From Long Snapper to Holder

Kilgallen, Ryan

By Cadet Ryan Kilgallen

Austin Wiles, who wears No. 53 on the football team, has played in 138 snaps in his collegiate career.  Among those snaps, Wiles has yet to have a bad one as he is a perfect 138 for 138.

The 5’10, 210-pound senior from Rock Hill spent the off-season working on his snapping and preparing for a third year as the starting long snapper.

With two weeks left in the Bulldogs’ summer camp, Wiles was called into Coach Kevin Higgins’ office to discuss the possibility of a new position.  The next day at practice, Wiles was holding snaps with the first team specialists. Many wondered why the coach would switch Wiles’ position if he is a top of the line long snapper.

Austin Wiles-WCU-2013-1

In my opinion – and possibly Coach Higgins’ — Wiles is more of a threat with the ball in his hands as he has the ability to make things happen when he touches the ball.

“I am just going to play where I am needed and do what is best for the team,” said Wiles.

After the first two games of the season, Wiles has six successful holds.

I wouldn’t be surprised if his perfect string continues.

Ryan Kilgallen is a member of the baseball team.

Tuesdays with Tony: Col Lackey Talks About Bulldog Baseball Back in the Day

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EDITOR’S NOTE:  Col. Tony Lackey ’61 has been around Citadel Athletics since the mid-1950s and provides a weekly blog on some of the sports highlights that he recalls.

By Col. Tony Lackey ‘61

As told to Andy Solomon

I have always been a baseball fan, and a fan of Citadel Baseball.  And while Coach Fred Jordan has done a terrific job taking over for his mentor Chal Port, I am reminded of previous coaches — Mack Erwin (1957-60) and Jim Newsome (1961-64).

Both were assistant football coaches, as was Coach Port until 1967.  But Citadel Baseball was very unique, as were many of our players.

The program’s first Southern Conference title came in 1960 (we shared it with Richmond) as we had an 18-6 overall record and 8-2 in the league. Hall of Famers Ed Colby and Dick Almes were our top pitchers, and since we didn’t play many games back then, it seemed that either Colby or Almes was pitching every day.

Baseball Hat

And, man, that ’60 team could hit.  I think we had a team batting average of .328 or .338, something like that.  Bubba Mura hit over .470 that year.

Billy Whaley, who was the football team’s quarterback, was a third baseman and Joel Heiser played second.  Casey Luzak was our first baseman and our catchers were Joe Cabrina and Royce Toni.  Bucky Sharpe and Marshall McRae were our top outfielders, and Jerry Buchanan was also in the infield.

It was a great team with a lot of unique guys.  They were great players and great guys.

The ’61 team, which was Newsome’s first, was pretty good and they finished with an 11-8 record (5-6 in the SoCon).

One game, in particular, that I recall came in the season’s opener in ’61 when Clemson came to Charleston (March 24).  We played some of our games on WLI Field, and I recall that we hosted the Tigers when they featured All-American Ty Cline, a Charleston native.

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What was as memorable as that 6-4 victory was that the Corps of Cadets all came out for the game and literally draped all over Indian Hill to watch it.

I seem to have more memories of our playing at spacious College Park, especially the South Carolina game that we won, 8-5.  Rupert Pate, an infielder who really wasn’t a big guy at all, came in as a late-inning pinch-hitter and he belted a grand slam.

When I returned to The Citadel as a TAC Office in the early 1970s, Chal Port had begun his lengthy tenure and our successes continued.

I recall when South Carolina came to College Park in the early ‘70s.  We had talented players like Billy Wieters, Gene Dotson, Rod Lanning, Serve Arrington and Dickie Jones, and the Gamecocks were coached by former New York Yankees second baseman and Sumter, South Carolina-native Bobby Richardson.

The entire Corps came out to College Park for the game, and we sat the band right behind home plate.  I remember sitting next to the Commandant of Cadets, Col. Walter Clark ’51, and his wife.  We had a tremendous atmosphere for those games.

Ellis Johnson Traces Long Coaching Career Back to The Citadel

By Brian Gargone
Asst. Director of Media Relations

Coaching Tree

Part of the ongoing blog series – A Tree Grows in Charleston: The Bloodline of Citadel Football

Following a successful four years as a defensive end and cadet-student-athlete at The Citadel, 1974 graduate Ellis Johnson spent the next 39 seasons on the same side of the ball where he began his playing career, becoming known as one of the most respected defensive minds in college football.

Johnson spent 16 of those years coaching defense in the Southeastern Conference, coached in four SEC Championship games, earned one national title and guided a number of athletes to successful playing careers in the National Football League.

But perhaps the defensive mastermind of Johnson would have never been sparked if it was not for the influence of his first coaching gig at The Citadel in 1975.

Ellis Johnson Citadel

After graduation, Johnson kicked around the idea of leaving football to pursue a career in business, but his interest in coaching grew when Bobby Ross asked the youngster to join him on his staff as a student assistant at The Citadel; a staff that included current household names such as Frank Beamer, Ralph Friedgen and Charlie Rizzo.

“Coach Ross was so meticulous and organized as a head coach and the rest of the staff was so unbelievable that it turned my lights on and got my fire going to get into coaching as a career,” said Johnson.

After one season under Ross, Johnson received an offer for his first coaching job as defensive coordinator at Gaffney High School. He would spend the next five seasons in the Upstate, including his first head coaching stint at Spartanburg High School from 1980-81.

During his two years as head coach, Johnson earned a 16-8 record and led the Vikings to a pair of playoff appearances. His early career successes lifted the young coach back to his alma mater in 1982 when he was named the linebackers coach of the Bulldogs.

After one season with The Citadel, Johnson accepted his first collegiate head coaching gig at Gardner-Webb where he led the Runnin’ Bulldogs to a 5-6 season. However, he decided to resign after one year to take a job as defensive coordinator at Appalachian State.

He spent the next six seasons climbing the collegiate football ranks, moving from linebackers coach at East Carolina (1985-87) to defensive coordinator at Southern Miss (1988-89), before landing his first SEC gig as the outside linebackers coach at perennial power Alabama.

Ellis Johnson Sideline

Johnson’s prolific mindset made an immediate impact on Crimson Tide coach Gene Stallings as the team earned a 41-9 record, including an undefeated national championship year in 1992. Alabama’s defense ranked No. 1 that season against the run and in total defense. The Tide “rolled” off a 31-game winning streak and a 34-game unbeaten streak from 1991-93. The 1991 squad went 11-1 and all four of those teams played in bowl games.

His successes as a position coach in the SEC launched Johnson to his first FBS defensive coordinator position with Clemson where he helped coach the Tigers to two bowl games in his two seasons under Tommy West.

As his reputation began to build, so did Johnson’s resume, and in 1997 he was hired as Alabama’s defensive coordinator under head coach Mike DuBose. During his four-year reunion in Tuscaloosa, Johnson helped the Tide go 10-3 in 1999 with an SEC title and a spot in the Orange Bowl. His 1999 defense was No. 2 in the nation against the rush and No. 9 in total defense.

Ellis Johnson Citadel 2

Then, the former Cadet, football player and assistant defensive coach returned to the place where it all began. Through the black gates of The Citadel.

On December 21, 2000, Johnson was named the head coach at The Citadel and was thrilled to be able to return to his roots.

“Charleston is a wonderful place to live. I didn’t see a lot of it as a Cadet, but I saw enough to know that I wanted to come back,” said Johnson. “From the time I graduated from there I realized what that Citadel education and the experience really meant.”

Johnson credits a lot of his success on the field to his experience while attending and coaching at The Military College of South Carolina.

“I came from a very good family, two-parent home, two older brothers who went to West Point and played football and were great role models. I had another sister and a brother, who I don’t think made a B in high school, so we were a great family.

“I didn’t need The Citadel, at least I didn’t think I did, but in spite of all those things, I am what I am today because of The Citadel. A lot of my work habits, a lot of my network, a lot of my things that I do from the habits of my personality, my work habits and my organization. Things that I do, there’s a lot of structure that I got from that college education. Not just book sense but the overall educational value of it.”

Johnson was hired to rebuild a struggling Bulldog team that finished the 1999 season with a 2-9 record. He matched the team’s win total in his first season but improved in each of the next three years, culminating his Citadel coaching career with a 6-6 season in 2003.

“As a head coach at The Citadel my fondest memory was in the 2003 season when we beat Furman, Georgia Southern and Appalachian State, back-to-back-to-back. It was a sign that we had turned the corner and had things going in the right direction,” said Johnson. “That overall, instead of just one single moment, was the most memorable to me.”

Johnson resigned from The Citadel after the 2003 season to take a job as defensive coordinator under his former Crimson Tide colleague Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State. He coached the Bulldog safeties in 2004 and 2005 and the inside linebackers in 2006 and 2007. In Johnson’s final game, the MSU defense yielded just 231 yards of total offense to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, holding the nation’s leading rusher, Kevin Smith, to nearly 70 yards below his season average.

Ellis Johnson USC

Johnson spent the 2008-11 seasons at South Carolina where he built and guided a perennial top 15 defense before leaving the Gamecocks to become the head coach at Southern Miss.

After a winless 2012 season, Johnson was fired from his head position with the Golden Eagles but was not unemployed long as the defensive mastermind accepted a position this season back in the state of Alabama, but this time Johnson will guide Crimson Tide rival Auburn’s defensive unit.  On Nov. 30, 2013, Johnson will coach his first “Iron Bowl” against Alabama.

AUBURN FOOTBALL

To this day, the 61-year-old Winnsboro, S.C., native understands how important his time at The Citadel was to his illustrious career on the sidelines.

“In playing, the biggest challenge I faced is that I wasn’t very talented. The challenge of playing there is that you have a tremendous demand on your time. I can remember when we reported in as freshmen in two-a-days and between two-a-day practices we would have to go out and do military marching drills which in and of itself was not very hard, but in between two two-a-day practices, you were on your feet another hour and a half or two.

“Then, there was the academic side. The largest class I ever sat in was 23 people. I had classes as small as eight and nine guys so you got a very good education. The course curriculum was solid and the instruction was superior. To me, it was just a wonderful education, but it was very demanding. There was no rest area. The academics were tough. The military was tough and the football was tough. There were never any soft spots where you could get away. It was a demanding four or five years.”

There is no doubt The Citadel can be a challenging place to balance academics, athletics and Corps responsibilities, but Ellis Johnson proves that the hard work and determination gained while earning that coveted Citadel class ring is all worth it in the end.

Fall Baseball Begins

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By Cadet Brett Tompkins

Citadel baseball’s fall practice has begun as we started this week with beautiful weather.   There is a different feeling in the air this fall as we’re coming off a heartbreaking end to a great year, losing to rival Elon in the Southern Conference Tournament championship game.  We are determined to not let that happen again.

This is my third year playing and I can tell you that this team has high expectations and we do not plan on letting anyone stop us.

Fall practice mostly consists of a lot of repetitions in every aspect of the game.  We go over all of our signs, our bunt defenses, our base running, and everything else imaginable.  A lot of teams out there could just go through the motions and get it over with but this team is determined.

We hated the feeling of being so close and getting it ripped away from us that we are going to do whatever it takes this year.  This team is “all in.” Through our first week of practice, I can already tell there is a different vibe in the air, and there’s more of a business-like mentality. Our reputation on the field, I believe, is a bunch of dirty dogs that just come to take names and get victories, and this year we will do everything with that mentality.

One of my teammates stated last year during an interview: “I have a problem with everyone in the SoCon.”  I believe that he hit the nail right on the head, as we do not show up to the field looking to make friends but come to win.  And that is it.

Our upperclassmen this year are guys that know how to win, and the younger guys will get a great taste of that during our fall scrimmages. We have a huge amount of returning players that have been busting it over the summer and have come back with the hunger that is needed to win.

Citadel baseball has always had a championship tradition and we pride ourselves in that.  Anyone on this campus can tell you how hard this team works and how badly we want it.  We have a great strength and conditioning staff that is getting us more than ready to be in the best game shape of our lives.

If you already have us on your radar for this year, we appreciate that.  If you don’t, even better; because we love being the underdog.

Brett Tompkins is a sophomore majoring in sports management.

Brett Tompkins is a sophomore majoring in sports management.

Cadet Tompkins is a pitcher on the baseball team.

Basketball Looks to Take Off

Bailey Rush is a sport management student in his junior year.

Bailey Rush is a sport management student in his junior year.

By Cadet Bailey Rush

The Citadel Bulldogs’ basketball team looks to have a great season with four out of their five starters returning from last year’s team.  Mike Groselle was a huge makeup of the team on offense and defense the past four years, and the coaches look for freshman Tom Koopman to help fill his role.  The freshman clearly has some big shoes to fill as Groselle was the center of the team and was a great leader on the court.

Confidence is very high for the players and coaches right now as they are coming off of a well-played trip to Canada for three exhibition games in which they came out on top in one of them.

It is said that there are high hopes for the new talent that is coming to the team this year.  There will be some key freshmen on the hardwood that will get playing time.  Ashton Moore stated that they all had good, key minutes in the exhibition games.

At this point, the starting lineup for this upcoming season could look like Marshal Harris at point guard, Ashton Moore at the shooting guard, Matt Van Sycoc and Dylen Setzekorn at the forward positions, and Koopman in the post.

Tom Koopman-Ian Shalapata-2-1

The team has high expectations to win more games in the league.  It could be a good year for the veterans as there are some big-time leaders on this team that can help the Bulldogs to a surprising season.

Cadet Bailey Rush is a member of the baseball team.

Wrestling Returns to Olympics

Wrestling Returns

By Andy Solomon

Over the weekend we learned that the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games would again feature wrestling, a sport that the governing body cancelled earlier this winter.

Many folks were greatly disappointed when wrestling was originally dropped.  I’m sure that our wrestling coach, Rob Hjerling, and his staff, along with his roster of cadet-student-athletes were disheartened as well.

I’ve always felt that it isn’t ever too late to correct a mistake.  And I believe that the Olympic governing body erred when they dropped wrestling from the international offering.

After all, wrestling was one of the original Olympic sports.

I also found it ironic that while many college programs were eliminating wrestling from their intercollegiate athletic offerings in the past 20 years, there has been a rise in rasslin’ viewership.

To be sure, there is quite a difference between wrestling and rasslin’.  Wrestling is a most competitive and serious sport, one that we’ve offered here at The Citadel for decades because it fits snugly with what we’re all about.

However, I’ve watched some rasslin’ and we’ve had it in McAlister Field House many times in the 1990s that featured the likes of Ric Flair and many others.  Those were rentals and we made money.

From my perspective, wrestling is a competitive sport while rasslin’ is sports entertainment.  They should never, ever be confused.

So I will continue to believe that the Olympic folks got it right when wrestling was reinstated.

But what got me was that baseball/softball was not.  Nor was squash.

Let me address squash first:  I like to eat it.  I love it steamed with onions, salted and buttered too much, and I adore it in a casserole.  Either goes well with fried chicken and a helping of rice and gravy.  But squash as a competitive sport?  No, thank you; it isn’t to my liking.

But that also leaves us baseball lovers way out in left field.

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The International Baseball Federation, once directed by Harvey Schiller ’60 – a member of our Athletic Hall of Fame – was instrumental in baseball being an Olympic sport in the past.  I haven’t yet discussed with Harvey why baseball/softball was not included in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics and will certainly look forward to that conversation.

But the truth is that as much as I love the game of baseball, if given the choice, I’d rather see wrestling reinstated in the Olympic offering.

Wrestling and boxing are a big part of the Olympics.  Always has been; always should be.

The Olympics are held during late summer, smack in middle of the MLB playoff run.  I don’t think that Bud Selig and the “Boys of Summer” want or need any more baseball competition for television viewership.  There is enough already.

It isn’t that baseball doesn’t belong in the Olympics; I just feel that wrestling belongs more.

But no one ever asked me.

For if they did, I’d have to discuss it over a plate of fried chicken, rice and gravy, and, of course, steamed squash.

Renaissance Man

By Mike Hoffman
Media Relations Director

Wofford Game Program Cover

Derek had his eye on Bevin Green during the early part of his junior year at Sachse High School in suburban Dallas. But despite his status as a budding football star he was positive the pretty brunette had no idea who he was.

That is until he donned the guise of a fairy tale prince.

You see, Derek Douglas was not your ordinary high school football player. He would earn numerous accolades for his play on the gridiron, but he was also a choir star and leading man on the stage.

It was in that latter role that he would finally have his opportunity to chase the girl of his dreams.

Derek had no plans of seeking the part of Prince Dauntless in Sachse’s production of the musical Once Upon a Mattress. Didn’t even think of trying out. He had played Little John in Robin Hood the previous year, but that role called for someone who could match the character’s large frame. And at 6 foot, 2 inches with thick, curly hair, he fit the bill.

But this was different. Derek had no idea why he was even asked to play the role of the wimpy prince. Then he discovered something that would change his mind. Bevin would be his leading lady.

Derek Douglas Singing

“I thought I may be able to spend time with her,” said Derek. “We wound up being together a lot during production time and in rehearsal. It was real confusing until one day I asked her what we were and said ‘why not be my girlfriend?’”

He may not have been the type of actor Hans Christian Andersen had in mind when he created the role of Prince Dauntless in The Princess and the Pea, the story on which Once Upon a Mattress was based. But for Derek it was the beginning of a real life fairy tale.

And it took some behind-the-scenes machinations by another important woman in his life a couple years earlier to get this story going.

“The summer leading up to my freshman year I was asked about 20 times if I wanted to be in the choir,” said Derek. “I had an older sister (Madison) who was already a performer. But I was going to public school for the first time and didn’t want to be ‘that guy.’ The one everyone looked to as the choir guy trying to be on the football team.”

Turns out he didn’t have much of a choice. Choir was on his class schedule when he showed up for his first day of high school. His mother, Jill, had gone behind his back and signed him up.

“I didn’t know why I was there. I had shown absolutely no prior musical skills,” said Derek. “On the first day of choir the teacher asked me what I sing, if I was a bass or baritone. I didn’t even know what that meant.”

DD BW

So whether he liked it or not, Derek was a member of the choir. He soon found his voice and discovered he actually enjoyed it. However, it didn’t stop the mostly good-natured teasing in the locker room.

“My teammates were kinda skeptical, and the coaches constantly gave me hell for it,” remembered Derek. “But by the time I was a junior and senior, I had recruited a couple of guys from the team who joined the choir.”

Before too long Derek wasn’t just exercising his vocal cords, he was becoming a star. He was recognized as Sachse’s outstanding choir student all four years while continually searching for new challenges.

He began studying pieces in Italian and was soon singing beautifully in that language, just one way in which Derek would begin channeling his competitive nature honed on the football field to the musical world.

“You don’t want to stay the same in anything. You always want to see how far you can go and how good you can be,” said Derek. “I started taking voice lessons and entering solo competitions, which is how I started singing different pieces of music.”

Even as his football career began to take off, Derek was now firmly committed to his pursuit of the arts. He eventually expanded his reach from music to theatre, earning parts in productions as varied as the period piece The Mill on the Floss to Shakespeare’s Macbeth in which he played Macduff.

Derek Douglas-CSU-2013-1

Then there was Once Upon a Mattress. His initial misgivings about joining the cast (and trimming his locks) would be trumped by his eventual romance with Bevin. The relationship was now official but was destined to meet a serious obstacle once graduation day arrived.

“We had been dating about a year when I came to Charleston for my recruiting visit,” recalled Derek. “I called her after I was convinced I’d be at The Citadel. I wanted it to work and so did she.”

Love easily proved stronger than distance, surviving his first four years at The Citadel. And on May 17, 2013, Bevin Green became Bevin Douglas in a Texas ceremony that was attended by several of Derek’s college teammates, with close friends Jim Knowles, Bay Amrhein and Chris Billingslea serving in the wedding party.

Although football and academics has forced his alter ego into the shadows during much of his college career, Derek still keeps his toes in the performing world as much as he can, even if it’s just an occasional night of karaoke or singing in the shower like the rest of us. He also recognizes the influence it has had on his life.

“My experiences have made me more open to whatever comes your way,” observed Derek. “If I focused on just one thing, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I’ve been around just about every type of person and accept them for who they are.”

The football star who once adamantly avoided the stage now relishes everything that world has given him, including his new bride. The concern about how his teammates would react has long since faded away.

“It is a part of who I am.”