On September 6, 2012 the Bowie State Bulldogs will face the Benedict Tigers in a regular season football game. The twist however is that this regular season conference game between two Historically Black institutions will be televised, nationally, on CBS sports. A right usually reserved for big time college football programs (see Navy, Alabama and Notre Dame) or conference championship games has been reserved for two of the smaller Division II football programs in the land. A great accomplishment for African American’s across the U.S. but an even greater accomplishment for a small Maryland town where crime, poverty and corruption persists and destroys the dreams of many of its black men.
In order to fully understand the implications this game has for the town of Bladensburg in Prince Georges County Maryland we must start in the year 2007. Late August on a hot Saturday morning 20 seniors on a football team that were 2 years removed from a win less 2005 season now had hopes of making history, becoming the first football team from Bladensburg High School to qualify for the Maryland state football playoffs, to go to state, since 1991. One of the unquestioned leaders on that team was Beks Amadi, who had just come off an all state season as a junior. Beks was primed for a breakout season and ready to become a football star. Everyone on the team had not had the pleasure of being all state selections the year before, some were going into their first Varsity football season, a freshman, who would come to be known as “Big Baby”, Joshua Wade headlined that group. Young, brash and misunderstood (as many of the young men from Bladensburg are) Joshua Wade had trouble fitting into his role on the varsity football team (one he would eventually become quite comfortable in). Despite huge expectations the Bladensburg High School Football team of 07 went 5-5 (two games won by forfeit). The end of the season culminating in a 32-28 loss to a Suitland program which would be known for winning two championships in 5 years under coach Nick Lynch. A game well fought but also the realization of potential never fulfilled for a group of 20 young men who had just played their last game in the Maroon and White of Bladensburg High School. The most important part of that cold November day however was the fact that it marked the beginning of a new Era. Beks Amadi would go on to play in the county all star game (one of three players selected from Bladensburg for the first time in years) and with his subsequent graduation it was now “Big Baby’s” time.
From 2008-2010 there were two things that you would undoubtedly hear at a Bladensburg High School Football Game. The first AWWWWWWWWWWWW MUSTANGS… the rallying call for a community searching to find its place in the world. The second was a saying you would hear often… “Yea Big Baby”. You see for 2 seasons at Bladensburg High School Joshua Wade embodied the community he grew up in. Young and ready to take on the world, if only he could figure out how. Big Baby went on to lead the county in Sacks as both a sophomore and a junior and receive first team all county honors before transferring to McKinley Tech in the district his senior season. He would receive over 10 scholarship offers to play football for many top flight programs in America including Illinois, Louisville and West Virginia, An achievement not seen at Bladensburg in decades. Despite this success, For whatever reason, when it was time for signing day in the spring of 2011, these offers disappeared and left Joshua Wade searching for where he would attend school. At which point Benedict College stepped in and quite literally saved Wade’s life. You see Bladensburg has a hold on men, and if you don’t leave when you have the opportunity to, you may never. Luckily Joshua went to Benedict and starred in the team’s spring football game as a freshman. I remember the questions of “who dat boy” from the fans in the stands in their South Carolina Accent said in a way that we could barely decipher but was perfect to them… There would be no question of who Joshua Wade was after the game… Big Baby had arrived.
Bowie State had a defensive end last year by the Name of Delano Johnson who signed as a free agent to play for the Houston Texans of the National Football League. At 6’4 270 he has the make up to physically dominate the game and he will probably go down as one of the best players in school history. All that said, he finished second on the team in tackles… to Bladensburg’s own Bek’s Amadi. Standing at maybe 5’10 and pushing 215 pounds Amadi is the shining example of the fact that sometimes it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but rather, the fight in the dog. And believe me, fight is what Beks did in order to reach the summit he currently finds himself on. In the same time period that Wade starred on the High School level Bek’s had graduated from Bladensburg… played his freshman season at Division 3 Salisbury State university, transferred back home due to personal reasons, sat out a year and proceeded to star for Bowie state as a Junior. You see a lot of kids don’t have the courage in themselves and their ability to pursue their dreams at all cost… Beks did however, and I would like to think a small part of that can be attributed to the lessons he, myself and many others learned through the trials and tribulations endured at 4200 57th Avenue Bladensburg Maryland, “Work aint hard, Boss man aint mean” coach E used to say. The saying epitomized the workman attitude present all over the town, in 13-18 year olds that played football at Bladensburg, an attitude that would always breed future success. I have never heard it put better than this…”When you endure so much for so long with so little, you truly believe that you are qualified to doing anything with nothing.”… And you know what, Dammit we are!
Before I depart the pages of your Computer screen, Magazine, Newspaper, etc I would like to close with this. Earlier I stated that Bladensburg has a way of holding onto a man, I in no way intend for you to take that as good or bad, but rather just the way things are. You see if not for the people who did stay around to coach or support these two young men, they may not be where they are now. I feel as though my town is capable of anything and this game is proof.
To be honest, When you first walk through the doors (or trailers) of Bladensburg High, In the words of Adele, the people you meet “truly are the wonders of your world.” The people.. the situations, are truly unforgettable. This is evidenced by the longstanding friendships and everlasting camaraderie we all share, something quite frankly you just have to be apart of to understand. So, on September 6th 2012 when Bowie State takes on Benedict College, There will be Bulldogs fans and There will be Tiger fans, and that is how things should be. As I said before, this is huge for HBCU football, but the one thing that will connect both sides, maybe the most important thing to anybody who has ever driven down 57th Avenue is… Bladensburg. And that, to us, is and will always be true… AWWWWWWWWW MUSTANGS!!!!!!!!!
This is dedicated to mustangs past, present and future… mustangs we lost to soon… in the memory and respect of Alphonso Thompson Jr.
Bladensburg High School C/O 2009
Pictures Courtesy of Gazette.Net, Bowie State University, Benedict College, Bladensburg High School and Antoine Wade