In 1996, I had the good pleasure of taking William P. Moultrie to Jamaica to discuss the pitfalls that seem inevitable for student athletes who focus too heavily on their athletic endeavors, to the detriment of their academic pursuits. William P. Moultrie was the Head Track and Field Coach at Howard University, and was also the US Olympic Coach who put together a world record 4x400 meter world record.
Needless to say, while in Jamaica, and making the rounds on the various call-in programs, and appearances at Mico Teachers College in Kingston, and Sam Sharpe Teachers College in Montego Bay, a consistent theme started to emerge. Most students had aspirations to attend what is considered a "major" university in the United States. That "major" status came from the belief that the larger the sporting program, the better the University, or in Jamaican lingo, "name-brand school". While driving back to the hotel after a presentation at Sam Sharpe Teachers College, Coach Moultrie leaned over to me and said; "These kids need to know that if they run fast anywhere, they will be recognized for their efforts everywhere." That line stuck with me for years. Today, that truism was confirmed for my yet again. (See the press release that was put out today in the email body below.)
Today, Fortisan, Leford Green was named the NCAA Division II Male Athlete of the Year for the 2011 indoor season. Some of you might be saying; "what's the big deal? Many Jamaican athletes in the United States have earned that distinction". Here is the difference in my opinion. Mr. Green has accomplished this as a young man who came and saw nothing in the track program, but because of his willingness to sacrifice and work hard, he is being recognized nationally at a school that many thought was simply about strong academic programs.
He came when it was only himself and Shermaine Williams, and a coach with a vision in Lennox Graham. All he found was a university with a world-class mondo track, but no noticeable track and field team. Another point not to be overlooked, he is burning up the track with Division I and world-leading times while at a Division II school. So you see my fellow Fortisans, "name brand" is not always an indicator of overall quality and achievement. There are still pockets of excellence that permeate all aspects of the higher education landscape, and if the determination, the proper coaching, mentoring and guidance is provided, the sky is indeed the limits.
In closing, the term student athlete is one who seems to be waning as the professional ranks is "where its at!!!!!". However, there are still some young people who still have that burning desire to exhibit that "culture of excellence" that is expected of every Fortisan around the world.
Mr. Green has exhibited this over four years. He is being acknowledged for it on the international stage, and more importantly, he will be graduating in four (4) years with Honors with a degree in Computer Systems Engineering. His safety net is well intact. A fitting tribute to a young man who overcame the odds, and now is an inspiration to a 144-year-old university, a burgeoning southeastern city, an excited nation, and an expectant world.
Congratulations Mr. Green. Well deserved son. Well deserved.