Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

BEST PLAYERS I EVER COACHED

Posted by admin April - 26 - 2020 - Sunday

            My high school coach, Billy O’Brien, at Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake, VA wrote a book years ago that I enjoyed immensely.  I just recently RE-read it.  One subject that he remarked about was that “people were always asking me ‘who was the best player you ever coached,  Billy?!’”  Interestingly, I’ve had that same question posed to me numerous times over the years. 

            So…. I decided to “steal a page” from Coach O’Brien’s book and do a rather unique version of my Best Players I Ever Coached … during my 22 years (1985- 2006) as the Head Football Coach at Western Branch HS.  I say “unique” because you are going to find some “different” categories than you might expect to see in this sort of “all star” list.  The thanks for the concept goes to Coach O’Brien; who I’m sure was trying to give as many of us who played for him the recognition that he felt we all deserved!

            I included categories that indicate those attributes and achievements that I feel are just as significant as being a great “on-the-field” football player.  This listing also expresses some of the best memories that I have when looking back over a successful 22-year career.  

            In this time of government-directed quarantine, I thought that this list would stir up a LOT of “discussion” on Facebook!  Please know that I tried very hard to include as many of the outstanding young men with whom I had the pleasure of coaching at WBHS.  I hope there won’t be too many hurt feelings. It was an honor to coach all of you!

            Feel free to share this list.  Any mistakes in years that these young men played for me or the college they attended is due to poor research (or failing memory!) on my part.

Here we go:

BEST FOOTBALL PLAYER: Vince Hall (99-02), Virginia Tech

BEST ATHLETE: Dre Bly (92-94), UNC

BEST COLLEGE PLAYER: Dre Bly (92-94), UNC

BEST PRO PLAYER: Dre Bly (92-94), St. Louis Rams; Detroit Lions; and Denver Broncos

ALL-AROUND FOOTBALL PLAYER: ***Reggie Jordan (75-76), Pitt

THEPROGRAM-CHANGER”: T.J. Giles (89-92), JMU

TOUGHEST FOOTBALL PLAYERS: Blair Gregory (91-92); Mark Edmondson (94-95)

“IRON MAN”— BEST 2-WAY PLAYERS: Anthony Wolfe (96-97), Elon College; Keif Gordon (86-88), Richmond & Norfolk State

MOST INTELLIGENT: Daniel Tanner (01-02), Harvard University; Matt Cannella (03-04), Penn State

MOST COURAGEOUS: Justin Davis (86-88), JMU; Darryl Walton (93-96)

MEANEST FOOTBALL PLAYERS: Roy Norfleet (01-02), Elizabeth City State; Omar Hurdle (96-97)

FASTEST PLAYER: Darren Walton (93-96), Hampton University

BEST DEFENSIVE TACKLES: Frank LaMagna (96-97); Jaye Holland (00-01)                                       

BEST DEFENSIVE ENDS: Antonio Burt (010-02), Bridgewater; Jason Chandler (99-00), CNU;

BEST INSIDE LINEBACKERS: Vince Hall (99-02), Virginia Tech; Kenny Holland (86-87)

BEST OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: Roy Norfleet (01-02), Elizabeth City State; Carlton Bitgood (98)

BEST DEFENSIVE BACK/FREE SAFETY: (tie) Jarnae Somerville (98-99), Norfolk State; Lamonte Stanfield (01-03)

BEST DEFENSIVE BACK/STRONG SAFETY: Lorenzo Ferguson (93-95), Virginia Tech & Western Carolina        

BEST DEFENSIVE BACK/CORNERS: Jason Parker (95-96), University of Houston; Daniel Tanner (01-02), Harvard

BEST PASS RECEIVER:  Kien Windley (02-03)

BEST ROUTE RUNNER: Stuart Baiza (00), CNU

BEST DEEP RECEIVER: Darren Walton (94-96), Hampton University

TALLEST RECEIVER I EVER COACHED: Jamel Ramage (91-92)

BEST HANDS I’VE EVER SEEN: Josh Baker (02-04), University of Delaware & NW Missouri State; NY Jets

BEST ALL-AROUND END: Emmett Johnson (97), Virginia Tech

BEST TACKLES: Todd Hollowell, Wake Forest (92-94); Daniel Johnson (00-01)

BEST GUARDS: Brett Ainsley (02-05), JMU; Brandon Carr (04-06), ODU

BEST CENTERS: Bryan Johnston (92-94); Matt Boykins (00-02), CNU

BEST TIGHT END: Rayshawd Barkley (98-99), Liberty University

MOST VERSATILE OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Michael Wood (00-02), Hofstra University

BEST RUNNING BACK: Shyrone Stith (93-95), Virginia Tech

MOST EXCITING RUNNER: Keith Burnell (96-97), Virginia Tech

BEST FULLBACK: Malik Cook (93-95)

TOUGHEST FULLBACK: CJ Griffin (90-92)

BEST WINGBACK: (tie) Rashad Cook (96-97), Virginia State; Quentin Forbes (01-02), VMI

MOST ELUSIVE RUNNING BACK: Devin Fentress (03-04), Penn State

MOST VERSATILE RUNNING BACK: CC Harrell (99-01)

BIGGEST BACK I EVER COACHED:  Marvin Urquhart (95-98), Virginia Tech

FASTEST RUNNING BACK: Courtland Marriner (03-05), William and Mary

TOUGHEST RUNNER: Hykeem Brodie (06), Penn State

BEST ALL-AROUND QUARTERBACK: Ryan Pond (00-03)

MOST ATHLETIC QUARTERBACK: Kevin Newsome (05-06), Penn State

BEST DUAL-THREAT QUARTERBACK: Darryl Walton (93-96)

MOST DECEPTIVE QUARTERBACK: Magic Johnson (96-98), Norfolk State

BEST PASSING COMBINATION:  Ryan Pond to Kien Windley (03)

BEST PUNTER: Daniel Dussia (93-94)

BEST KICKER: Brian Dawson (01-02)

BEST KICK RETURNER: Doug Casper (02)

BEST KICK BLOCKER:  Lamonte Stanfield (02-03)

UNSUNG HERO AWARD: Pete Conroy, QB (04)

BEST “LITTLE MAN” PLAYER:  Offense: Travis Bullock (98-99); Defense: Jeremy Cooper (98)

BEST PLAYER THAT I ALMOST “MISSED” ON: Bryan Barnson (04-06)

BEST LEADER: Jason Davis (98), CNU; Darien Kearney (05-06)

MOST INSPIRATIONAL: Brian Neas (87-88); Gino Martin (04-05)

TWO PLAYERS THAT I’M GLAD CAME OUT FOR FOOTBALL THEIR SENIOR YEAR: Jef Fitzgibbons (03); Daniel Rhodes (01)

PLAYERS WHO BECAME PASTORS: Mark Thomas (85); Keith Vinson (85); Matt Stafford (85-86); Quentin Battle (94-95); Anthony Wilkins (98-99); Jason Knight (01-02)

BEST PLAYER WHO BECAME A DENTIST: Reggie Ballard (85)

BEST PLAYER WHO’S NOW A PROFESSION IRON MAN COMPETITOR: Brian Lambert (00)

BEST PLAYER WHO BECAME A LAWYER: Maurice Cheeks (05)

BEST HIGH SCHOOL COACHES THAT I COACHED: Robert Decker (85); Rashad Cook (96-97); Rashawd Barkley (98-99); Justin Conyers (04-06)

BEST SET OF TWINS WHO BOTH STARTED AT SAME POSITION: James and Jeff Stevens (99)

***Reggie Jordan played for WBHS in 1975-76 when I was an Assistant Coach.  Reggie was going to sign with the University of Pittsburgh (who’d just won the NCAA National Championship with Tony Dorsett) before he was tragically killed in a car/train wreck near his home in Cedar Grove off of Airline Blvd.  Reggie is still THE greatest football player (pound for pound/inch for inch!) that I ever coached!!!

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