Dinner will honor football stars
By Eva Hannan
Some people have it all — athleticism, brains, drive, and initiative. Student-athletes at Laney College are in this category.
From the 3.0 GPA and on-field achievements of current players, to acceptance at four-year institutions and life’s work of the alumni, it’s clear that playing for the Eagles helps many students be able to make the best choices for themselves.
In honor of these ongoing achievements for Laney football, the annual Wall of Fame dinner will be held from 4:30–8:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, in the Laney Athletic Field House.
Dinner will be served at 6:15 p.m. and the cost is $30. The date to RSVP is past, but anyone who would like to attend may purchase tickets at the door.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the honorary dinner for new inductees to the Wall of Fame, which is located in the Student Center.
The tradition began in 1998, with then-head coach Stan Peter’s idea to honor outstanding players, coaches, and support staff for their acheivements at Laney.
A $10,000 gift from former Washington Redskins linebacker and Laney alum Ken Harvey made the wall possible.
This year, former defensive back Tavis Campbell (1997–98), wide receiver Lester Gill (1998–99), running back Joe Cannon (1997–98), and longtime athletic trainer Greg Smith will be honored.
Former inductees can also provide inspiration to current athletes for their larger educational and life goals.
“You’re gonna be able to pursue your future,” said head football coach and Athletic Director John Beam, who was named the 2017 Bay Valley Conference Coach of the Year.
“Everybody’s goal is to keep playing and keep going to school,” he said. “They don’t come here unless they want to transfer.”
The Laney Athletics Department boasts a 90 percent transfer rate to four-year colleges and universities, and many of the students get opportunities to go to school for free on an athletic scholarship, he said.
“If you don’t get into the school of your choice out of high school,” Beam said, “you can come to Laney and have way better chances.”
In addition, many of the student-athletes will do so for free. The athletic department helps students find scholarships, although not always to a school they have heard of.
“There’s a place, somewhere in this country, that will pay you to go to school and play football. It may not be UCLA, but it’s free.”
Two Eagles players did commit to University of California schools this year. Running back Marcel Dancy is headed to Cal Berkeley, and defensive back Je’Vari Anderson will be attending UCLA this fall.
“Football is just a blip on the radar of life,” Beam said. “We tell them to find the school that’s got the major you want and will give you an opportunity to succeed academically.”
The inductees featured in this year’s ceremony represent some of the possibilities that are available to student-athletes after their time at Laney.
Smith worked as Laney’s athletic trainer for nearly 40 years and will be inducted as a “Cornerstone” to the Wall of Fame.
Campbell played for the University of Hawai’i after Laney and is now “very involved with the community,” Beam said.
Cannon is the author of several books about personal training, nutrition, and the dangers of over-exercising, and Lester Gill is “big in the IT business,” Beam said.
At the dinner, current players will get a chance to see and hear about former Laney athletes who went on to develop their skills and careers after football.
Thanks to the hard work of Beam and the other coaches, hundreds of student-athletes come to Laney every year to train and play for the Eagles for two seasons before they transfer or go on to other achievements.
“The bulk want to continue to play football,” Beam said, “but there are some that come to transfer because they want to be a firefighter or serve in law enforcement. One came and wanted to get into digital media.”
The ongoing health and safety of the players is a huge concern to the coaches as well.
“We’ve been really lucky,” Beam said. “The college has some funding that faculty can ask for. Every time we’ve asked for safety stuff, it’s been approved.”
Getting the funds to conduct the day-to-day-business of the football team can be a struggle, however.
“With all the funding cuts, it’s harder and harder to help these guys out,” Beam said. “When we have to play a game, they’re supposed to be fed, but we don’t always have the money. We’ve had to fight for the money to feed them.”
Eva Hannan is sports editor and writer for the Laney Tower