Home cooking crucial part of GSU football recruiting

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By T. Scott Boatright

A little home cooking is always good to help flavor a college football team — especially on the smaller college level — and help bring more fans to stadium seats.

Such considerations might be even more important these days as colleges work to make home football game experiences as safe as they can to help fans come to games even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues affecting the nation as a whole.

Grambling State University’s football team is in a unique position in that it doesn’t need the power of local recruiting because of its national and even international recognition.

But that hasn’t stopped Fobbs and his staff from paying attention to local athletes who have the potential to come in and help the GSU football program.

And to prove that, the G-Men have a number of players who hail from Lincoln Parish or a neighboring parish:

  • Donald Johnson, WR, SO, Ruston High School

  • CJ Russell, RB, FR, Arcadia High School

  • Danquarian Fields, DB, GR, Arcadia High School

  • Dylan Harris, TE, FR, Union Parish High School

  • Charles Straughter, DB, FR, Neville High School

  • Anthony Boston, DB, JR, Arcadia High School

  • Eric Outley, WR, FR, Ruston High School

  • Geor’Terrius Spivey, OL, FR, Richwood High School

  • Kyle Davis, OL, SR, Neville High School

  • Dalton Hogue Jr., OL, FR, Union Parish High School

  • Isaiah Gray, TE, FR, Lincoln Preparatory High School

  • Zavier Cooper, WR, SO, Ruston High School

  • Symere Roberts, DL, SO, Ruston High School

That’s 13 players who came to Grambling from within a 30-minute radius from the university, and five of those players are from Lincoln Parish itself.

Johnson is coming off his biggest college game ever after leading the Tigers with three catches for 26 yards in Saturday’s 36-0 loss at Southern Miss. 

Those numbers put him atop GSU’s receiving yardage category through two games and only one reception shy of the team lead in catches so far in 2021.

Johnson also had a 12-yard rush during Grambling’s season-opening win against Tennessee State.

During Grambling’s COVID-shortened four-game spring season earlier this year, Johnson hauled in seven catches for 100 yards with a long reception of 61 yards.

The son of GSU volleyball coach Demetria Keys-Johnson, Donald Johnson, also known as “Red,” said after signing with the team that he was born to be a Grambling State Tiger.

“I grew up going to Grambling games and Grambling is home for me,” Johnson told LA Football Magazine at the time. “Who doesn’t want to play in their own backyard?”

Russell is another important local player for the Tigers as their No. 1 running back. 

The state of Louisiana’s sixth all-time career leading rusher as an Arcadia Hornet, Russell totaled 7,769 yards, 656 points and 99 touchdowns during his four-year prep career.

Russell totaled 17 yards on nine carries against Southern Miss and has 53 yards on 20 carries through two games so far this season.

During Grambling’s 2021 spring season, Russell ranked second in team rushing with 148 yards on 34 attempts.

Local players have always been a part of Grambling football, going back to Paul “Tank” Younger, a Grambling native who went on to become the first player from a Historically Black College and University to play in the NFL. 

In his 10-year professional career with the Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Younger was named to the Pro Bowl four times (1951, 1952, 1953, and 1955), rushed for 3640 yards on 770 carries, caught 100 passes for 1167 yards, scored 35 touchdowns (34 rushing, 1 receiving), and intercepted three passes on defense (also throwing an interception on his only NFL pass attempt). He was the first black player to play in an NFL All-Star Game and became the league’s first black assistant general manager (with the San Diego Chargers 1975–1987). 

In 2000, Younger was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Walter Dean, who prepped at Grambling Laboratory High School, now known as Lincoln Preparatory School, he led the nation in rushing as a GSU senior and won the 1990 Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding player in Division I-AA football before becoming a sixth-round pick of the Green Packers.

Home-cooking has also been part of the tradition of recruiting excellence GSU football is renowned for, and with 13 local players on this year’s squad and 10 of those athletes being freshmen or sophomores, that trend doesn’t look to change any time soon.

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