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Local Alcorn fans’ reactions to hiring of Melvin Spears positive

NATCHEZ — Alcorn State football fans in Natchez say they are excited to begin a new era of Braves football.

Henry Houze, president of the Natchez Chapter of the Alcorn State University National Alumni Association, said he’s glad Spears was selected as the new coach.

“He’s a product of our university and has tremendous experience, being out of school for 28 years,” Houze said.

“He was a SWAC title and black college national championship (when he coached at Grambling State). He’s a proven winner.”

Spears comes to Alcorn after serving as offensive coordinator at Alabama State for the past two seasons. Houze said Spears’ years of experience in the SWAC will play to his advantage at Alcorn, especially in recruiting athletes to play for the Braves.

“It’s important to have someone who has been there before,” Houze said. “He’s won in the SWAC and knows the SWAC. Winning at Grambling and Alabama State, he knows the landscape.

“If we had hired someone who didn’t know the landscape, he would have had to learn it first.”

Local Alcorn fan Angela Hutchins said Spears’ experience as a former player will also give him an advantage in already knowing how things are done at Alcorn.

“He should know a little about how the school operates,” Hutchins said. “Maybe he can bring a change to the football program, knowing how things were going at the time (he played), and maybe make a change from how it is today.”

Francis Bailey, another local fan, said she’s not too familiar with Spears, but she’s glad the school hired a former Alcorn player to be the next coach.

“Any time you can get an Alcornite back to their stomping grounds, it’s a good thing,” Bailey said.

Natchez High School football coach Lance Reed has had Alcorn recruit and sign athletes of his in the past. He said the most important part of the job for a college coach is to make sure the athletes are taken care of on and off the field.

“I think the most important thing is whether the coach is looking for the overall well-being of the player, as a student, as well as a young man,” Reed said.

“The college years are crucial years for them to develop into young men, and it’s important to have a program that prepares them for life as well as on the football field.”

J.R. McPhate, a Jefferson County resident that has followed the Braves since Steve McNair’s days, said continuity is the biggest key for Alcorn going forward.

“(Spears) didn’t do too badly when he was the head man at Grambling,” McPhate said. “It won’t matter who Alcorn hires unless they keep a coach for more than three years at a time.”

For Hutchins, a winning record next season would be big.

“It’s been a couple of years,” she said. “I would love to see them in the SWAC tournament. They have Air Canada (quarterback Brandon Bridge), and he’s great. I think he can be even better under Coach Spears.

“I’m there for every game, so I wish them a good season.”