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Former VHS football player dreams of owning a training facility after earning a master’s degree

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Darius Youngblood and his mom, Anita Bell, at his graduation. (Photo courtesy Darius Youngblood)

Former Vicksburg High School running back Darius Youngblood has successfully finished his master’s degree and now dreams of opening his own fitness training facility.

Youngblood played football at the Vicksburg YMCA starting in the third grade until the seventh grade when he entered Vicksburg Junior High School and began playing for the Gators. In junior high, he was known for his strength and being able to get away from defenders who were much bigger than him.

Youngblood was also a part of the 15-2 Little Six Conference Championship basketball team in the 2007-2008 school year.

In 2008, Youngblood was a starter on the ninth grade football team at Vicksburg High School, but he chose to sit out his sophomore year and play basketball instead.

In 2010, he rejoined the football team playing backup to Kawayne Gaston under head coach Alonzo Stevens. That season, Youngblood earned plenty of playing time, and started in a couple of games to help lead the Gators.

He got his chance to be the starting running back in his 2011 senior season, and he became the team’s lead rusher. He finished the season with 1,067 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.

“I had a pretty productive year during my senior season, but I always think I could’ve done better,” Youngblood said.

He went on to play for Hinds Community College in 2012 where he was redshirted in his freshman year. Youngblood got cut from Hinds in the next season, and he transferred to Mississippi College where he played football for the next three years.

”I enjoyed playing college football, but I am done with it,” Youngblood said jokingly.

He received his bachelor’s degree in sports management in December 2016 from Mississippi College. He took a year after gaining his degree to work as a fitness trainer at Baptist Healthplex in Clinton, Mississippi.

”My goal as a trainer is to get people their goals,” Youngblood said. “I work with a mixture of clients. Sometimes I have 90-year-olds and sometimes I have 17-year-old clients.”

While working as a trainer, Youngblood went back to Mississippi College and earned his master’s degree in athletic administration in December 2019.

Now that he has achieved his educational goals, Youngblood plans to continue as a trainer and one day open up his own facility where he can help others continue to reach their goals.

“Put much effort in the classroom and take your talents as far as the will go,” Youngblood advises young athletes.

He credits God and his family who kept him motivated for his success in life.

People

Those who keep us safe: Carl Carson

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(photo courtesy Carl Carson)

Back in 1990, a close friend talked Carl Carson into joining the Vicksburg Fire Department. Thirty years later, Carson is still at the department and loving every minute of it.

“I had no idea I would be here this long, but once I got into the service, the love of people kept me here,” he said.

Carson is a people person, and he believes he was put on this Earth to help people.

“Being able to be there for people in their most vulnerable time really has been the drive in my career,” he said.

The Utica, Mississippi, native comes from a large family who taught him to be there for one another during hard times. He believes his upbringing played a part in him enjoying his career.

“I’m not a hero,” he said. “It’s just a part of the job and how I was raised. I grew up helping people.”

Carson is the battalion commander for the Vicksburg Fire Department. In his three-decade career, he has felt the most success when he was serving his community, and he does not need a spotlight to do so.

“I don’t need the front row,” he said. “I’m more of the silent helper. I do my job to the best of my ability. I’m honest and treat everyone equally and fair.”

Carson has been married to his college sweetheart since 1986 and the couple have two adult sons, three granddaughters and one grandson.

His family understands and accepts the career path he has chosen, but it hasn’t always been easy on family life.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot of Christmases, holidays, birthdays, and ballgames to do what I do,” Carson said. “Even though I miss out on something, my heart is always right there with them. My family has always known I love them and love what I do.”

(photo courtesy Carl Carson)

Carson’s love for public service evidently rubbed off onto his family because one of his sons is a police officer with the Vicksburg Police Department.

The fire department never closes. The men and women at the Vicksburg Fire Department stand ready to serve the community at a moment’s notice without regard to holidays.

“My mom has a picture of my entire family — all of my siblings, their spouses, my children, my nieces, nephews, cousins — and I am the only person not in this particular photo because I had to work on Christmas Day,” Carson said. “I often tell that story and feel that moment of not being there, but I knew, and family knew, I would have to sacrifice moments like that.”

Carson laughed and said he has often thought about photoshopping himself into the picture.

Even though firefighters may miss out on holidays with their biological family, Carson said the firefighters make a family as well.

“The men and women I work with are my family away from family,” he said. “We watch each other’s kids grow up, and our families know each other.”

It is a bond like no other. Fighting fires is a life-saving act that cannot be done alone.

“We are one big family,” Carson said. “We are a team. I would put my life on the line for them, and I know they would do the same for me. It doesn’t matter their race, gender, age or rank. We are all out there trying to do a job and do it safely.”

Vicksburg being a small town, Carson said firefighters often run into family members and friends who need fire and emergency medical service.

“Anytime you deal with your own family members or anyone you know is hard and it really touches you,” he said.

Carson said he goes above and beyond for everyone, but when he knows the person, he feels extra pressure to be his very best.

Three decades have passed and Carson is still with the Vicksburg Fire Department and has not announced any particular date to break out the golf clubs and retire, but he has some thoughts of what he will do when that day arrives.

“When that comes, I can’t wait to spend time with my wife, kids and grandkids,” he said. “They are my inspiration.”

Although retirement is on the horizon, the people of Vicksburg still need Carson. His passion for the community is unwavering, and his love for people runs deep.

“People, people, people, people — that’s just what it’s about,” Carson said. “Even though my job deals with people when they’re in distress, I try to bring so much love and joy to them and put a smile on their face during a devastating time. It really goes a long way.

“This is so much more than a job. It goes beyond the job.”

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People

Josh Morgan wins the VDN Head Coach of the Year award

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VDN Head Coach of the Year Josh Morgan (photo by Ced Tillman)

Warren Central High School football coach Josh Morgan is the Vicksburg Daily News Head Coach of the Year.

Morgan played football at Warren Central in the late 1990s under his father Robert Morgan. He eventually committed to play football at Mississippi State University where he was a star safety and named to the All SEC team in 2001.

Morgan began coaching at the University of Memphis in 2004 as a graduate assistant before returning to Warren Central in 2006 to be the Vikings’ defensive coordinator.

In 2010, Morgan was named as the Vikings’ head coach after the retirement of Curtis Brewer.

Morgan struggled in his first two years as head coach. The team went 2-9 in 2010 and 1-10 in 2011. He broke through in 2012, when the Vikings their first playoff appearance under his leadership.

Morgan and the Vikings have made it to the playoffs each year since 2012, and this year marked his ninth consecutive season making it to the postseason.

The Vikings had a 9-3 record this season, and made it to the second round of the playoffs. They finished with the best record out of the four high schools in Vicksburg.

Morgan is the second coach to win the VDN Coach of the Year award after Vicksburg Junior High Coach Larry Carter Jr. won it last year.

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Business

Shandell Lewis opens an online home accessory store

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Shandell Lewis (photo courtesy S. Lewis)

Vicksburg native Shandell Lewis has started an online company where she sells various home and kitchen accessories, including luxury candles, room sprays and wax melts.

Lewis started organizing A Touch of Magnolia six months ago ad is excited about selling products that have helped her along the way. In college, she was diagnosed with severe anxiety but the aroma of certain scented candles helped bring her peace during difficult times. Now, Lewis sees A Touch of Magnolia becoming a great success as she spreads her love of aromatherapy to others.

“I want to go as far as God wants me to, and I want to put Mississippi on the map,” Lewis said.

A Touch of Magnolias is in the beginning stages of the business, and the store will have a soft opening online Nov 30.

Lewis is a 2011 graduate of Warren Central High School and graduated from Tougaloo College in 2016 with a degree in psychology. She received her master’s in school counseling from the University of Mississippi in 2018 and currently works as a high school counselor.

Lewis is grateful to her family for her success over the years.

“I come from a family of carpenters, business and home owners,” she said, “and we are all used to using our hands.”

To find out more about A Touch of Magnolia, visit the store on Facebook, Instragram or on its website.

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