Bluefield College, and Kentucky Christian University, among others.

“Cameron is our first born and only son,” Thomas said. “We have always encouraged him and his sister to follow their dreams and be the best at whatever they do in life. Just being able to support our son, watch him develop over the years in a sport that he loves, and gives 110 percent every time he hits the field, makes his dad and I very proud.”

By and large, it is because of Thomas immense work and overall body of work as a rugged offensive lineman that he and his family haven’t ruled out hope that one — or perhaps — several colleges — could come calling with an official offer any day now.

“The sky is the limit for Cam because he not only believes in himself, but he knows and believes that all things are possible through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Thomas said.

Spoken like a football mom who, like her son, is clinging to an array of optimism.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Whitehaven QB Jordan Williams has two official offers, expected to pick up more

Whitehaven High football coach Rodney Saulsberry on Thursday summed up Jordan Williams’ senior campaign in just three words.

“He showed up,” Saulsberry said.

AIR JORDAN --- Since an ACL injury he suffered his sophomore year, Williams has been nothing short of impressive for a Whitehaven team that advanced to the TSSAA Class 6A championship in 2014. (Photos submitted by LaSanto Williams)

AIR JORDAN — Since an ACL injury he suffered his sophomore year, Williams has been nothing short of impressive for a Whitehaven team that advanced to the TSSAA Class 6A championship in 2014. (Photos submitted by JaSanto Williams)

Indeed he did.

Since an ACL injury he suffered his sophomore year, Williams has been nothing short of impressive for a Whitehaven team that advanced to the TSSAA Class 6A semifinal game in 2014.

To his credit, Williams undoubtedly was the catalyst of the Tigers’ high-powered offense, in large part because of his ability to perform more efficiently in the pocket.

“It was good overall,” Williams told MemphiSport, when asked to assess his senior campaign. “You know, everyone didn’t expect us to go as far as we did…to go 13-1. But to come back and play as good as I played was great.”

Williams culminated his career by producing more 2,000 yards of total offense during a regular season, nearly 1,600 of which came through the air (a career high).  He didn’t let up in the postseason.

Williams culminated his career by producing more 2,000 yards of total offense during a regular season, nearly 1,600 of which came through the air (a career high).
He didn’t let up in the postseason.

Appearing virtually unaffected by a season-ending knee injury that sidelined him a majority of the 2013 season, the speedy 6-foot-1, 185-pound Williams did a masterful job in engineering the Tigers’ potent offense, thus helping Whitehaven remain Shelby-Metro’s No. 1-ranked team throughout the entire 2014 regular season.

Williams culminated his career by producing more 2,000 yards of total offense during the regular season, nearly 1,600 of which came through the air along with 20 touchdown passes (career highs).

The fierce, dual-threat quarterback didn’t let up in the postseason.

Instead, Williams continued to demonstrate he’s as good as advertised, having amassed more than 1,000 yards of total offense through four postseason outings, including 900 passing yards.

Fortunately for Williams, the remarkable numbers he registered this year did not go unnoticed by college scouts.  According to JaSanto Williams, Williams’ father, his son has already garnered official offers from the Naval Academy and Arkansas State and, given his favorable display as a senior, such a list is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

National Signing Day is Feb. 4.

“We’re waiting on more official visits,” JaSanto Williams said.

IN HIGH DEMAND --- Jordan Williams earlier this week said he already has an official visit to the Naval Academy scheduled for this weekend and will visit Arkansas State within the next week. However, his father said the possibility exist that his Jordan Williams will be extended official invitations to visit Ole Miss, Memphis, Northwestern, and Auburn, considering each of these schools invited him to their Senior Day weekend festivities.

IN HIGH DEMAND — Jordan Williams earlier this week said he already has an official visit to the Naval Academy scheduled for this weekend and will visit Arkansas State within the next week. However, his father said the possibility exist that his Jordan Williams will be extended official invitations to visit Ole Miss, Memphis, Northwestern, and Auburn, considering each of these schools invited him to their Senior Day weekend festivities.

Jordan Williams earlier this week said he already has an official visit to the Naval Academy scheduled for this weekend and will visit Arkansas State within the next week. However, his father said the possibility exist that his son will be extended official invitations to visit Ole Miss, Memphis, Northwestern, and Auburn, considering each of these schools invited him to their Senior Day weekend festivities.

“We’re ecstatic about it,” JaSanto Williams said of his son’s recruiting process. “His doctors surprisingly said his repaired knee is 20 percent better than his other knee.”

That Jordan Williams shows no signs of injury coupled with his career numbers are factors his father believes schools who have yet to extend offers will take into account as National Signing Day looms.

“His numbers speak for themselves,” JaSanto Williams said. “In my opinion, there are doubters. There will be people who will say you will be able to recover. But he’s been doing this thing since Pop Warner. I’m supposed to be a little bit prejudice because he’s my son. No doubt, the numbers speak for themselves.”

And no doubt, the Tigers’ dual-threat signal caller showed up in a year that counted the most.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Texas pastor with Memphis ties remembers two-time Super Bowl champion Jethro Pugh

FALLEN STAR --- A former All-Pro selection and two-time Super Bowl champion who played 14 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys from 1965-78, Jethro Pugh died January 7 in Dallas. He was 70. (NFL Films photo)

FALLEN STAR — A former All-Pro selection and two-time Super Bowl champion who played 14 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys from 1965-78, Jethro Pugh died January 7 in Dallas. He was 70. (NFL Films photo)

DALLAS — When the Dallas Cowboys returned to Green Bay for a playoff game Sunday for the first time since the classic 1967 Ice Bowl, Andrew Jackson, Jr. couldn’t help but think of his longtime friend, Jethro Pugh.

“Every month, we had a dinner together at the airport,” said Jackson, referring to his tenure as a Delta Airlines employee at Dallas-Forth Worth International Airport in the late 1980s. “I would always see Jethro and we would interact. He was a big guy, a tall guy already. Jethro was one of the most humble men you’d want to meet.”

A former All-Pro defensive tackle and two-time Super Bowl champion who played 14 seasons for the Cowboys from 1965-78, Pugh died January 7 in Dallas. He was 70.

According to team officials, Pugh died of natural causes. A public viewing will be held from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Restland Funeral Home located at 9220 Restland Road in Dallas. A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship located at 1808 West Camp Wisdom Road.

While quarterback sacks weren’t an official NFL statistic during Pugh's tenure, he is unofficially credited with a career total of 95.5. To his credit, he led the team with 12 ½ sacks for five consecutive seasons from 1968-1972. (NFL Films photo)

While quarterback sacks weren’t an official NFL statistic during Pugh’s tenure, he is unofficially credited with a career total of 95.5. To his credit, he led the team with 12 ½ sacks for five consecutive seasons from 1968-1972. (NFL Films photo)

A native of Windsor, North Carolina, although Pugh was offered a contract to play for the AFL’s Oakland Raiders, he spent his entire professional career with Dallas, where he was the catalyst of a stifling defensive unit that was dubbed the “Doomsday Defense.”

A former Elizabeth City State All-American, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Pugh enjoyed a stellar NFL career with the Cowboys. While quarterback sacks weren’t an official NFL statistic during Pugh’s tenure, he is unofficially credited with a career total of 95 1/2. To his credit, he led the team with 12 ½ sacks for five consecutive seasons from 1968-1972.

Pugh’s 14 seasons in Dallas is the fourth-longest in franchise history.

“He was a tough player for the Cowboys,” Jackson said. “A lot of the older players remember him. If there was a (defensive) play to be made for the Cowboys, he was the player who would make it.”

A second-team All-Pro selection in his third professional season, Pugh appeared in five NFC Championship games, two Super Bowls, and appeared in 23 playoffs games in 12 of his 14 seasons. He was mostly remembered for having played in the original Ice Bowl, or the 1967 NFL Championship.

DALLAS DUO --- Andrew Jackson, Jr. (left) and former Dallas Cowboys great Jethro Pugh pose for a photo at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in September 2013. An avid Cowboys fan, Jackson met Pugh in the late 1980s. (Photo submitted by Andrew Jackson)

DALLAS DUO — Andrew Jackson, Jr. (left) and former Dallas Cowboys great Jethro Pugh pose for a photo at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in September 2013. An avid Cowboys fan, Jackson met Pugh in the late 1980s. (Photo submitted by Andrew Jackson)

Pugh was blocked by Green Bay’s Jerry Kramer on the Packers’ final play of that game, one that cleared the way for Bart Starr to score on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 16 seconds remaining that lifted the Packers to a 21-17 victory in minus-15 degree weather at the historic Lambeau Field.

Besides leading the Cowboys in sacks, Pugh appeared in 183 games, having amassed 14 fumbles, two safeties, and one interception before retiring in January 1979.

Since calling it a career, Pugh was a fixture in the Dallas community. He owned a number of western-themed gift shops at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas and hosted the annual Jethro Pugh Celebrity Golf Tournament in Dallas to raise funds for the United Negro College Fund. Also, he served as an advisory board member of the DFW Airport Interfaith Chaplaincy for which Jackson is a current member and assumes the role as an associate chaplain.

Jackson, who moved from Memphis to Dallas in 1986 to assume the pastoral duties at West Irving Church of God in Christ, said Pugh left behind an awe-inspiring legacy.

“I thought about Jethro, especially Sunday with him passing right before the game,” said Jackson who, on Sunday, shared memories of Pugh and held a moment of silence in his honor with his congregation. “And that was kind of eerie with him playing (in the Ice Bowl) so it was kind of emotional because I had known him personally and know his family.”

DrePicAndre Johnson covers the NFL for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Former Memphis Southwind football star Caesar Harris aiming to impress NFL scouts

Caesar Harris’ grandfather never saw him play a game during his college football stint William Penn University.

STOCK RISING --- Now that he has completed his eligibility at William Penn University in Iowa, the 21-year-old Caesar Harris boasts lofty aspirations of playing football at the professional. Without question, the former Memphis Southwind High star 5-foot-8, 170-pound defensive back believes his chances embarking upon the NFL ranks if as good as any pro prospect in the country. (Photos courtesy of WPU Athletics)

STOCK RISING — Now that he has completed his eligibility at William Penn University in Iowa, the 21-year-old Caesar Harris boasts lofty aspirations of playing football at the professional. Without question, the former Memphis Southwind High star 5-foot-8, 170-pound defensive back believes his chances embarking upon the NFL ranks if as good as any pro prospect in the country. (Photos courtesy of WPU Athletics)

Harris hopes that all changes if his dream of playing professionally comes to fruition.

Harris’ grandfather, James Harris, recently had open heart surgery. After being discharged on Christmas Eve, James Harris is now recouping comfortably at his home in Memphis. According to Caesar Harris, who has a close-knit bond with his grandfather, he describes James Harris as a “fighter” and that witnessing him battle through a severe procedure in which doctors sensed he had a 50 percent chance to survive has given him a newfound disposition about life.

“That’s just him being the strong man I know he is,” Caesar Harris told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “He’s 70 years old. He never got to watch me in college so I want him to see me play since he hasn’t. That would mean a lot to me and him.”

Now that he has completed his eligibility at William Penn, the 21-year-old Caesar Harris boasts lofty aspirations of playing football at the professional level. Without question, the former Memphis Southwind High star defensive back believes his chances embarking upon the NFL ranks if as good as any pro prospect in the country.

The NFL Draft is April 28-May 2 in Chicago.

Having played one year at Lane College in 2011, Caesar Harris ultimately transferred to William Penn in Oskaloosa, Iowa, where the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder enjoyed three productive seasons for the Statesmen of the NAIA Midwest Collegiate Conference.

During his senior campaign, for instance, Caesar Harris was the catalyst of a WPU defense that helped steer the Statesmen to wins in five of their first six games and before finishing the year with a 7-4 mark. He appeared in five games and, to his credit, held his own in a final collegiate season in which he garnered looks from various pro scouts.

FAN FAVORITE --- Harris has become a household name among fans who follow William Penn football.

FAN FAVORITE — Harris has become a household name among fans who follow William Penn football.

Among his grandest accolades this past season was his keen ability to disrupt the opposition, having compiled 25 tackles, two interceptions, and five broken-up passes.

“(This past season) I switched out every other series because we had a lot of senior corners,” said Caesar Harris, who also spent time on special teams for the Statesmen. I played nickel corner as well.”

Looking ahead, Caesar Harris realizes there is much more work to do with regards to making a favorable impression on pro scouts. As he continues to make a strong case for playing at the professional level, he routinely partakes in conditioning and weight-training sessions, trends he says will enable him to increase his upper body strength and enhance his endurance, particularly for a player who has become a fixer in the secondary as well as one who customarily lines up against the opposition’s best wide receiver.

“I am pursuing my dreams of playing football at the next level and making a career out of it,” Caesar Harris said.

STAR WATCH --- As far as Caesar Harris is concerned, he’s confident the sky’s the limit for his as he auditions for a shot at playing professionally, in large part because his skills have drawn comparisons to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

STAR WATCH — As far as Caesar Harris is concerned, he’s confident the sky’s the limit for his as he auditions for a shot at playing professionally, in large part because his skills have drawn comparisons to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

A dream that undoubtedly will bring even his ailing grandfather to smiles. As far as Caesar Harris is concerned, he’s confident the sky’s the limit as he steadfastly auditions for a shot at playing professionally, in large part because his skills have drawn comparisons to Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

“My grandfather and I had had a great relationship ever since I was a kid,” Caesar Harris said. “I used to go with my grandfather to help him mow yards, wash cars…anything that meant work, we would do it. But it didn’t matter as long as I was with him. We all support each other. That’s the kind of family I was raised in. You always look after one another and support one another no matter what.”

No doubt, James Harris’ beloved grandson appears destined to demonstrate to his grandfather his appreciation when the NFL Draft unfolds in the coming months.

No matter what.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

 

 

Former Packer Cletidus Hunt says Cowboys to endure ‘chilly experience’ in Green Bay

DALLAS — Cletidus Hunt on Wednesday took a moment to reminisce on his first visit to Green Bay.

As the former Memphis Whitehaven High star and Packers defensive tackle tells it, such a recollection still brings him to chills.

Literally.

According to Hunt, he and former University of Memphis cornerback Mike McKenzie were a few weeks removed from having been drafted by the Packers in April 1999. What they discovered within minutes after emerging from the plane at Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport was the frigid weather Hunt described as “downright painful.”

'ICE BOWL 2015' --- According to former Memphis Whitehaven High and Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Cletius Hunt, the Dallas Cowboys are almost certain to have a "chilly experience" when they arrive to Green Bay, Wisconsin for this weekend for Sunday’s NFC Divisional playoff game against the Packers at historic Lambeau Field. (Getty Images photos)

‘ICE BOWL 2015′ — According to former Memphis Whitehaven High and Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt, the Dallas Cowboys are almost certain to have a “chilly experience” when they arrive to Green Bay, Wisconsin for this weekend for Sunday’s NFC Divisional playoff game against the Packers at historic Lambeau Field. (Getty Images photos)

“Both of us flew up there together,” Hunt explained. “And when we got off that plane, it was so cold to the point where it gives you a culture shock. And when you play your first game, you’re sitting there trying to figure out how to get it done because it’s so cold.”

As far as Hunt is concerned, the streaking Dallas Cowboys (13-4) are almost certain to witness a similar brutally cold feeling when they fly into Green Bay, Wisconsin this weekend for Sunday’s 12:05 p.m. CST NFC Divisional playoff game against the Packers (12-4) at Lambeau Field.

The overachieving Cowboys, winners of five consecutive games, have become the NFL’s hottest road team this season, having manufactured an unlikely 8-0 mark. Green Bay, on the other hand, won each of its eight home games during the regular season — trends that figure to make for one intriguing matchup when these teams square off on the frozen tundra.

One thing’s for certain: Something’s got to give in this win-or-go-home slugfest between two of the NFL’s most storied franchises, who are facing each other in a postseason game in Green Bay for the first time since the famous -15 degrees NFL Championship Game dubbed “The Ice Bowl” in 1967.

“I had some Dallas Cowboys (fans) tell me (Dallas quarterback) Tony Romo is from Wisconsin,” Hunt said. “But I told them he hasn’t been up there. He’s been in Dallas. When they first get there, they’re not stepping on the terminal because the airport is small. They’re stepping on the runway when they step off the plane. When you come to Green Bay and wake up for a 12 o’clock game and feel how cold it is in the hallway of your hotel, that’ll give you an indication of how cold it is on game day. That’s the thing I love about Green Bay. They’re going to make sure the guests have a chilly experience.”

COWBOY UP --- Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL's leading rusher, will need another impressive outing in Sunday's frigid temperatures against the Green Bay if Dallas is to have a chance to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

COWBOY UP — Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, will need another impressive outing in Sunday’s frigid temperatures against the Green Bay if Dallas is to have a chance to advance to the NFC Championship Game.

A 30 percent chance of snow is expected in Green Bay Saturday afternoon with the high reaching 30 degrees. The forecast at the time of Sunday’s kickoff is expected to be partly sunny with a high of around 19 degrees.

Advantage, Packers?

“If you factor in the weather, there will be a disadvantage for Dallas,” said Hunt, adding he’s surprised the Cowboys didn’t travel to Green Bay earlier this week. “A lot of guys haven’t been in bad weather like that. When I played, there were young guys who had never seen snow, and when it snowed in Green Bay, they were fascinated by it. And when it got really cold, they were to tap out. They were ready to (get traded).”

Having played 85 games in seven seasons for the Packers, Hunt, 39, said that while he enjoyed his tenure in Green Bay — he admittedly left his Wisconsin home unlocked in the offseason while in Memphis — there were times he often found it difficult becoming acclimated to the frequent subzero temperatures for which the city is customarily known.

“The football is going to be hard. The ground is going to be extra hard,” Hunt said. “But we’ve got some extra (gear) up there. Green Bay is always prepared because that’s the backyard. That’s the home team. If you don’t know how to prepare for it, it won’t work for you. Guys don’t even want to go out there during warm-ups. But the thing about it, they’ll try to play through it. But that 12th man is on that field…that snowman on the field.”

Although Dallas is accustomed to playing in much warmer climates than the one it will witness against the Packers, Hunt believes the Cowboys can stage an upset if DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, proves to be his usual reliable self. Dallas averages 147.1 rushing yards per game, second only to Seattle (172.6).

In addition, the Cowboys are seventh the league in total offense, averaging 29.2 points per game. Green Bay, meanwhile, is sixth in the league in total offense, having registered 30.4 points per game.

COLD MEMORIES --- Having played 85 games in seven seasons for the Packers, Hunt said there were times he often found it difficult becoming acclimated to the frequent subzero temperatures Green Bay is customarily known for.

COLD MEMORIES — Having played 85 games in seven seasons for the Packers, Hunt said there were times he often found it difficult becoming acclimated to the frequent subzero temperatures Green Bay is customarily known for.

Among the keys for the Packers, who enter Sunday’s game off a first-round bye and have proven to be difficult to contain at hostile Lambeau Field, is putting pressure on Romo early and often, taking away Dallas’ potent rushing attack, and witnessing quarterback Aaron Rodgers continue to dissect the opposing secondary.

“He’s done some impressive things all season,” Hunt said of Rodgers. “And then to go 8-0 and throw not one interception, those are some really impressive stats. And he’s still battling injuries. That leg is still bothering him, but he’s had some time off.”

Still, while there has been much hoopla surrounding the Cowboys’ undefeated streak on the road and the Packers’ unblemished mark at home, the winner of Sunday’s game likely will be the team that proves it’s capable of conquering what undoubtedly will be a brutally freezing encounter on the frozen tundra.

“Get on your knees, pray, and buckle your (expletive),” said Hunt, “because it’s going to be a hell of a ride.”

A ride that, in Hunt’s estimation, could very well bring back memories of what transpired when the Cowboys and Packers last met for a postseason game in Green Bay.

“It’s going to be a repeat of the Ice Bowl,” Hunt said. “Ice Bowl 2015 is about to take place.”

Only this time, there will be a light heat wave, one that is expected to rise 13 degrees below the freezing mark.

Literally.

DrePicAndre Johnson covers the NFL for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Memphian Andrea Tucker’s ESPN experience fueled by broadcaster Stuart Scott’s impact

DALLAS — Andrea Tucker was one of several college students selected to partake in a summer internship for ESPN in 2013.

CLASS ACT --- Upon joining ESPN during an era in which there were a number of accomplished African-American broadcasters, Stuart Scott blended hip-hop culture and sports in a way that had never been seen before on television. Scott, who joined ESPN in 1993, died Sunday morning in Avon, Connecticut after a long battle with cancer. He was 49.

CLASS ACT — Upon joining ESPN during an era in which there were a number of accomplished African-American broadcasters, Stuart Scott blended hip-hop culture and sports in a way that had never been seen before on television. Scott, who joined ESPN in 1993, died Sunday morning in Avon, Connecticut after a long battle with cancer. He was 49.

While Tucker, a native Memphian, admittedly savored every moment in gaining professional broadcasting experience for the network known as the Worldwide Leader In Sports, arguably her grandest regret, she said, is that she had never met longtime sportscaster and anchor Stuart Scott.

During Tucker’s brief tenure at ESPN, Scott was covering the NBA Finals.

“I heard about him a lot,” Tucker told MemphiSport late Sunday night. “And there were interns who wanted to shadow and meet up with him but we weren’t able to because of his busy travel schedule when our internship first started.”

Scott, who joined ESPN in 1993, died Sunday morning in Avon, Connecticut after a nearly seven-year battle with cancer. He was 49.

Widely known for his hip-hop style and assortment of catchphrases, Scott, a Chicago native, grew up in North Carolina, where he graduated from the University of North Carolina. Having joined ESPN during an era in which there were a number of already-accomplished African-American broadcasters, Scott blended hip-hop culture and sports in a way that had never been seen before on television.

Having popularized the phrase “Boo-yah,” which spread from sports into the mainstream culture, Scott’s celebrity soared, in large part because he became prominent for interacting in the same manner as fans would at home, a trend ESPN president John Skipper said “changed everything” with regards to how Scott spoke about athletes he covered.

NATIONAL STAGE -- While Andrea Tucker, a native Memphian, admittedly had the time of her life in gaining professional broadcast journalism experience for the network known as the Worldwide Leader In Sports in 2013, among her biggest regrets, she said, is that she had never met longtime sportscaster and anchor Stuart Scott. (Photo submitted by A. Tucker)

NATIONAL STAGE — While Andrea Tucker, a native Memphian, admittedly had the time of her life in gaining professional broadcast journalism experience for the network known as the Worldwide Leader In Sports in 2013, her biggest regret, she said, is that she had never met longtime sportscaster and anchor Stuart Scott. (Photo submitted by A. Tucker)

According to Tucker, who graduated last year with a degree in Journalism from University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Scott’s unorthodox style of reporting was embraced by many throughout the sports world, most notably the African-American community.

“Stuart was able to relate and connect so well with African-Americans because of the fact that he was so true to himself,” Tucker said. “He didn’t try to be like anyone else that was before him. He was just so unapologetic about bringing African-American culture to media and, even though there were people who didn’t like it, he didn’t change that part of himself to please anyone.”

During ESPN’s summer internship program, Tucker had the luxury of gaining professional experience from several of the best broadcast journalists in the business, particularly when she often shadowed ESPN2′s First Take crew of Cari Champion, Stephen A. Smith, and Skip Bayless. In addition, she spent time observing longtime broadcaster Mike Greenberg and former NFL player Mike Golic during their four-hour sports talk show called, Mike And Mike In Mike Morning, as well as shadowed ESPN reporter Michael Smith, and anchors Jay Harris and Robert Flores, among others.

Although Tucker had never met Scott, she sensed his presence throughout the network’s Bristol, Connecticut campus was felt even in his absence.

“Stuart inspired me to excel in my field because after looking at him, I’m convinced that I don’t have to look a certain way or even sound a certain way and put on this reporter voice to be able to do a good job of covering sports,” Tucker said. “What made me more inspired is that he was an African-American man who was successful in his field and did not hesitate talking the same way he did in everyday life. He wasn’t going to change his style for anyone who disapproved. Seeing him and even others that came after him showed there’s no need in being someone who’s fabricated if I want to do well in media.”

Tucker was attending morning worship Sunday when she learned of Scott’s death. For her, such news was difficult to stomach, considering she once appeared in the same ESPN studios that ultimately made Scott famous.

REMEMBERING THEIR OWN --- During Monday night's Notre Dame-North Carolina college basketball game, Tar Heel players paid tribute to Scott by wearing black patches with blue capital letters above the Jordan logo on their jerseys that read, STU.

REMEMBERING THEIR OWN — During Monday night’s Notre Dame-North Carolina college basketball game, Tar Heel players paid tribute to Scott by wearing black patches with blue capital letters above the Jordan logo on their jerseys that read, STU.

“I was at church so I couldn’t watch television and learned about his death via the ESPN and SportsCenter Twitter accounts that I followed,” Tucker said. I was immediately heartbroken and in disbelief that it happened. It was like someone I grew up with left too soon.”

Known for such popular catchphrases as, “Boo-Yah!,” “Hallah,” and “As cool as the other side of the pillow,” among others, Scott had been with ESPN for 14 years before learning he was diagnosed with appendix cancer.

Scott eventually had gone into remission after having his appendix removed. However, he was stricken with cancer again, this time in 2011 and 2013. Consequently, Scott was honored during the ESPY Awards last year with the Jimmy V Award during which he gave a tear-jerking speech that included saluting his two daughters.

““Taelor and Sydni, I love you guys more than I will ever be able to express,” Scott said during his speech. “You two are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage here tonight because of you.”

Tucker said Scott’s legacy and contributions will be forever cherished, particularly throughout the sports world.

“(His) legacy will never be forgotten because any anchor that calls themselves wanting to sound ‘cool’ and have no problem staying true to who they are should feel indebted to him, because he was so bold in his delivery and was truly a trailblazer,” Tucker said. He was a huge part of the NBA and NFL broadcasting and just ESPN in general.”

Prior to Sunday’s Detroit Lions-Dallas Cowboys Wild Card playoff game here, the AT&T Stadium crowd held a moment of silence in honor of Scott.

Also, during Monday night’s Notre Dame-North Carolina college basketball game, Tar Heel players paid homage to the UNC alumnus by wearing black patches with blue capital letters above the Jordan logo on their jerseys that read: STU.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

 

Dallas Fort-Worth’s Unique Corvette Club has ties to Memphis, other Mid-South cities

DUNCANVILLE, Texas — In May 2007, Keith King established a rather unique vision, one that was birthed in the confines of his stunning sports car.

TEXAS SIZE IMPACT --- The founder of the Unique Corvette Club of Dallas Fort-Worth, Keith King heads a non-profit organization that has become a fixture throughout Dallas’ Metroplex in recent years. (Photos submitted by Larry Pena)

TEXAS SIZE IMPACT — The founder of the Unique Corvette Club of Dallas Fort-Worth, Keith King heads a non-profit organization that has become a fixture throughout Dallas’ Metroplex in recent years. (Photos submitted by Larry Pena)

The founder of the Unique Corvette Club of Dallas Fort-Worth, King heads a non-profit organization that has become a fixture throughout Dallas’ Metroplex in recent years.

“We’re just Corvette enthusiasts who want to ride together,” King told MemphiSport during a recent interview at Legends Sports Bar & Grill in Duncanville. “It didn’t take long for us to realize we are a unique group of people.”

As Unique Corvette Club entered its eighth year, King said among the things his members aspire to do this year is establish rapports with other Corvette clubs across the region. So far, Corvette Club of Dallas Fort-Worth already has partnered with similar clubs in Houston, Shreveport, Louisiana, Tyler, Texas, and Memphis.

MAKING STRIDES — As Unique Corvette Club entered its eighth year, King said among the things his members aspire to do this year is establish rapports with other Corvette clubs across the region. So far, Corvette Club of Dallas Fort-Worth already has partnered with similar clubs in Houston, Shreveport, Louisiana, Tyler, Texas, and Memphis.

An organization that is currently comprised of 62 members, Unique Corvette Club’s mission is geared largely toward partaking in various community service activities. Generally, this group, in which each member owns a Chevy Corvette, has developed a reputation for steadfastly being a viable presence in the Dallas Fort-Worth area, particularly downtrodden communities.

Unique Corvette Club routinely strives to make life fulfilling for others, from feeding the homeless, to making regular hospital and nursing home visits, to awarding scholarships to college-bound students. Just recently, the group gave away school supplies and sponsored its annual toy drive weeks leading Christmas. And, in mid-January, the club once again will participate in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade in South Dallas. In addition, the club customarily participates in a food pantry activity through the North Texas Food Bank.

According to Larry Pena, a member of the club, that Unique Corvette Club has earned the trust and respect of Dallas Fort-Worth residents, such a trend essentially has overshadowed the various preconceived notions many initially had about the organization.

“The biggest misconception is when people see these cars, they think we drive up in these cars to pick up women,” Pena explained. “I can pick up women walking. Our actions speak for themselves. As people observe us, they see we are about giving back to the community.”

SOLID RESUME --- An organization that is currently comprised of 62 members, Unique Corvette Club’s mission is largely geared toward partaking in various community service activities.

SOLID RESUME — An organization that is currently comprised of 62 members, Unique Corvette Club’s mission is largely geared toward partaking in various community service activities.

Giving back to the less fortunate isn’t all this Corvette-inclined, male organization does regularly. These men also make it a point to establish a camaraderie, of sorts, amongst other.

“It was like I came in from Kuwait,” said longtime club member Nik Gilbert of Athens, Louisiana. “And one of our members recruited me. Once we got everybody together, we started pulling things together. It wasn’t about us. It was about doing things for the community.”

An organization that includes business owners, military veterans, and law enforcement officials, among others, Unique Corvette Club thrives largely off the brotherhood it has erected as a group.

According to Larry Pena, a member of the club, that Unique Corvette Club has earned the trust and respect of Dallas Fort-Worth residents, such a trend essentially has overshadowed the various preconceived notions many initially had about the organization.

According to Larry Pena, a member of the club, that Unique Corvette Club has earned the trust and respect of Dallas Fort-Worth residents, such a trend essentially has overshadowed the various preconceived notions many initially had about the organization.

“We pray together, go to church together, and break bread together,” said club member Bengy Warren of Oak Cliff, Texas. “We call it ‘Family Time.’”

As Unique Corvette Club enters its eighth year, King said among the things his members aspire to do is establish rapports with other Corvette clubs across the region. So far, Corvette Club of Dallas Fort-Worth already has partnered with similar clubs in Houston, Shreveport, Louisiana, Tyler, Texas, and Memphis.

The more other organizations become involved in community service, King said, the more people would come to embrace his Corvette-savvy club, one that, given its solid track record, figures to be around for some time.

“Ideally, I’d like to see us continue to grow and touch as many people who are less fortunate,” Warren said. “I think traditionally, we’ve had some opportunities to do some things. But I think personally, some things we haven’t been able to do because we are of the minority. When you look at that car, that’s a dream.”

A dream that was birthed, courtesy of King’s unique vision nearly eight years ago.

For more for information about Unique Corvette Dallas Forth-Worth, call president Keith King at 972-765-6049.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send an email to andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.