Grambling celebrates triumphal 2008

gramblingbanquet-0014Rod Broadway had stood on the same stage at Grambling’s Black and Gold Room, just a year ago, and made a prediction: This program can win a black college national championship.

Still, even Broadway couldn’t have guessed how quickly that would come to pass.

There were early struggles, the second-year coach admitted. “But then (sophomore quarterback) Greg (Dillon) started maturing … and it was curtains.”

Grambling, after stumbling to an opening 1-2 mark, didn’t lose again after Sept. 13, eventually collecting 11 wins for just the fifth time in school history. Broadway and his team celebrated those successes tonight with a gala banquet featuring a series individual player awards, a message from new GSU athletic director Lin Dawson and a 17-minute high reel from a season that included victories at the Bayou Classic and the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game.

Graduating defender Melvin Matthews won the Eddie Robinson Award for most valuable player, presented by the legendary former Grambling coach’s family friend Wilbert Ellis, a former athletic administrator and baseball skipper at GSU.

“Keep your TVs tuned on Sundays in the fall,” Ellis said of Matthews. “He’s going to be playing.”

Dillon, MVP of both the Bayou Classic and SCG, earned the newcomer award. Defensive tackle Otis Young was named most improved. The John Gee Award, presented by former Robinson assistant and College Football Hall of Famer Doug Porter, was presented to Desmond Lenard. The Robert Piper Award went to fellow cornerback T.J. McCord.

Charlie Brewer gave the invocation, and led the team in a rousing spiritual.

“This is a team of great character, a spiritual group,” Ellis added. “They spend time talking about Jesus. It makes you feel good.”

Dawson, hired in October, laid out his philosophy as head of GSU’s athletic department: “If we play it, we ought to win it,” to cheers.

Recognition for individual positions included Cornelius Walker (running back), Nick Lewis (wide receiver), Revay Smith (offensive lineman), Keefe Hall (linebacker), defensive line (Christian Anthony), defensive back (Jeffery Jack) and special teams (Kiare Thompson). The academic award was given to Kendall Robinson. Kenneth Anio was named ironman.

Earlier the team had been honored during a parade through town, and a pep rally on campus.

As players reminesced toward the banquet’s conclusion, Broadway issued a challenge: “Last year is over,” he said. “Enjoy it tonight. Then let’s get up tomorrow and get to work. Let’s see if we can do it again.”

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