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Alonzo Stevens: A life in football

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Alonzo Stevens in his football playing days. Photo courtesy Alonzo Stevens.

Born May 6, 1952, to Eugene and Jessie Stevens. Alonzo Stevens was raised in a poor family along with his three siblings: Elenor, Jimmy and Eunice. Along with his parents and siblings, Steven’s grandmother, great grandmother and great great-grandmother lived in the house where he grew up in Vicksburg.

At the age of 9, Stevens began playing backyard football with close friends from his neighborhood.

When he was in ninth grade, Stevens was attending Lucy C. Jefferson School and playing football under coach Walter Strong and Lee Arthur Ferguson where they had a 6-0 record. Rosa A. Temple High School coach W.C. Gorden asked them if they wanted to scrimmage against the varsity team who were on their way to playing a championship game. The freshmen team, led by Stevens, shocked the varsity players by beating them the first day, but the second day, the varsity got their act together and beat the freshmen.

Throughout high school, Stevens had talented teammates such as Willie Moore, aka “Wonderful Willie,” who caught plenty of touchdowns from quarterback Robert Sims.

“Willie can catch anything you throw at him,”Stevens said.

Moore and Stevens played ball together throughout their years at Temple while both were getting play calls from Robert Sims.

“Some games, I never touched the ground or broke a sweat while Stevens was blocking for me,” Sims said.

Once, Temple played Greenwood in bad weather, and Sims only threw one pass. They still managed to score 39 points and walked off with a victory. Behind Sims was quarterback William Wooley who became the starter a year after Stevens and Sims graduated.

Wooley took Temple to their last undefeated season before integration. He threw for 36 touchdowns in 1970, and he prides himself on being a great teammate by playing behind Sims until his name was called for stardom at Temple.

Bobby Huell, Stevens’ lifelong friend and teammate, was another great player Stevens credits for his success. “Bruising Bobby” is what they called him because of the way he ran through tacklers on the field.

“I’d rather tackle Walter Payton than Bobby Huell,” Moore said.

Huell went on to star at Alcorn State University, then eventually played for the Pittsburg Steelers. Locally, he is mostly remembered for all the young athletes he coached while being the offensive coordinator at Vicksburg High School until his death in 2015.

Alonzo Stevens had plenty of people who could testify on Temple’s great success such as Marshal Sanders and Carl Jackson. Sanders and Jackson were both standout basketball players for Temple, helping their team to a 29-0 record.

“I remember the football team whooping up on everyone, and everybody cheered them on in the stands,” Sanders said.

“I couldn’t remember them ever losing a game,” said Jackson, who became a two-time all-American in college and was inducted into the St. Bonaventure hall of fame.

Sanders went on to star at Harvard University in basketball while Robert Sims played quarterback at Harvard for the football team.

Offensive tackle Joe Bingham said the Temple team sometimes never let their quarterback get hit, and they stood out everywhere they went as the best. Bingham went on to play at Jackson State University.

Stevens helped the Temple High football team win two big eight championships, and under legendary coach Houston Markham Jr., they only lost two games in those years.

By the time Stevens graduated from Temple in 1970, everyone in the state knew who they were, and they even had kids from St. Aloyisius come to see them play.

Stevens returned to Vicksburg  in 1975 after graduation from Alcorn and a couple of years playing for the Baltimore Colts, becoming a defensive coordinator at Vicksburg Junior High. He moved up to high school coaching under various head coaches, including James Knox who is the winningest coach in VHS history. Stevens also started the Vicksburg High power lifting program in 1978.

In 1991, Stevens left VHS for a coaching position with the Alcorn State football team and as head track and field coach. There, he coached players like Donald Driver and Steve McNair.

Stevens returned to Vicksburg eight years later and was named head coach at Vicksburg High in 2001 where he stayed until his retirement in 2011.

Alonzo Stevens has served on the Vicksburg-Warren County School District School Board since 2012.

The next year, Stevens ran for school board member, winning on the same night former President Barack Obama won re-election. He is now in his seventh year as a school board member.

“I want to help Vicksburg-Warren School District become the best district in the country, and I want our kids to have all the opportunities that everyone else has,” he said. Stevens recently won the John L. Hartman Award, which is given to an individual who puts in the most hours working in the school district, for the fifth year in a row.

Stevens has also served with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes since 1977.

Stevens credits his wife Linda for his success.

“She is my backbone, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her,” he said. The couple have two sons, Carlos and Stewart, and two daughters, Jasmine and Kimberly.

Notable players Stevens has coached:

  1. Steve McNair
  2. Donald Driver
  3. Shaun Archer
  4. Slyvester Stamps
  5. AJ Stamps
  6. Norman Price
  7. Malcolm Butler
  8. Andre Bennett
  9. Junior Nix
  10. Michael Ellis

Hometown Hero

For Kami May, working with the United Way is a dream come true

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Kami May and her boyfriend, Ethan Mitchell.

Ever since she can remember, Kami May, Vicksburg native and 2011 Warren Central High School graduate, has had a love for helping others. Even when she was in high school, she volunteered with several organizations, and she believes her desire to help others is just a part of who she is.

“I don’t really know where it came from,” May said. “It’s kind of in my DNA. … Just always having that spirit, that give-back attitude and being a people person has always been in my DNA—to be happy and to be giving all the time. I just grew up that way and always knew I wanted to help people.”

May, who studied communications at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, has been working toward her ideal career since she was a teen.

“I had to have an internship to complete my studies, and my search led me to United Way,” May said. “I actually had a church member, Lori Burke, who served on the board at United Way in Vicksburg, and she told me about the organization. I reached out and was able to do my internship here.”

May’s internship lasted two months when the director of marketing and communications left for a new job. Michelle Connelly, executive director of the United Way West Central Division, offered the job to May.

“That began my career in nonprofits, which was my dream goal since graduating high school,” May said.

After three years with the United Way, May continues to do what she loves, and she learns something new each day.

“Working at United Way, every day is different, and every day has a new story to tell, a new opportunity to serve,” May said. “Every day is a new story to add to a book of things that I’ve helped out with. There’s not a day that goes by here that I’m not helping at least one person, and that means a lot to me.”

May knows that wherever life takes her, she will continue to serve.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me,” she said. “I’m still very young, 26. I haven’t figured that out yet, and that’s OK. I do feel like my love for nonprofits will never go away no matter what the future holds. Whether I stay in nonprofits or leave them, I know that I will continue to give, I will continue to advocate, and I will continue to volunteer.”

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Local church participates in Toys for Tots

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Bishop Oscar L. Davis, First Lady Loretta Davis and Word Church of Vicksburg members

In 1947, Marine reservist Maj. Bill Hendricks founded Toys for Tots, the U.S. Marine Corps-funded program that gathers and distributes toys to disadvantaged children. With about 15 million children living in poverty in the United States, program proved itself to be useful and has become a holiday tradition. 

In 2014. Takita Selvy, a member of the Word Church of Vicksburg, was given an opportunity to serve her community by joining with the charity as its Warren County coordinator.

“We’ve never had a Toys for Tots coordinator in this area,” Selvy said. “So. someone contacted my pastor and asked him if he knew anybody who would like to be a coordinator, and at that time, I didn’t have a job, and I wanted to stay busy in the ministry. I then took on the role as coordinator five years ago, and it’s just been blooming ever since.”

Every year, Selvy works with her fellow church members to gather all types of toys for children in need in the Warren County area.

“With our chapter it began five years ago,” she said. “We do it through my church, the Word Church of Vicksburg, and it’s pastored by Bishop Oscar L. Davis, and we try to make it greater and grander than the last year. We had a really big year last year and the year before that, and this year we just wanted to get the community involved. That was our main goal.”

With several organizations  and churches pitching in—including Child Protective Services, the Vicksburg Children’s Shelter, and the Family and Development Center—Selvy is grateful to the community for helping to make Toys for Tots a success each year. She says none of it would be possible without her pastor.

“Our pastor loves children, and he always wanted to be involved with Toys for Tots,” she said. “So when the opportunity presented itself, he was excited that we, as a church family, would be making a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children.”

The Word Church of Vicksburg is collecting toys for children ages 2 through 18. On Dec. 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., church members will be gathering at 2150 Iowa Blvd. to pack a truck full of toys. Then, on Dec. 14, the church will host a family friendly event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 255 Fisher Ferry Road. Guests will be able to meet with Santa, drink hot cocoa, enjoy a train ride and decorate Christmas cards for deployed Marines.

For information, and to learn how to contribute to Toys for Tots, call Takita Selvy at 601-885-3599 or Jacqueline Brown at 601-589-0793.

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Felix leads Vicksburg Steel Strong to make a difference in the community

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Vicksburg Steel Strong President Antonio Felix holds up a popular Steelers memento, the terrible towel. Sales of the towel benefit various charitable organizations.

Vicksburg Steel Strong is an organization made up of Pittsburg Steelers fans who came together to enjoy football and to make a difference in the community.

The organization has been in existence since Nov. 4, 2018, and Antonio Felix is its president. Felix has always had love for the Steelers.

“We voted Tony as President because he is a strong and very dependable man,” said member Pat Terrell.

Felix, born in Los Angeles, moved to Vicksburg at a young age with his mother, and he graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1992.

A short time after graduation, Felix went to prison for four years on a aggravated assault charge. While incarcerated, he made the most of his time. He learned carpentry and earned a barber’s license in 1995.

After his release, Felix never looked back. Today, he lives in Vicksburg with his wife of 24 years, Marcie, and their three kids: Marcus, Antonio Jr., and Dejah. He’s also been a barber for 24 years and works at Fred’s Barbershop.

Vicksburg Steel Strong does community service work by hosting clothing drives, feeding the homeless, mentoring youth at the Warren County Detention Center and sponsoring a debutante ball, among many other things. The group also participates in every parade that Vicksburg hosts and supports Toys For Tots.

“I see this organization continuing to grow, and we have our minds right so I know we can do it,” said Adrienne Casselle.

Members of the Vicksburg Steelers Strong Club.

In the past year, Vicksburg Steel Strong has made a huge impact on the community, and they have no plans to stop.

“We are firm believers in Philippians 4:13 that says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,'” said Terrell.

The group is about 30 members strong, and each member has a big love for their community.

“We are small in numbers, but we are full of love,” Felix said.

The members all have different stories on why they joined the organization, but they are all glad that they did.

“I am a true fan to the Steelers—inherited by my parents which is why I joined,” said club secretary Kevia Hall.

As the group’s leader, Felix is an example that people can change if given a second chance and he is paving the way for young kids to follow the right path through his mentoring. The organization brought people together from all over the community with the love of a football team, but their love reaches out to others who are having a tough time. The group is not in any competition with anyone, they just want to be better than they were the year before.

For more information, visit the club’s Facebook page.

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