SHS Received 4 Golden Footballs, Marking the Largest Number in the State
District 7 honored, from left, Howie Williams (Carver High School, Class of 1953), Landon Cohen (SHS, Class of 2004), Stephen Davis (SHS, Class of 1992), and Steve Fuller (SHS, Class of 1975), as part of the NFL's 50th anniversary celebration of the Super Bowl.
Just as the NFL have their superstars, local high schools and colleges have their stars as well. It is, however, a rare occurrence when a high school is able to claim bragging rights about four of its most outstanding alumni, but this is what happened this past month at a very special homecoming at Spartanburg High School. Three of Spartan High’s graduates have played in the Super Bowl and one, Howie Williams, a 1953 graduate of Carver High School, was the forerunner and role model for the other three athletes, all spectacular men, who would follow in his footsteps.
For every football legend there is a shining season in which he reaches the ultimate game, the Super Bowl, but when the star in the field happens to come from your our backyard, he, or in this case “they”, becomes a player you follow forever and a name you never forget.
Days before the Carolina Panthers would play in Super Bowl 50, students and staff members at SHS were beaming with pride as four proud products of District 7 were honored at an assembly for the NFL Super Bowl High School Honor Roll that pays homage and recognizes high school athletic programs that helped produce future Super Bowl competitors. Howie Williams graduated from Carver High and played in Super Bowl II with the Oakland Raiders. Steve Fuller graduated as the valedictorian of high senior class at Spartanburg High in 1975 and played in Super Bowl XX with the Chicago Bears. Stephen Davis, a 1992 Spartanburg High graduate, played in the Super Bowl in 2004 with the Carolina Panthers. Landon Cohen graduated in 2004 and recently had us all on our feet in Super Bowl XLIX with the Seattle Seahawks.
In honor of Howie Williams, Steve Fuller, Stephen Davis, and Landon Cohen, SHS received four golden footballs – more than any other school in the state – and each man came home to present the football to a current student athlete. Howie presented his football to Kionna Jeter, Steve to Austin Scott, Stephen to Tavien Feaster, and Landon to Joseph Delaney. Perhaps it was easy to convince each to come home with the Vikings on the heels of the Region II-4A championship and the state title the year before. But it is really more than this, as was felt by both the staff and students and the pro athletes themselves. They felt the true honor was theirs and being asked to return home was a meaningful emotional experience. The warmth and camaraderie could almost be physically felt at the reception ceremony as students got to be up close and personal with their idols. There was a lot of laughter and it was a proud day for all involved, as it was for our community who displayed an outpouring of support for their stars.
Many nice things were said about the athletic program, one which stresses character strength as well as power on the field. Football is, like all sports, a game of wins and losses. The Vikings behave with the same dignity whether they win or lose…no helmet throwing here! This is a credit to the coaches and to the teaching staff, and perhaps is even the magic secret to their recent successes.
The honorees came from all over the country, Williams traveling the furthest from Oakland, California. Howie’s daughter Cara, pretty much says it all, “I can't stop bragging to everyone in Oakland, about you guys (y’all) and just how kind you were to us. My dad needed this trip and it changed him. He left renewed with a sense of pride being from Spartanburg, and it hasn't always been that way. He said he was proud of HIS city, to see that change has happened and will continue to happen. And happy to see everyone getting along and making Spartanburg a better place.”
So much is said about the state of affairs in public education; some say that athletics have pre-empted academics; others may say the fiscal investment in all of the sports, both men’s and women’s, should be better spent in the classroom. The beautiful disclaimer to all of these criticisms is that Spartanburg High School excels in all areas including the arts. Our teams are wonderful. Our teaching staff experienced and able to produce the high results, and are so skilled that there is never a boring moment in the classroom.
While the Super Bowl has become the ultimate culminating event and deadline, our schools face deadlines all year long, and they never come up short. The involvement of the community and its ongoing support shores up the school system, and our schools contribute to the quality of life in Spartanburg.
Our four spectacular former football players only serve to illustrate the Super Bowl of success: win, but not necessarily at all costs; strive to achieve but never lose compassion; balance all options and make the most of them all; and most importantly live lives filled with love and service.
This is the stuff of true champions!