Post-level athletics part of long sports legacy
January 22, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Fort Bragg has always been a haven for producing some of the Army's top athletes. Throughout history and on any given All-Army sports team, there has always been an athlete or two who represented the Home of the Airborne.
Recently, since the start of the Global War on Terror, many Army posts, to include Fort Bragg, have disbanded their post-level sports team to focus on providing healthy manpower to current combat operations. I understand, sir. But what about those Soldiers who redeploy' Why can't they continue to represent the communities that they so love by expending athletic energy with the goal of bringing home the big trophies'
Post teams have always been a part of Army life. In fact, it was also a selling tool to numerous Army recruiters who worked hard to enlist would-be or wannabe athletes into the Army.
As a recruiter, I was often asked about the type of sport programs the Army featured. I'd often tell them about the intramural programs, but their interest really peaked when I mentioned the fact that they stood the possibility of proving that they were among the best by playing for the post team. Many of them were ready to join.
Let me mention this, there was one notable prospect, who told me flat out that he was not joining. See, back in Carrollton, Ga., in 1999, there was this guy named Reggie Brown, who was one of the top high school football players in the nation. He was rated as the No. 1 wide receiver in the country and was expected to sign with the University of Georgia. Fast forward a little more than 10 years and that same kid is now one of the top receivers on the Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, that's the same one, Number 86 on your Philadelphia rosters.
Ok, back to my point, post-level athletics have always been a part of Army culture. They've also served as a springboard for some of America's more promising athletes.
Back in the 80s, Fort Bragg produced a team of boxers who went on to establish themselves in the professional ranks. Most notable was Sgt. Ray Mercer, who battled his way up the professional ranks to defeat Tommy Morrison for the World Boxing Organization Heavyweight Title in 1991. Mercer later lost to Lennox Lewis, Larry Holmes, Jesse Ferguson and Evander Holyfield. Biggs won an Olympic gold medal in 1988 and is now a mixed martial artist, who, after losing to well-known Kimbo Slice, defeated Tim Sylvia by knockout in June 2009.
There was also Anthony Hembrick, who was the Olympic team captain the same year that Mercer took gold. A communications mix-up sidelined Hembrick's Olympic dreams, despite the fact that he was the most promising fighter on the team. Hembrick would later turn pro.
There's also Sgt. Dremiel Byers, who turned down a football scholarship to North Carolina A & T State University for a two-year enlistment into the Army. Byers is now an accomplished Greco-Roman wrestling champion, who has recently gained a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.
The Army has had a history of producing top-notch and professional athletes.
There was former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, who was drafted into the Army and rose to the rank of sergeant. Baseball hall of famer Joe DiMaggio once served in the Army. Other baseball greats include Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Greenberg. Former Pittsburgh Steelers great Rocky Bleier also served in Vietnam in 1968. Add one more.
As I was conducting research for this story, I even found out that former New York Knick guard, Tim James is now an enlisted Soldier, serving in Iraq. James is a specialist working with the Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralize Task Force in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sports have always had a place in the Army and I think providing post-level sports to the redeployed Soldiers will give them something to do other than traveling within Fayetteville and getting in trouble. Sure, there are intramural sports, but I remember as a Soldier and also a sport editor at Fort Knox or the Military District of Washington, looking forward to watching the post team take the court against some visiting team. It was like you were having company come over and all the kids had to be on their best behavior. It was the epitome of friendly competition.
Most of today's Soldiers have never experienced that, as it appears post teams were banished nearly 10 years ago. Bringing back post-level athletic may not solve the major problems that we face today, but it will provide an alternative and a relaxing getaway for our Soldiers, all in the spirit of competition. What do you think' Send your response to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time, I'm out.