By T. Scott Boatright
Fred Dean never forgot the roots he developed at Ruston High School, building a foundation that led him to become a member of the Louisiana Tech University and Pro Football Halls of Fames.
After retiring from the gridiron, Dean could be found on many a Friday night cheering on his beloved Bearcat football team.
And still today, 19 months after his death in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dean’s love for Ruston High continues shining bright.
The love comes in the form of the Fred Dean Memorial Scholarships, set up by Dean’s graduating class at RHS, to ensure that his love of RHS lives on.
This year’s recipients of the Dean scholarships are graduating seniors Rodrigo Mitchell, a Bearcats football player, and Kemiah Spencer, who played basketball for the Lady Bearcats.
Both received $1,000 scholarships presented to them in Dean’s name.
Mitchell plans to attend Grambling State University and major in psychology.
“I plan to try to walk on to the football team,” Mitchell said. “I really appreciate the scholarship and look forward to trying to show the football staff I’m worthy of being a G-Man.”
Mitchell came to RHS from Fort Worth, Texas, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I loved being a Bearcat even though it was very different from where I came from,” Mitchell said. “I went to high school in Fort Worth as a freshman and sophomore before COVID. My grandparents lived in Grambling and my granny had a stroke and ended up catching COVID and dying during the pandemic. So we came here to take care of my Paw-Paw. That’s how I ended up at Ruston High School. I didn’t expect it, but it ended up being a good thing.”
Spencer said she will attend Louisiana Tech University and major in nursing.
“They say the course is very hard but I’m going to work hard and plan on graduating in nursing,” said Spencer.
A lifelong Ruston resident, Spencer said she believes being a Lady Bearcat will help her as she focuses on her next step in life.
“I learned teamwork and fundamentals, which were important, but I also grew as a person,” Spencer said of her time on the basketball court. “And as far as being a student at Ruston High School, looking back at starting as a freshman, I did a lot of growing up between then and graduating.”
Spencer admits to having a myriad of feelings as she prepares for college life.
“I’m excited. I’m nervous … all kinds of emotions, basically,” Spencer said of her feelings. “I’m just thankful for the scholarship and plan on showing I deserve it.”
The scholarships were presented to the RHS graduates by Dean’s widow Pamela, sons Mason and Fred Jr., daughter Fredericka, and RHS classmates and longtime friends Robert Thomas and Connie White.
After graduating from RHS in 1971, Dean anchored a Bulldog defensive unit from 1971 through 1974, leading Louisiana Tech to an incredible mark of 44 wins and only 4 losses. The Bulldogs won national titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
He was inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
At the time of his death at the age of 68 on Oct. 4, 2020, Dean was serving as pastor of New Nature Ministries church in Ruston.
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