Top NFL Veteran Says ‘Education Opens Doors’
CLARKSDALE – Evaluating accomplishments in his exceptional career with the Denver Broncos, three Super Bowls, two Pro –Bowls, four years at the University of Southern Mississippi, and a successful business, Sammy Winder tells student athletes, “It wasn’t football for me, it was education.”
“It was education that opened the doors for me,” he said.
Speaking to a rapt audience at Coahoma Community College’s Athletic Banquet Thursday night, Winder said he was one of only 10 percent of all National Professional Football (NFL) players (approximately 1600 on 30 teams) who had graduated from college.
Growing up with 10 brothers and sisters on a farm in Pocahontas, Miss., Winder says he played high school football and wanted to be the most determined guy on the team.
A walk-on at Southern Miss, where he was thrilled to be playing major schools like Auburn and Florida State, Winder says, “I got sidetracked, stopped going to classes, and was put on probation.”
Confronted by the college dean who threatened to send him back home if he didn’t attend classes, Winder says, “I graduated to get off the farm; a degree is powerful.”
Winder was picked by the Denver Broncos in the fifth draft, and says, “I was determined to do the best job whatever the cost.”
Toward the end of his NFL career, he decided to buy some land, built a house one mile from his Pocahontas birthplace, and started a construction company.
“I had made a complete circle; loved it and peace of mind,” he said. “I am pulling for you (CCC athletes) to make this a better place.”
Season finale updates and awards were presented to CCC’s outstanding athletes by softball coach Cedrick Tenner; baseball coach Kenny Strong, athletic trainer Selina Reid; women’s basketball coach LaCole Brooks; men’s basketball coach Ira Peterson; offensive football coach Kendrick Travis and defensive football coach William Kirksey; and Carol Brooks, athletic secretary, who presented jackets to concession stand volunteers.
Top student academic winners were Bridgette Griffin with a 3.34 grade point average and Elias Wells, 3.8 gpa.
Athletic director and head football coach Freeman Horton, who was a Southern Miss teammate of the speaker, presented a trophy to Dr. Vivian Presley, CCC president, as a Super Supporter for CCC sports.
Congratulating student athletes and graduates, Dr. Presley said, “We want you to go forward and succeed at other institutions.”
Among the outstanding Most Valuable Player recipients were Alex Thompson and Patrick Brown, men’s basketball; Antoinette Mayfield and Bridgett Griffin, women’s basketball; Dave on Porter and Elias Wells, football offense; Steve Horton, defensive back; Lakendrick Conley, linebacker; Jamal Cooper, defensive lineman; and Isaiah Colbert, defensive all around player.
MVP recipients in softball and baseball will be announced following the close of seasons.
Others participating in the program were Michael Barfield, football manager who gave the invocation, Wairterrica Galmore, Miss CCC, the greeting; and music by Taneshia Young. The dinner was catered by Valley Food Services.