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“Lion King” A Two-Sport Star Brad Jones Gets NFL Chance Alan Haller An MSU Defender

No. 2 Is No. 1 Ovid-Elsie Star Chris Robinson Switches Numbers, Still Posts Them

October 2009 $3.00 U.S.

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SPORT CONTENTS

12 QUICK QUAKER

Lioyikane Mavoungou Hard To Pronounce, Harder To Believe BY Andrea nelson

20 FATHERS, SONS AND DREAMS COVER Photograph Mike Major

East Lansing’s Brad Jones Makes Packers BY ted kluck

24 EAST LANSING, America’s NO. 44 SPORTS CIT Y

Ranked Fourth For Athletics Among All Non-Pro Communities BY JACK EBLING

26 Alan haller Where Is He Now? BY Walt sorg

28 SELEC T GREATER LANSING’S TOP 150 ATHLETES

It’s Time. Winning Time. Nostalgia Time. Your Time.

16

BY JACK EBLING

Playing For More Than Himself Ovid-Elsie Football Star Chris Robinson Has Amazing Stats, A Better Story BY jack ebling

06

EB-SERVATION

08

FITNESS

Best In The Long Run Williamston’s Paul Nilsson Led The Way By rita wieber

32

FINISH LINE

10

SPORTS AUTHORITY

The

Of Competition

For True Inspiration, Look Beyond The Colleges And Pros By BRENDAN DWYER

SPORT COMMUNITY

A Heritage Worth Preserving

Contribute To SPORT Magazine

By Bob Every

www.SportLansing.com

Try The Greater Lansing Sports Hall Of Fame

Send us your News + Notes, story ideas and Last Shot photographs.

OCTOBER 2009 3


Assists

SPORT CONTRIBUTORS Mike Major Born and raised in the Lansing area, Mike was always a huge sports fan, participating in baseball, football, basketball and golf in his youth. He served as the head boys basketball coach at Lansing Sexton from 1989-2005. Since leaving the coaching ranks, sports photography has filled that void. Mike can often be seen photographing area youth sports or playing a round of golf.

Andrea Nelson Andrea is a sophomore at Michigan State University, studying journalism with an emphasis in sports and public relations. She is a member of the Honors College and Tower Guard and has a true passion for sports. Andrea helped Frankfort High win back-toback state titles in girls basketball in 2005-06. Today, she provides articles, audio and images for SpartanTailgate.com.

Ted Kluck A modern-day George Plimpton, Ted has written for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com Page 2. His books include Facing Tyson and Paper Tiger. He has coached prep football, trained as a pro wrestler and served as a missionary. A world traveler, Ted lives in Grand Ledge with his wife, Kristin, and their son, Tristan.

The Greater Lansing Sports Magazine

Volume #2 • Issue #2 OC TOBER 2009

Publisher NBB Publishing Editor Jack Ebling Assistant EditorS Andy Flanagan Doug Warren ContributING WRITERS Brendan Dwyer Jack Ebling Bob Every Ted Kluck Andrea Nelson Walt Sorg Rita Wieber PhotographY Area 8 Special Olympics Kevin Fowler Green Bay Packers Ceil Heller Lansing Community College Mike Major MSU Athletic Communications Terri Shaver Rita Wieber MAGAZINE Design & LAYOUT Vision Creative

Rita Wieber Rita has worked in the health and wellness arena in Greater Lansing for more than 20 years as an exercise physiologist, a nurse and a college instructor. A former newspaper columnist, she has been running for more than three decades to support her chocolate habit. Rita lives in DeWitt with her husband, David, and their four children.

Printing Millbrook Printing, Co. Mailer Aldinger’s, Inc. Editorial Office 1223 Turner St., Suite 300 Lansing, Michigan 48906 (517) 455-7810

SPORT, The Greater Lansing Sports Magazine is published monthly by NBB Publishing with offices at 1223 Turner St., Suite 300, Lansing, MI 48906. Postage is paid under USPS Permit #979. Subscriptions: One copy of SPORT, The Greater Lansing Sports Magazine, is mailed complimentary to qualified business addresses in the Greater Lansing metropolitan area. Residential, household, promotional, out-of-area and additional subscriptions are available for $18 per year, half of the shelf price of $3 per issue. Subscribe at: www.SportLansing.com Postmaster: Address changes should be sent to: SPORT Magazine, 1223 Turner St., Suite 300, Lansing, Michigan 48906. 4 OCTOBER 2009

www.SportLansing.com Copyright © 2009 NBB Publishing. All rights reserved.


OCTOBER 2009 5


SPORT EB-SERVATION

Time To Join The Team Let Us Know What You Need And What You Know BY JACK EBLING

They’re nice problems to have, if you have to have some.

Nothing says “We love you!” quite like complaints and questions about availability. They started with phone calls a few weeks back. The message said, “Hey, I still haven’t received my new issue of SPORT! What gives?” Apparently, not our delivery and distribution system 100 percent of the time. Part of that blame rests here. We’re still learning to tell time and read calendars. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, especially at this time of year. Part of the problem is wanting or having

to adjust in the late stages of production. Events get cancelled. Players get injured. Situations change. We’re also subject to human error and scheduling snafus at all levels. Those won’t be persistent problems, just aggravations when they occur. Through 13 issues, we’ve learned a lot about how to put out a monthly magazine – and how not to do that. Now, we have to use that knowledge. The second bit of negative feedback also had a positive spin. Three people said roughly the same thing: “It’s Year No. 2. Shouldn’t I get a renewal notice?” If you’re a paid subscriber, you should, when the time is right or a bit before that. If delivery seems to have stopped and you haven’t renewed, we can take care of it. In fact, if you have any questions like that, call 517-455-7810 for the fastest service or drop us a line at www.SportLansing.com. A year of SPORT for $18 is still one of the best and most affordable gifts you can give at the holidays, especially to yourself. If you’d like to see your company or product promoted in these pages, there are many ways to do it. And if we haven’t asked you to do that yet, please ask us at the same number or e-mail. Problem 3 has come to light with several recent issues. We’re printing enough copies to reach an estimated 95,000 sets of eyeballs each month – great for a start-up. Unfortunately, we don’t have thousands

of extra copies lying around till people call and say, “I’d like a couple hundred.” When that need arises, when a family member or close friend is featured on the cover, profiled in a major spread or just mentioned in a story or the News and Notes section, the same magic number works wonders. Call 455-7810, and we’ll try to help in any way we can. Single copies are $3 each, regardless of the quantity available – exactly double the subscription price. And if you count on reading each month’s issue when you get your hair cut or, in Earle Robinson’s case, get your teeth taken care of, that’s a risky strategy. Public availability is a great way to reach everyone. We mail the majority of our copies to businesses for just that kind of display. In a fair world, everyone wins. Problems 4 and 5 showed us that isn’t always the best approach. Popularity and acceptance can lead to disappointment, we were reminded recently. A text message from a media member read: “I’m in line at the barber shop. Every magazine is here except SPORT. It’s usually here. What happened?” What happened was that the issue we mailed there got “borrowed”. It’s flattering that people want to take us home with them. But it really defeats the purpose. We know you’d never do that yourself. And if a family member, friend or co-worker has a habit of forgetting to put

Jack Ebling SPORT EDITOR

Jack has covered sports and much more as a writer and broadcaster in Mid-Michigan since 1978. A three-time Michigan Sportswriter of the Year, he was a 2006 inductee into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame. He has written five books–four on Michigan State and one on the Detroit Tigers– and has contributed more than 125 pieces for national publications. The former English teacher and coach spent nearly a quarter-century as a beat writer and columnist for the Lansing State Journal and won 21 major writing awards. He became a sports radio host in 2002 and branched into news talk in 2006. Currently, he hosts “Ebling and You” weekday afternoons and co-hosts “The Jack and Tom Show” Saturdays on 1320 WILS in Lansing. A two-time graduate of MSU, he has lived in the area for 36 years and has helped to raise two remarkable young adults. 6 OCTOBER 2009


copies back, now you know what to buy for his or her birthday. You also know where to do that. As one Michigan State diehard said, “You call Bob Apisa-Courtney Hawkins, Don Coleman-Brad Van Pelt!” – 45-5-78-10. If you go to get your oil changed, fully expecting to read SPORT in the waiting room, and you find that someone has beaten you to it, it’s probably bad form to snatch it away. To our knowledge, we haven’t had fights break out over who gets to flip and scan first. We have, however, sparked at least two loud disagreements in lobbies. Shhh!…And thank you very much. Where we DO want you to speak up is with story ideas and feedback. We can’t be everywhere. You can. If you have a tip about a possible story, shoot us an e-mail. If you like what you see, let us know. If you hate us more than taxes, let your psychologist know. But here’s what you should know about the next few issues of SPORT. At a point when some suggested we’d already be history, we’re still reporting on it. Our next issue will be our second onesubject publication, as opposed to the potpourri you usually see. The first was the MSU Basketball Final Four commemorative double edition. Our November-December issue will select the top 150 athletes in the history of Greater Lansing. That process is explained in more detail on pages 28-29. But we want your help with little-known candidates now as much as we want your compliments later. Please let us know if there’s someone we may overlook. The Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame and our selection panel will provide a couple hundred names. We can always use more. We can also use some students’ help with a newly designed News and Notes component, set to debut in January. Correspondents from each high school are being sought to make monthly content contributions. Contact your school’s journalism teacher, mention your interest to the athletic director or be pro-active and e-mail our volunteer coordinator at jenniferorlando25@gmail.com Jen is a Grand Ledge product, a super-connected Michigan State senior and a key component of the “Ebling and You” radio show. If you haven’t met her or talked with her, chances are you will some day. She’s going places. But first, she’s going to work for us. And if we all keep working together on this little project, this toddler that trips and keeps exploring, who knows what we’ll see?


SPORT FITNESS

Best In The Long Run Williamston’s Paul Nilsson Led The Way By rita wieber

He has had the label so long that some may be hard-pressed to come up with his first name. But “Coach” is fine with Paul Nilsson. It’s one of the roles that has defined him and provided him with so many fond memories and great experiences. After completing his duty in the U.S. Army in 1971, Nilsson married his wife, Chris, and took a job with Williamston Community Schools as an art teacher. As a recreational runner and general fitness buff, Nilsson jumped at the chance to coach boys cross country in his first year of teaching. Nilsson and his wife built a family with four children. Along the way, he not only gained valuable coaching experience in cross country and track but became a competitive runner himself. “At one point I was running over 4,000 miles per year and competing for Team Reebok,”

8 OCTOBER 2009

Nilsson said. “I believed over-distance was crucial and would often go for 30-mile runs in preparation for a marathon (26.2 miles).” Nilsson’s running career included 40 marathons and a personal best of 2:35.24 at age 43. Now, at age 61, Nilsson is running only 50 miles per week. Knee surgery after a skiing injury eight years ago ended his competitive career. The same passion and intensity that drove Nilsson through years of successful running was also the force behind the long-term success of Williamston cross country. With three individual state championships and three team titles, 13

Will To Win Paul Nilsson helped Williamston Hornet runners succeed for 35 years.

regional crowns and 12 league champs, Nilsson’s record of 465-187 over 35 years speaks volumes. In 2008, Nilsson was named the National Coach of the Year for boys cross


Photography RITA WIEBER

country by the National High School Coaches Association. “When I was grabbed to be coach, it was a rebuilding team with only seven guys,” Nilsson said. “Within 10 years, the groundwork was laid for a year-round training program. We won our first league championship five years later and have been going quite strong ever since.” The “Art of Coaching,” as Nilsson refers to it, is getting something out of each athlete and snagging enough kids to make a solid team. By creating a climate for success and appealing to groups of friends, there was never a lack of potential. “I call it ‘Better Running Through Team Chemistry,’” Nilsson said. “By establishing a relationship with the team and individual athletes, they will work for you.” It’s a bittersweet year for Nilsson, who retired from coaching cross country in 2008 and track last spring. His four children, three of whom were all-state runners, are grown. It’s time to expand on a passion for art that was put on hold years ago. “When I look back at team photos, I realize how much the kids change, not only physically, but on the inside as well,” Nilsson said. “Running teaches kids to work hard and set goals. It instills confidence.

Coach Paul Nilsson’s Accomplishments NHSCA National Coach of the Year for Boys Cross Country, 2008

Williamston High School Boys Track and Field

Williamston High School Boys Cross Country

Win/Loss Record: 257-53 State Champions: 2001, 03, 06, 08 MITCA State Champions: 2001, 02, 03, 06, 07, 08, 09 Regional Champions: 1988, 92, 93, 95, 99, 2000, 01, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09

Win/Loss Record: 465-187 State Champions: 2000, 2005, 2007 Runner-Up State Champions: 2002, 2003, 2004 Regional Champions: 1986, 87, 89, 99, 2000, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08 League Champions: 1986, 87, 98, 99, 2000, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08 Individual State Champions: Eric Stuber, David Bills, Jason Stover It is the one sport in high school where you can work hard and take something valuable from it that will last you the rest of your life.” In many of his coaching years, Nilsson was proud to have a team grade-point average of 3.8 or 3.9. “I believe the drive these kids have to be

Teaching Honors Runner-Up: Michigan Teacher of the Year, 1982

Founded the Academic All-State Awards for Cross Country and Track and Field

athletes is applied to their schoolwork, and ultimately to their professions,” he said. There was a pang of anxiety this fall when Nilsson saw the cross country team run through downtown Williamston, new coach in tow. “It’s a transition this year,” he said. “But I sure miss those kids.”


GREATER LANSING SPORTS AUTHORITY

The

Of Competition

For True Inspiration, Look Beyond The Colleges And Pros By BrEndAn Dwyer

annual Greater Lansing Special Olympics State Tournament had always been a twoday event, hosting nearly twice as many teams as this year. However, the Special Olympics of Michigan budget, largely funded by charitable donations, is just one more casualty of a struggling economy. The event has been pared down to a single day of competition. Yet, Goudie said the future is bright for this truly special sports event, despite the latest scale-back. “When the economy recovers and organizations are in a better position to support Try, if you can, to put yourself into the body charities, we fully intend to bring of an athlete who is in a wheelthis tournament back to a two-day chair, someone struggling with event,” she said. “With such great basic activities but still practiccommunity support and because of ing hours each day to compete our strong participant and volunteer in the Special Olympics softball base, it is the least we can do for our throw. Or attempt to picture athletes.” yourself working tirelessly to Further discussion with Goudie make the ski team, despite the indicated that Special Olympics volfact that you are both visually unteers are very loyal. And she should and hearing impaired. While that know. Not only is she the director of is difficult to comprehend, let the Ingham and Eaton County Spealone execute, this is the reality cial Olympics and a member of the for the athletes of Special OlymSpecial Olympics Michigan Board of pics of Michigan. Directors, she is a tireless volunteer On Nov. 21, 2009 Greater Four On The Floor The Eaton County Alumni Bowlers pose for for the organization at events all Lansing will be host to two big a team shot at the State 27-and-older Bowling Tournament held at through the state. But before you Special Olympics tournaments Royal Scot in Lansing, November 2008. size Goudie for a halo and set of angel in bowling and floor hockey wings for her selflessness with the at Char Lanes and Aim High, charity, consider her thoughts. respectively. The area will wel“People have said to me that I’m self“This is a perfect example of what athcome more than 44 floor hockey teams and 100 bowlers from across Michigan. letic competition should be: tough and less for giving my time and energy to the Competitors in these events have already hard-fought, but at the end of the day, Special Olympics and I always stop them been through qualifying rounds at other fostering an environment of friendship short,” Goudie said. “I work for Special tournaments and will be vying for state and healthy social peer groups,” Goudie Olympics and volunteer my time with the championships. According to event orga- said. “Teams that are competing against organization because the athletes thornizer and Special Olympics Michigan Area each other on the court during the day will oughly enrich my life. To be around them 8 Director Anne Goudie, winning at this be arm-in-arm and all smiles at the very and have been inspired countless times by level means as much to Special Olympians popular pizza party and dance that always them to pursue my goals relentlessly and to appreciate all that I have is a blessing as a World Championship means to an NBA closes our competitions.” As with many events, unfortunately, I could never begin to repay. I always say, All-Star – maybe more. “Competition in Special Olympics events success and inherent community value ‘Volunteer for Special Olympics once and is an invaluable way for these dedicated doesn’t necessarily ensure the future. This you’ll be a volunteer for life.’” 10 OCTOBER 2009

individuals to highlight their abilities, not their disabilities,” Goudie said. “So often, their whole life is about what they can’t do and what they may need help to do. This is a well-deserved chance for them to show, through hard work and conviction, they can get a chance to earn the gratification that comes with competition and victory.” While Goudie said the competition is tough and the athletes take their chosen sport very seriously, it is the camaraderie and fellowship at Special Olympics events which is truly inspirational.

Photography AREA 8 special olympics

If you’ve ever competed in any athletic contest, you know the preparation, determination and passion it takes to succeed. You also know the physical obstacles you must overcome to be among the lucky few who have earned the right to call themselves winners… Or do you?


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Quick Quaker Lioyikane Mavoungou Hard To Pronounce, Harder To Believe BY Andrea nelson

Fast Learner Mavoungou picked up tennis easier than many youths pick up a racquet.

12 OCTOBER 2009

Known as “Lion King” to his friends, Mavoungou moved to America one year ago. He had never been immersed in the American culture or spoken the English language. But everyone who has come into contact with him will admit Mavoungou is one of a kind. “He’s something special,” Quakers tennis coach Brian Grew said. “He’s more than a player. I mean, he’s like my son.” Mavoungou grew up in Gabon, a country on the West Coast of Africa. His mother, two sisters and two nieces came to America one year ago through a refugee service. Mavoungou said his family was interviewed and given an evaluation. The report determined whether or not they would come to the United States. He didn’t try to hide his enthusiasm as he explained how it felt when he found out his family would move. “I’m not gonna lie,” Mavoungou said. “I was excited. My mom told me we were leaving in three days and I was like, ‘Wow, this is really sweet.’ When we were in the airport, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a dream.’” A French-speaking Mavoungou landed in the U.S. without knowing a word of English. He didn’t let that stop him from going to school and participating in sports. Initially, he was scared to attend Lansing Eastern High School. With the help of a French-English dictionary and a friend who spoke a little bit of French, Mavoungou learned English in only a year. The language barrier was difficult. And Mavoungou didn’t talk at first. He just listened to people and tried to figure out what they were saying.

“When someone said something, I’d just be like, ‘Think! What is he trying to say? What is he trying to say?’ and I would just figure out stuff,” Mavoungou said. “That’s how I learned.” Mavoungou came to tennis practice midway through Eastern’s season last fall, wanting to join the team. Grew said the two had great difficulty communicating in the beginning. They had to draw pictures on a clipboard and learn techniques visually until Mavoungou learned the language. Grew also learned a little bit of French to make the transition easier. But Mavoungou quickly adapted to both the English language and the American lifestyle. “He’s definitely becoming Americanized,” Grew said. “He’s becoming a different kind of person. He’s wearing the trendy clothes and starting to make more friends because he knows English now. That has helped him grow and become a little more confident.” Mavoungou said adjusting to America was an obstacle he had to overcome. He spent his time observing people and how they acted to adapt to the new culture. He discovered it was normal to say “Thank you” when someone did something nice for another person, and gradually learned the rules of the American society. Within a year, Mavoungou was able to progress past English-as-a-second-language classes. This fall, he enrolled in general education courses. Mavoungou said he had his share Mr. Versatility Mavoungou doubles as a soccer star when he isn’t playing tennis.

Photography kevin fowler

It is hard for anyone to describe Lioyikane Mavoungou in one word, but even harder to pronounce his name (loo-ih-kihn mah-voo-uhn-goo).


OCTOBER 2009 13


Quick Quaker of problems adjusting to the United States, but Grew had a different opinion. “Honestly, he doesn’t have any obstacles,” Grew said. “He’s so relaxed, so easy-going. The biggest obstacle is that he and his family are refugees still learning a country. It’s trying to figure where to go, what to do as a family. It’s not so much him.” One of the biggest factors attracting Mavoungou to America was tennis. Though he has only been playing for two years, Mavoungou is an exceptional talent. He has astonished coaches with his natural ability but is very modest about his skills. “I started playing tennis when I was 14,” Mavoungou said. “I just started playing. A friend took me to tennis. I didn’t know what it was, and I was like, ‘OK, I would play it.’ I tried it, and I just liked it right away. People said to me, ‘You’re good, you’re good. Keep playing.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, I just keep doing it.’” Mavoungou said he was excited to play tennis in America. Some countries in Africa might only have 20-30 exceptional players. In the U.S., there are thousands. He said you find different kinds of players and styles of play between the two countries. Despite these differences, Mavoungou shocked his coaches with his ability. Grew said that with such little experience, it was stunning that Mavoungou was such an advanced player. Mavoungou impressed his coach, not only with his natural talent, but also with his humble nature. “What makes him special has nothing really to do with tennis,” Grew said. “It’s his work ethic in everything and his humbleness and respect. Tennis is just one small thing in my opinion.” Grew said that everyone likes Mavoungou because of how hard he works at everything he does. Whether it’s learning the language,

Athletic Gifts Mavoungou combines natural talent with an amazing work ethic in his adopted sport. playing him in practice,” teammate Jacob Miller said of Mavoungou. “He just plays with you. He’s not going to complain, especially in matches. And he’s not going to cheat. He won’t cheat.” Grew said Mavoungou is a role model to teammates because he makes them want to improve their game. Mavoungou helps his teammates become better because he will

“What makes him special has nothing really to do with tennis. It’s his work ethic in everything and his humbleness and respect.” - Quakers Tennis Coach Brian Grew

playing soccer and tennis, or doing his schoolwork, he never quits. Mavoungou’s teammates also respect and look up to him because of his modesty. “He’s very humble, especially when you’re

14 OCTOBER 2009

hit either hard or soft to them. He is not the type of person who will punish his teammates with his game. “He will play with anyone,” Grew said. “It doesn’t matter how good or bad. He

plays and works with anyone on the team. Everyone loves him. They love him because he is so nice. He’s not cocky. He’s not a jerk. He doesn’t talk junk. He just goes out and plays tennis.” Mavoungou may be a role model to his teammates, but Coach Grew has learned a few things from him as well. “I’ve learned it’s all about having fun,” Grew said. “He just goes and has fun. That’s what it’s all about. He’s relaxed. He plays for the love. Win, lose, it doesn’t matter. It’s fun.” Grew said Mavoungou spends 20-27 hours a week playing either soccer or tennis. Mavoungou started playing soccer in the streets with his friends when he was 10 years old. He began playing on a team after a coach discovered his talent. But after picking up a racket, Mavoungou chose to concentrate on tennis rather than soccer. He currently participates in both sports at Lansing Eastern. Mavoungou practices


tennis three days a week at both his high school and Court One North Athletic Club. He received a full scholarship from Court One for tennis lessons and quality equipment. He expressed his appreciation towards his coach and those who have helped him become a better athlete. “I do what he asks me to do, come on time to practice and just do right things,” Mavoungou said. “I am really happy because they do accept me. I just have to keep playing and going to practice all of the time and doing the right thing.” Since Mavoungou is only a sophomore, he has a few more years to think about which college he wants to attend. He said he has been thinking about playing tennis at the collegiate level and knows it would make him happy. Right now, however, he is focusing on finishing his tennis season and improving his game. Coach Grew, on the other hand, has his own goals for Mavoungou. “What are my goals for him? To get A’s

and B’s, to pass the ACT, to go on to college,” Grew said. “Make that American dream. I want him to be able to go on to college and get a job and get married and have kids. Those are my goals for him.” Grew compared Mavoungou to our forefathers and relatives who came to America and built the foundation of our country. He said they learned English, worked hard at their jobs and made a life for themselves. This is the same dream he has for Mavoungou. When asked to describe his prodigy in one word, it took a few seconds for Coach Grew to decide how to sum Lioyikane Mavoungou up in a simple word. “We talk every day, all off-season,” Grew said. “We have more than just a player. There’s something about him.” Something we still haven’t seen. A young man is growing up at a rapid rate. At the pace Mavoungou is going, Grew can hardly wait.

Fitting In Mavoungou has plenty to smile about as an Eastern High sophomore.

OCTOBER 2009 15


Playing For More Than Himself Ovid-Elsie Football Star Chris Robinson Has Amazing Stats, A Better Story BY Jack ebling

16 OCTOBER 2009


You don’t get far at Ovid-Elsie High School without running into Teresa Russell, a secretary-gatekeeper-cop who has seen it all. When she glances up with that “What do YOU want?” look, you’d better have the right answer or you’ll be in the lobby a long time.

Carrying The Load Robinson set rushing records as a marked man in every game.

Chasing His Shadow Robinson outran everything else for the Marauders.

“Whatever publicity Chris is getting is a reflection of the team,” said Marauders head coach Jerry Goosen, the district’s middle school principal. “We all share in that spotlight. Remember, only two teams in Ovid-Elsie history had started 5-0. Only five had won league championships.” This year’s group will finish with a better percentage than last season’s 12-2 team. And regardless of what happens in the playoffs, Robinson’s accomplishments will never be forgotten. His junior stats – 41 touchdowns and 2,844 rushing yards, 47 shy of the state record – could be eclipsed with a post-season run as long as many of his carries. Perhaps that explains a sign at the checkout counter of The Town Tub, a gas stationconvenience store-laundromat in Elsie. It OCTOBER 2009 17

Photography mike major

“Hi!” you say with a smile and as much charm as you can muster. “My name is Jack Ebling, and I have an appointment for SPORT magazine…I’m here to see Chris Robinson.” “Yeah?” she said of her most frequent inquiry. “You and everybody else!” In the brief time it took for Robinson to answer her page and report with his lunch tray and two admirers, another student said she hoped he wouldn’t be named Homecoming king. She thought was he was a great guy, all right. But couldn’t somebody else win something for a change? The correct answer is yes. And it happens every time someone is around a modest young man who gets more mail than high school principal and football public-address announcer Kirk Baese. O-E students are better for having Robinson around as seemingly everyone’s friend. Marauder teammates and coaches are much better for having No. 2, formerly No. 28, in blue-and-gold as the state’s most accomplished ballcarrier. The towns of Ovid and Elsie are better for a new awareness and accompanying pride. Younger kids are better with a role model who walks the walk the same way he runs on Friday nights. And everyone at Nic’s, a bowling alley and restaurant where he works, is better with him carrying the torch for a cancerstricken friend. “I know I come from a small school,” Robinson said between bites, after being too polite to eat for 20 minutes. “But a lot of people support me and our team. They love what has happened here, too. Now that we’ve been on the radar for a couple of years, it’s not ‘Ovid who?’ It’s ‘Hey, you guys are from Ovid-Elsie!’” That’s what happens in a close-knit community when its team winds up in the Division 5 Final and has a perfect record the following year after significant rebuilding.


Playing For More Than Himself

Doing It All Robinson ran, passed, kicked and defended as Ovid-Elsie remained unbeaten.

reads: “Vote for Chris Robinson for Michigan’s Mr. Football. Go to www.statechamps. tv, then follow instructions. Go Chris!” And maybe his demeanor means as much as his stats do in Ovid, another town not known for diversity. When dozens of young boys keep following Robinson around after games, knowing they’ll never look or play anything like him, his gift to them is more than an autograph. It’s a lesson in how to treat people. “How do I want to be remembered here?” Robinson said. “As a gentleman. I used to get in trouble when I was younger. One day, I was stuck in my room again, and I said, ‘I don’t want to do this any more. I can do better than this.’” He could be a politician or a business leader. But for now, his goals are to be the best Marauder he can be, to play college football, ideally at the University of Michigan, and to work with kids, the younger the better. “I’ve encouraged Chris to look at teaching and coaching,” Goosen said. “There aren’t a lot of black males in the classroom. He loves sports and loves kids. I just see him as such a good role model.” He wasn’t always an ideal citizen during his early years in Flint. A move to the country helped change all that and coincided with a shift in sports. “I didn’t start playing football till seventh grade,” said Robinson, now a 5-foot-11, 214-pound flying rock. “I always thought I’d grow up to be the next Ken Griffey Jr. I still love baseball. But my future is in football.” An outfielder and pitcher, Robinson bears a facial resemblance to Griffey. And it’s easy to see why football came second when

he was 10 pounds over a weight limit for ballcarriers. That forced the most prolific runner in area history to line up at center and start plays instead of finish them. “I appreciate centers, definitely,” Robinson said. “I also played defensive end. And I still love defense. Wednesday, when we concentrate on defense, is my favorite day of practice.”

“Coach told me, ‘Well, come up for three days and see how you like it.’ He didn’t give me a choice.” - Chris Robinson

His most important day may have come at Marauder Football Camp as an freshman. It was there that a 185-pound Robinson ran over the varsity’s starting linebacker and its quarterback/safety, inflicting a bloody nose and increasing the chances of an instant call-up. “When Coach Goosen brought me into his office and asked if I wanted to move up, I said, ‘No, I want to stay down on JV. I’ll see a lot of playing time and get familiar with these guys. When I move up to varsity as a sophomore, I’ll be confident,’” Robinson said. “Coach told me, ‘Well, come up for three days and see how you like it.’ He didn’t give me a choice.” Robinson rushed for 310 yards as a freshman and roughly 1,700 as a sophomore. Now, the pencil that often sticks out of his hair could come in handy as he threatens to rewrite MHSAA season and career rushing

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marks. Any game with less than three TDs and 200 yards on the ground seems disappointing. But if you ask him how many yards he has gained, and I’ve tried three times, he never seems to know. The only number Robinson cares about this year is 2. That’s the number Nic Greenhoe wore in honor of his hero, Heisman winner Charles Woodson. When Greenhoe died after a two-and-a-year battle with tumors, Robinson vowed back in seventh grade that he’d switch jerseys as a senior to pay tribute to his close friend. “Nic taught me a lot of things, not just how to throw a tight spiral,” Robinson said. “He made me see how fleeting things are and how lucky most of us are. I went up to his dad, Dale Greenhoe, a while back and told him I wanted to wear No. 2 as a senior.

too. He almost always shows up for work an hour after football games, reports early the next morning for his other job and says that helps keep his head on his shoulders. “I don’t want to get too wild about things just because of a football game,” Robinson said. “At Nic’s, I’m what they call a pinhopper. I work at the counter, give people their shoes and turn on the lanes. If there’s a problem in the back, I can go fix it. And I’m a stuffer for our local newspaper, the (Meridian) Weekly, on Saturday mornings.” His Saturday jobs prevented Robinson from attending the Michigan-Michigan State game. But he was a sideline guest in Ann Arbor for the Western Michigan and Notre Dame games. And he visited Mount Pleasant for Akron-Central Michigan. “I’ll probably play strong safety in college,

A Balanced Life Robinson hasn’t let hungry opponents or a humble hero’s ego trip him up. Coach Goosen was fine with it. …And I’ve thrown a couple of good passes this year.” Nic Greenhoe would like that. So did his father, the owner of Nic’s and the boss for one of Robinson’s two part-time jobs. “Chris is going to do a lot of amazing things with that number, too,” Dale said. “Nic would be very happy about it. We all are. When you have a hole in your heart the size of mine and someone puts a patch on it, it helps.” Robinson helps in more tangible ways,

but I could be a running back, too,” said Robinson, who’s also hearing from Wisconsin. “Coach (Greg) Frey from Michigan said they have me listed as an athlete. They could stick me anywhere they need me. But first, I have to bring up my ACT score. I’ve only taken it once.” That lack of a qualifying score has put several schools in a holding pattern. And that fact he hasn’t taken the test at every opportunity has been puzzling to many. Meanwhile, scholarships have been accepted

by players all over the Midwest with lessdistinguished resumes. “It wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t get an offer from Michigan, if I get something from somebody else, and we wind up playing them,” Robinson said. “I’ll always bleed blue in some ways. But when it comes to that day I’d play them, they’d have to be an enemy.” Robinson said he ran a 4.53 40 at the Michigan Preps Combine and was clocked in 4.48 in later testing at his school. He’s just as fast when it comes to recommending the food at Nic’s – “Make sure you tell them Chris sent you!” – or mentioning a supersupportive family. He’ll talk about his father, Chris Sr., who played football with Daryl Turner, Gary Lee and Reggie Mitchell at Flint Southwestern under legendary high school coach Fred Jackson, a longtime Wolverines assistant. And he’ll smile when he mentions his dad’s recent 300 game at Nic’s. He’ll talk about his mother, Ronda, and his five siblings – three older brothers, an older sister and younger brother, Zach, a Marauders sophomore who inherited No. 28. After a win over Alma, Robinson punctuated two interview answers with “Hey, did you see what Zach did!” “We’ve talked an awful lot about how it’s going to be, coming after him,” Zach said. “I can’t be Chris. We both know that. I just have to be the best player I can be.” That’s fine with Goosen, who nearly stepped down as head coach after last season but decided to stick around. He hasn’t been disappointed, not by this season or the once-in-a-lifetime talent he helped mold with a recommendation a few years ago. “You could see in seventh and eighth grade he could do things most seniors couldn’t do,” Goosen said. “But he had a poor game for him against Portland his sophomore year. I said, ‘You need to develop a style for the kind of runner you want to be,’ and gave him a tape of Walter Payton, about him as a runner and a person. Chris said, ‘Coach, I’ll never run out of bounds again.’” Robinson was dragged out of bounds with a horse-collar tackle in the Division 5 loss to Muskegon Oakridge. If he hadn’t been hurt on that play, a stop that led to a change in MHSAA rules, the Marauders may have finished a stunning upset. Instead, that game served as motivation. Sometimes, being No. 2 is better. OCTOBER 2009 19


Fathers, Sons And Dreams East Lansing’s Brad Jones Makes Packers BY Ted Kluck

Don Jones loves talking about his kids. And who can blame him? His son, Preston, who starred at East Lansing High School, just completed his career as a running back at Arizona State University. Then, his middle son, Brad, a standout linebacker at East Lansing and the University of Colorado, was a seventh-round draft pick of the storied Green Bay Packers. In one fell swoop the family was on a plane, whisked away to Lambeau Field – formerly the territory of Ray Nitschke, Bart Starr, Vince Lombardi, Brett Favre, and your dreams. These are the moments when parents tend to say things like, “This is what makes all the hard work worthwhile.” In talking with Don, it’s easy to get the impression that the hard work was, in and of itself, the worthwhile part, regardless of the payoff. He describes the process of being drafted by Green Bay as “almost metaphysical.” He isn’t alone. The life of an NFL rookie is one of transition – from being the biggest man on campus to being dropped into a new city with a new playbook, new terminology and a whole new set of alpha-male competitors. Lining up next to Clay Matthews Jr., A.J. Hawk, and Nick Barnett, you realize that everyone in Green Bay’s minicamp was his own campus’s Big Man. “I told him not to ever lighten up. This is a 24-hour-a-day job interview, in which everything he does is being constantly evaluated,” the father says. “He’s 6-foot-3, 245 pounds now and the fastest he’s ever been in his life.” Don Jones likes being referred to as a “football guy.” This didn’t escape the 20 OCTOBER 2009

attention of the Packers coaching staff, which treated the rookie minicamp as part practice, part P.R. junket, and part parent orientation. Don describes lots of bonding with 19-year NFL veteran Clay Matthews Sr., whose son, Clay Jr., was drafted in the first round and also plays outside linebacker, and with the rest of the Packers coaching staff. “(Packers head coach Mike) McCarthy came up to me on the sidelines and said that as soon as they drafted Bradley he got a nasty email and then a nasty voicemail from the San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator,” Don said. “They were going to take him with the next pick.” If his son fails to make it, it won’t be for lack of effort on the part of the elder Jones, who identified 11 NFL squads who intended on running a 3-4 (three down linemen, four linebackers) defense this season. He sent special highlight films and stat sheets to each of them. Brad produced 242 career tackles as a collegiate player, 35th-best in Colorado history. Scouts were especially intrigued by his pass-rush skills, as he showed great edge quickness and burst for a man with his size. Brad also had 8.5 sacks in 69 career games to go along with six pass breakups, 10 quarterback hurries and one forced

Green Power East Lansing native and Colorado standout Brad Jones made the Green Bay Packers as a seventhround draft pick.


OCTOBER 2009 21

Photography green bay packers


Fathers, Sons And Dreams fumble, starting every game his last three years. Perhaps more important than these statistics, though, was the fact that even as an honorable mention All-Big 12 selection as a senior, he never stopped contributing on special teams, where he played all four years in Boulder. “Brad was supposed to go to San Francisco in the fourth round,” Don said. “They flew him out for a physical with the kid from Texas, the Orakpo kid (Brian, drafted in the first round by Washington), and said they were going to take him. But we ended up being drafted by Green Bay in the seventh. We were so thrilled. It has always been one of my favorite organizations.” Hearing Don talk about the sport, one quickly realizes what a difficult drug football is to kick. After playing collegiately at Indiana and spending part of one camp with the Detroit Lions, he walked away from football to take a job as a public school administrator. Despite a successful career, including becoming the first African-American manager in the history of United Consumers, given the choice to do it over again, he would have stayed with the Lions. Still, he insisted he didn’t push his sons into football. “In fourth or fifth grade they wanted to be football players, but I was actively keeping them away from it,” Don said. “Football is something you have to choose for yourself, and they were having a lot of success as soccer players. By sixth and seventh grade they were buggin’ out. I told them they couldn’t leave their elite travel soccer teams, where the competition is furious and spots are valuable, to play football. But I gave them the option to do both. I figured after a few days of running non-stop in soccer, then having to change into football gear and go to practice, they’d be done. They both ended up doing both sports for two years, and proved that they really wanted to play football.” Preston had 1,700 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior at East Lansing’s team. After drawing interest from Maryland and several other programs, he eventually landed at Arizona State and enjoyed his best season in 2005, when he averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Both sons were indoctrinated early into big-time football culture, as family vacations often included stops at high-profile camps, like Florida State and Purdue. 22 OCTOBER 2009

“Both of them had good speed,” their father said. “Bradley was the No. 1-ranked hurdler in the state of Michigan his senior year. But visiting the FSU camp really opened their eyes as far as the kind of speed it took to compete on the elite level. It also gave them a picture of the different football culture in the South. Players were more verbose. And there were fights in the dorms.” Brad credited running track for the Trojans with much of his development as a football player. “Track helps so much with quickness of feet and muscle endurance so you can run faster longer,” he said. “It helps with overall conditioning. You gain so many little edges just from running track.” His father credited East Lansing head coach Jeff Smith, a former player at the University of Michigan, for emphasizing the fundamentals that he tried to instill in his sons. “Jeff knew that I played at Indiana, so he would share game tape with me,” Don said. “I would go over film with the boys. And so many of the bits and pieces of information I was sharing with them about techniques or responsibilities had already been shared by Jeff. The thing I appreciate about Jeff and his staff is that they’re not screamers. They’re teachers.” The hard work on the field and in the film room paid off, as Brad earned first-team all-state honors from the Detroit Free Press and was named Area Defensive Player of the Year by the Lansing State Journal. He was an All-Midwest selection by PrepStar, SuperPrep and Prep Football Report and posted 117 tackles, 18 of them for losses, 11 sacks, two fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles and four interceptions as a senior. Despite being recruited hard locally, Brad chose Colorado, where he earned his degree in economics and is just four credits shy of another degree in astrophysics. But he flew under scouts’ radar until posting a 4.54 40-yard dash and 33-inch vertical jump at Colorado’s pro day in March. Brad said he learned early in training camp that mistakes will earn you a seat on the bench in the NFL. “You’ve got to be consistently good all the time, and you can’t make a lot of mistakes,” he said. “A lot of guys aren’t the most athletic in the world, but they do their assignment 100 percent of the time.”

Right On Track Jones and his father, Don, credit track for football success.

Whatever happens, his father seems committed to enjoying every day of his son’s NFL experience. “It’s hard not to be prideful of both of them, because they’re true scholar-athletes and truly decent human beings,” Don said. As for competition in the household, he insisted that the boys only pushed themselves in training to get better. “I always told them the competition is not here,” says the elder Jones. “It’s on the other side of the front door.”

Postscript: At the end of training camp, there is an NFL ritual that comes and goes with little fanfare, though it does swell the space allotted for transactions. NFL Cut-Down Day changes lives. Brad Jones survived that day. On Sept. 13, on prime-time national television, he suited up for his first NFL game against the Chicago Bears. Two weeks later, he recorded his first NFL tackle in a victory over the St. Louis Rams.


OCTOBER 2009 23


SPORT QUICK HIT

East Lansing, America’s No. 44 Sports City Ranked Fourth For Athletics Among All Non-Pro Communities

A better sports city than San Francisco? Better than Seattle? Much better than South Bend? That would be…East Lansing, Michigan – if you believe The Sporting News and its 2009 ranking of the Best Sports Cities in America. The home of Michigan State University was ranked 44th among 399 communities on the magazine’s annual list, released in early October. That also put East Lansing ahead of pro cities and major-event hosts Montreal, Memphis, Kansas City, Jacksonville, Green Bay, Edmonton, Ottawa and Sacramento. Perhaps more impressive, it was fourth among college towns – municipalities without a pro team. The only pure college communities above it were Austin, Texas (38); Gainesville, Fla., (41) and Storrs, Conn. (43). “It’s yet another example of how valued Michigan State University is to our community,” East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis said after being informed of the honor. “It shows that we really get behind the programs and support them at all levels, from athletics to academics to research and development. Michigan State is an integral part of our region. For East Lansing to be recognized as one of the top 44 communities for sports in this country is just outstanding news. I couldn’t be happier. Go State!” Despite Loomis’ initial surprise, that ranking may have been predictable with an NCAA Finals appearance in men’s basketball, a Jan. 1 bowl game in football and sellout crowds or solid attendances for several Spartan sports. “What Michigan State has going is a 24 OCTOBER 2009

program with successful football and men’s basketball,” Director of Athletics Mark Hollis said. “You don’t have too many schools like that – places like Ohio State, Texas and Florida. We’ve been able to do that and still have a broad-based program. And when you look at the fan base we’ve had, even when we haven’t had great success, there has been unbelievable support.” That was never more apparent than last April, when MSU fans turned out in record numbers at the Final Four and turned Downtown Detroit into East Lansing-East. Thirty-nine of the cities ranked ahead of East Lansing have a combination of pro franchises and college teams, including top-rated Pittsburgh, home of the Super Bowl-champion Steelers and the Stanley Cup-winning Penguins. The rest of the publication’s 16th Top 10 list included: 2. Philadelphia, 3. Boston, 4. Chicago (Evanston), 5. Los Angeles, 6. New York, 7. Phoenix (Tempe), 8. Miami, 9. Dallas-Fort Worth, 10. Detroit (Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti). The Motor City was ranked No. 1 in 1998 and 2007. But it slid significantly over the past 12 months with the plunge of the Pistons and the sudden slide of Michigan football. The other combined pro-college communities with Big Ten campuses were Minneapolis-St. Paul (16) and Columbus (34). The conference’s other pure college towns were State College (48), Iowa City (70), West Lafayette (73), Madison (75), ChampaignUrbana (84) and Bloomington (129) – one spot ahead of Mount Pleasant. A complete list is available at: www. sportingnews.com

Photography MSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

 BY Jack Ebling


OCTOBER 2009 25


SPORT QUICK HIT

Alan Haller Where Is He Now?

He never planned it, but Alan Haller may have become a local lifer. Born in Milwaukee, with NFL career stops in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Charlotte, N.C., he always seems to end up “a Lansing guy.”

Lt. Haller On Patrol Game-day duties keep him close to the Spartans home and away. A two-sport star at Sexton High, Haller excelled as a sprinter in track and a running back in football. After moving across town to Michigan State University, he started at left cornerback on the 1990 Big Ten champions. Today, No. 23 is still defending his territory and protecting against attacks. Lt. Haller of the MSU Department of Public Safety wouldn’t have it any other way. His athletic future was defined his freshman year when Sexton football coach Gary Raff and then-assistant Bob Meyers asked track coach Paul Pozega to time Haller in the 40-yard dash. 26 OCTOBER 2009

“The next day I was on the indoor track wrapped up his NFL sojourn with the team,” said a 100- and 200-meter dash stand- Carolina Panthers. Haller hadn’t planned on returning to out and anchor of the Big Reds relay teams. In football he replaced MSU signee James Greater Lansing. His hope was to live out his Moore in Sexton’s offensive backfield, giv- college dream of becoming a federal agent. ing Raff and later Meyers a ground game Fortunately for everyone he has helped so potent that Haller wound up No. 6 on here, the FBI and Secret Service required the Lansing State Journal’s “Catch 22” list three years experience in law enforcement. of the state’s top football prospects. With NFL time didn’t count. His new plan was to do police work for offers from Indiana, Michigan and UCLA, he followed Moore to East Lansing as a prized three years and then apply. But things happen – marriage, babies, buying houses. recruit for George Perles. “I really like the Charlotte area in North Haller became a fixture in the MSU defensive backfield. Along the way he picked up Carolina,” Haller said. “But my wife got a his degree in criminal justice in four years, job here in Lansing, and I had a son who thinking one day he’d like to be an FBI was born while I was in college. Those two or Secret Service agent. Instead, he was factors drove me back to this area.” Back in East Lansing, he needed a job in drafted by Perles’ old team, the Steelers, in November ‘97. And it didn’t take him long the fifth round. For the first time since 3rd grade, Alan to find one. “I put together my resume, sent it to Haller moved away from Mid-Michigan. After 11 games, Pittsburgh waived different agencies and dropped one off him with the intention of putting him on the practice squad. But a promise made five years earlier, when he was being recruited by Nick Saban, intervened. Shortly after signing Haller for MSU, Saban moved on to the NFL’s Houston Oilers. “The day it happened, he called me,” Haller recalled. “He told me, ‘I’m in a good position now. You never know – four years from now, I may be able to help you.’” So instead of landTurning The Corner Haller goes for the block against the Badgers. ing on Pittsburgh’s taxi squad, Haller was claimed by the Cleveland Browns on the at DPS,” Haller said. “By the time I got strong recommendation of their defen- home, I had a message on my voicemail sive coordinator, the same Nick Saban. saying that they needed to talk to me.” A season later it was back to PittsLike all new MSU officers, Haller was burgh. After a year out of football, he told he would be working every home-

Photography MSU ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

BY WALT SORG


football Saturday. He told his superiors he would do whatever was needed before and after the game, but he wanted to be able to see the field during the game. He has been on the sidelines for every game since. Haller continued his academic work, earning a master’s degree in public administration from Central Michigan University. But he has progressed through the ranks at his alma mater and become one of the topranking officers in the MSU department, a group widely respected for its professionalism and the educational level. Acting as DPS liaison with Spartan athletic teams, Haller talks with players about the law, the pitfalls that athletes face and what is expected of them. He spends a lot of his orientation time answering the

same questions he had asked as a freshman back in 1988. Is Haller a “Lansing lifer” or just a loyal Spartan? He won’t commit. “I’m always trying to get more education, keep up with the latest in law enforcement and do my job as well as possible,” he said. “I’m not sure if I’m here forever. I don’t want to say my eye is looking on leaving. I don’t want to say I’m cemented here, either.” Don’t be surprised, though, if you see Haller roaming the end zone at Spartan Stadium for many seasons to come. Some people just seem to be a perfect fit for Mid-Michigan. Haller’s Corner No. 23 helped MSU win a conference title nearly two decades ago.

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SPORT QUICK HIT

Select Greater Lansing’s Top 150 Athletes It’s Time. Winning Time. Nostalgia Time. Your Time. BY Jack Ebling

As we prepare to close the pages on Lansing’s Sesquicentennial, better known as 2009, we at SPORT would like your help as a distinguished panel of experts – athletes, coaches, support staff and media – select the greatest 150 athletes from Greater Lansing’s last 150 years. Now there’s a celebration to savor! No one reading this issue was around or alive when that century-and-a-half of history began. And we don’t expect our list to be sprinkled with stars from the 1800s. But many of you, our loyal readers, have been places and seen people we’ve missed. Mid-Michigan, for all its components with small-town, territorial pride, can be a pretty big place sometimes. Thus, we want your help to make sure we’re considering the best of the best, not just the most famous performers. Consider this your invitation to be part of our adjunct advisory committee. With help from Bob Every, chair of the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame, we have a great list of names for automatic consideration. Media enshrinees aside, each member of the Hall is already on the initial ballot, as the committee tries to boil several hundred names to the nifty 150.

Submit Your Top Athletes Submit the name of the athlete online at www.SportLansing.com or call 517-455-7810.

28 OCTOBER 2009

Who else will be considered for this elite club? Anyone suggested through the high schools we cover in SPORT. Anyone recommended by one of our guest panelists. And anyone suggested by you! Remember, this is more than a salute to the very good. It’s a way to pay tribute to the great and the way they have enriched our lives. It’s 150 – no more and no less. That’s an average of one selection per year, all born in our readership area (think CAAC plus CMAC communities, with one or two exceptions). Nominees must have attended those high schools or, in a select few instances, have moved to the area and acquitted themselves with distinction AFTER their college years. Thus, Michigan State Spartans like Robin Roberts, Johnny Green, George Webster, Kirk Gibson, Scott Skiles and Jeff Lerg wouldn’t qualify, great as they were. But thousands of others with local roots,

male and female, are all fair game. Who’s in the game when it begins on Nov. 1 is all up to you. If you have a suggestion of someone from the distant past or the almost present, let us know by submitting that name online at www.SportLansing.com Or you can call our subscription line at 517-455-7810, order a holiday gift subscription and leave a nominee’s name and reason for inclusion with us there. If you’re the first to suggest a non-Hall member who makes the elite 150, you’ll be rewarded appropriately. When the next issue arrives in late November or, more likely, in early December, the debate can really begin. After all, Greater Lansing belongs to all of us. So does our 150 from 150. Thanks for all the support in Years 1 and 2!

Jack Ebling, editor


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OCTOBER 2009 31


SPORT FINISH LINE

A Heritage Worth Preserving Try The Greater Lansing Sports Hall Of Fame

Athletes and their achievements live in our hearts and minds. But it wasn’t until the late 1970s that Lansing had a place that immortalized great athletes from Mid-Michigan. In 1976, three leaders in Lansing athletics banded together to create a sports hall of fame at Lansing Community College. Joined by long-time Lansing School District official Clayton Kowalk, Michigan State University Athletic Director Burt Smith, LCC Athletic Director Walt Lingo laid the foundation for what now stands as a lasting tribute to the area’s finest athletes.

In Every Way Hall of Fame Chair Bob Every asks for your help with an area shrine.

For 33 years, the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame has served as a living testament to strength and spirit. Plaques for 196 individuals and 40 teams are displayed on the third floor of LCC’s Gannon Vocational-Technical Center. Among the enshrined are Magic Johnson, Charlie Gehringer, Todd Martin, John Smoltz and Judi Brown. Each year, a handful of individuals and a team are inducted. Candidates are 32 OCTOBER 2009

nominated by community members and selected by a committee of volunteers. Over the past three decades, hundreds of names have been submitted. Each year, the selection committee faces the daunting task of picking the newest members for the Hall of Fame. Although completely run by part-time volunteers, the Hall of Fame demands full-time attention. Names are submitted constantly, and meetings are held several times a year. In addition, the committee coordinates the selection process and organizes the annual awards banquet. Anyone involved in community and non-profit pursuits understands the demands, as well as the benefits such organizations can bring. They bring identity. They bring character. And they help define who and what we are as a community. Lansing has always enjoyed great sports. In the ’50s and ’60s, Lansing schools were competitive monsters. District sports were strong across the board, especially in football, basketball and wrestling. As our community grew, the suburbs and outlying areas became powerhouses, too. Areas like Grand Ledge, Holt, Okemos, East Lansing and DeWitt joined the pack. Mid-Michigan has been producing great athletes who have enriched our lives for years. It’s only appropriate that we recognize their greatness and their contributions to the quality of our lives. While the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame has flourished and survived for more than 33 years, current economic conditions threaten its existence. For the first time in the Hall’s history, no money is left in the account to support its future. Efforts to secure the funds to keep it running have been difficult. Donations are

well below the $13,000 a year it takes to maintain operations. We have taken a close look at the way we do things and have scaled back to the bare minimum. The awards ceremony and the purchase of plaques are our biggest expense. Outside of the few donations we receive, the only source of revenue is a modest amount from the banquet ticket. In the past, we have secured an occasional corporate sponsorship. Today, those partnerships are tough to obtain. Without immediate financial help, we fear this very well could be the last year for the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame. I have been privileged to attend every Hall of Fame induction ceremony and have heard many great acceptance speeches. None was more touching than the one given by Rick Edwards, the long-time area swimming coach who was dying from pancreatic cancer. You can never be sure how each induction ceremony will be remembered. What you can be sure of is that each event will forever touch your heart. I invite anyone who reads this column to offer suggestions on how to keep the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame alive for our community. We owe our best efforts to those athletes who have entertained and inspired us throughout the years, and we have a responsibility to pass on that heritage to aspiring young athletes. The Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame is more than recognition of past athletes. It’s a history. It’s a chronology. It’s a collection of stories that have made our community great, as told through the lives of outstanding athletes who made MidMichigan their home. When the cheering stops, what’s left? Memories. A legacy. That alone is worth preserving for all who strive to achieve their dreams. Do you have an idea for preserving the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame? Contact Bob Every at everyb@lcc.edu or 517-483-1237.

Photography LANSING COMMUNITY COLLEGE

By BOb every Hall of Fame Chairman


JUGGLING YOUR CAREER, FAMILY AND A PASSION FOR SPORTS? NO SWEAT. The Greater Lansing Sports Authority shares your passion for sports. Do you or someone in your family participate in a tournament sport that could be a good fit for the Greater Lansing area? Need a hand developing your sports event? The GLSA is here to help. For event information and what’s going on in the local sports scene visit www.lansingsports.org. That is, right after you save your company, your kid or maybe the planet Earth...

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www.lansingsports.org email: sports@lansing.org


The Greater Lansing Sports Magazine 1223 Turner St., Suite 300 Lansing, MI 48906 www.SportLansing.com

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sport: October 2009