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B.J. DRYE COLUMN: Champions of Stanly County was a big challenge, fun read

Our Champions of Stanly County series has been a fun look at some of the biggest star athletes and most exciting teams in the county’s history.

Naturally, we couldn’t include every person who has won a state title, ventured into the major leagues or played a pivotal role in the world of sports. Like the 1940 American Legion has been featured many times, including in a special last year. Legendary Pfeiffer baseball coach Joe

B.J. Drye is editor of The Stanly News & Press.

Ferebee was highlighted in a story celebrating his 100th birthday. And the life of Bear Knotts was chronicled as well upon his death at the start of our series.

However, there is one more person I must share a little info about since he did not make it into the special edition, which concludes today beginning on 1B.

Rod Broadway has a history of overcoming adversity on the football field.

Broadway, now 63, was on the verge of making it into the NFL.

He had a tryout with the Miami Dolphins a few years after their history-making undefeated season, but he didn’t make the team.

After failing to make the team, he says he immediately went into coaching.

But his football journey began long before that.

He played all four years at West Stanly High School, playing on the defensive line, offensive line and at fullback.

While he was a member of the track and basketball teams, where success at the state was not uncommon, it was the football field where he takes pride. It was back when a 6-4 season was “considered a pretty good year.”

“I remember having a lot of good people there, a lot of good friends,” Broadway said.

He received a scholarship to go to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he played defensive line for four years. He majored in recreation.

His first coaching job came as an assistant at East Carolina University. He then had stints as an assistant at Duke University, the University of Florida and UNC. His first head coaching role came at North Carolina Central University, then Grambling State University and North Carolina A&T State University, where he retired.

“We won championships everywhere,” he said.

But he says his proudest moments came at A&T.

They went nine years without a winning season and had lost 27 in a row before Broadway showed up.

“It was the toughest job I ever had and the most rewarding job I ever had,” he said.

He says the program was on probation when he got there and they had lost spring practice for a few years.

“You always win with players. We started recruiting,” he said.

Broadway’s Aggies were 59-22 during his seven seasons. That .728 winning percentage is the best in school history, according to Brian M. Holloway, associate athletics director/communications at N.C. A&T.

The school won three Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships, two HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) national titles, two Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowls and made one playoff appearance. He led the Aggies to a 12-0 record in 2017, Holloway reports, with A&T becoming the first HBCU Division I school to finish undefeated and untied. The team finished ranked seventh nationally that year.

“It went from being the laughing stock in black college football to being the premiere program in black college football in seven years,” Broadway said.

The coach said he always tried to inspire his players.

He would tell them to “just make good decisions. Create good work habits. Just be good people. Be responsible. Come to practice. Go to school. Keep a good attitude and work hard.”

“If you keep a good attitude and work hard, you’ve got a chance.”

Broadway says there have been many people who helped him through the years, but one who immediately came to mind was John Davis, a former coach at West.

“He was a big influence on me,” Broadway said. “We talk at least once a week. He’s just a good person that gave good sound advice. We went from being high school coach/player to being friends to being family over the last 50 years.”

For those “champions” missed or were not able to include, I’m sure there will be another place or time to share their story again. We would welcome your feedback on the special endeavor and any player or team you feel should be recognized later. Email me at bj.drye@stanlynewspress.com to share your thoughts.

B.J. Drye is editor of The Stanly News & Press. Contact him at 704-982-2123, bj.drye@stanlynewspress.com or follow bjdrye1 on Twitter.