Notes, quotes and a thought or two…
This past week, Newton County Academy held its athletic awards banquet where the school honored its athletes for their performance on the field.
While giving out those awards, the NCA family had a reception to honor retiring football coach Rob Roberts and presented him with a commemorative football.
I would like to applaud whoever came up with this idea.
It’s easy to live in the present these days without remembering the past. And with the pandemic, it would have been easy to not give out athletic awards this year. It would have been easy to just let Roberts fade away without saying goodbye.
But Roberts deserved more than that for his 14 years of service to the school. While it’s easy to look at the last two years and criticize Roberts, that would be unfair. My wife is an NCA graduate and can tell you all about football up on the hill. Before Roberts took over the program, NCA hadn’t enjoyed much success in football. Roberts brought something to NCA that is hard earned in the football world and that’s respect. And he also brought a state championship, which are even harder to come by and for that, he deserves whatever praise and gratitude that comes his way.
The respect came from the fact that Roberts produced very physical football teams. Roberts coached football the old fashioned way. He believed in playing defense and running the football, much like his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide. He taught kids how to be tough and that’s a rare thing in this day and age.
A couple of weeks ago, Roberts called me to ask a question and started out by saying that it “may not be any of his business since he was no longer the head coach.”
I don’t know if I properly communicated it to the coach Roberts or not but as far as I’m concerned, he’s earned the right to call me whenever he wants and ask any question he likes. After answering my phone calls for all these years, he’s welcome to call me anytime.
This is going to be fun
I’m not going to delve off into the state flag flap but it has produced a great moment. Last week, most of the state’s college coaches gathered in Jackson to urge lawmakers to change the state flag.
Among those gathered with the coaches were the two new head football coaches at Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
When Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin came to Mississippi coach Mike Leach, the old pirate decided to get cute and grabbed Leach’s mask and popped it on his face. The video of the event got a pretty good run on social media and it appeared to be all in good fun.
But it makes one thing pretty certain to me is that both guys understand this rivalry, especially Leach. One of the things a head coach has to do to motivate a fan base is to “get into” the rivalry. Former MSU coaches Jackie Sherrill and Dan Mullen understood that, when they referred to Ole Miss as “that school up north.” Former Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer even referred to Sherrill as a “habitual liar.”
All of the banter just ignited the fan base and amped up the rivalry. And after last year’s Egg Bowl and the way it ended, costing both coaches their jobs in the end.
So now we have Leach and Kiffin to continue the rivalry. Both have been pretty quiet so far but I expect both to be fun with the media. It’s possible they may make the Egg Bowl fun again. I don’t know how many wins they will produce but I do believe it will be fun.
Robbie Robertson is sports editor for The Newton County Appeal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.