Fleming’s jersey added to Sports Center’s Wall of Champions

Published 12:14 am Saturday, May 22, 2010

NATCHEZ — Trinity running back R.J. Fleming already has his fair share of awards from his senior season last fall.

His latest one, however, won’t be on display at his house. Rather, it will be hanging on a wall for other sports fans from the area to admire.

Fleming’s No. 4 jersey is the latest addition to Sports Center’s Wall of Champions, which honors all state championships won in Natchez at the high school level. When the jersey was placed alongside former Trinity standout Stevan Ridley’s jersey, Fleming was at a loss for words.

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“To be alongside so many names and jerseys is an honor that’s beyond (my ability to) express,” Fleming said.

“The word I would use is crazy. First of all, I want to thank the man upstairs, as well as my teammates, coaches and especially my family. After all the hard work I went through, it’s nice to have it show to where people can come witness it.”

Fleming said he was surprised to find out his jersey had been chosen, even though he suspected something was up for some time.

“A while back, we were in the weight room one day, and everyone was talking about hanging up their jerseys. I couldn’t find mine, so I asked Coach (David) King about it. He said I would find out soon,” Fleming said.

And when he found out, Fleming said it was a great way to cap off the accomplishments of his senior year.

“After so many great memories, getting a state championship, being selected as an All-Star and getting a D-1 scholarship, this is definitely a cherry on top of the cake.”

Sports Center employee Chip Sturdivant said the Wall of Champions serves as an inspiration for many local athletes.

“Kids come in, point at the wall, and say, ‘Chip, one day my jersey will be up there.’ It gives them an incentive to work hard,” Sturdivant said.

And Sturdivant said this year’s honor couldn’t have gone to a better person.

“R.J. is one of the most well-mannered and humble athletes that you’d ever meet. It’s special that he had the chance to watch Stevan Ridley win, follow in his footsteps and put his jersey next to Stevan’s. I know that means a lot to him.”

Sports Center’s Clarence Bowlin is the person who originally came up with the idea of a Wall of Champions.

“Nothing really inspired it, we just thought it’d be nice to recognize the area’s state champions, and that’s all that are up there. There’s no runner-up or anything,” Bowlin said.

Bowlin also said which jersey is used is decided by the team, not SportsCenter.

“We needed a Trinity jersey, so we asked them to give us a jersey, and (Fleming’s) jersey was the one the school picked,” Bowlin said.

Being able to have such a memorable season wouldn’t have been possible without the support he got back home, Fleming said.

“My parents were behind me every step of the way, and motivated me every day,” Fleming said.

“In my household, God is first, and they preach that every day. I’m thankful to have a family like mine. Not every day was a great day, but they were always there to support me and push me through the rough days.”