HED:Mississippi Pride makes appearance at THS
By Todd Vinyard
Opportunity is the word most used by Mississippi Pride football players and coaches.
The 65 players who will suit up in tonight's 7:30 p.m. game against the Memphis Jazz at the Tupelo High School football field have a variety of reasons. Some want to keep on playing football, but most hope that one of five National Football League or Canadian Football League scouts will give them an opportunity.
"These are not just a group of guys getting together to play football that are past their prime," Mississippi Pride coach Steve Brown said. "Most of the these guys are between 21 and 26 years old and just want a chance."
One of those guys is former Tupelo High School and Ole Miss player Stacy Wilson. At Tupelo, Wilson was in the SuperPrep Top 100 then he went to Ole Miss and was sort of lost in several different positions. As a sophomore at Ole Miss Wilson was listed at 240 pounds, he is currently 279.
Wilson has been making the most of his chance with 28 total tackles and five sacks. The New Orleans Saints have requested film of him.
"To go to the next level I knew I had to get bigger," Wilson said. "This is chance to be seen. It is a real opportunity."
Taking that opportunity means playing for no pay. The Mississippi Pride is a three-year-old team out of Jackson. They play in the International Football League that includes 40 teams.
The team plays games for a charity. All proceeds from tonight's game will go to building a Community Center in Okolona. Chickasaw County Supervisor Russell Brooks helped put the game together and says if the turnout is good enough Tupelo might get a team similar to the Mississippi Pride.
Mississippi Pride is currently ranked No. 16 in a national poll with similar teams. They are 4-1 this season.
"Our team feels they have a real chance to win the national championship," Brown said.
Putting in the hours to win a national championship means players will have to drive long hours to and from practice. Most have other jobs in the towns they are from and have to commute back and forth between Jackson. Three players drove in from Atlanta, Ga.
Despite the fact that many of the players are trying to get the attention of scouts, there is still a team atmosphere.
"You really have to strap it on tight and play," Wilson said. "Everyone is giving it their best."
Other local players who will suit up for the Pride tonight are: Tony Middlebrooks (Tupelo, North Alabama), Federick Burks (Shannon, Delta State), Reginald Legrone (Shannon, Itawamba Community College), Dietrich Lockridge (Tupelo, Jackson State), and De Fern Stevens (Okolona, Itawamba).
Another Tupelo High player, Derick Austin, who also played at Arkansas State, will be playing for the Memphis Jazz.