So she moves the change, no score, and it's the first time of the year for Delta State, we're approaching 10 minutes to play in the first Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, colors green and white, official mascot, the statesman, unofficial mascot, the fighting okra looking hit as he throws complete across the middle touchdown delta that I like.
Our players stay together and I'm proud of the second half. I thought we played really well.
Division two football, more than 100 hundred players. Zane Samu. I played defensive end Matthew Barber. I play outside linebacker. Just a little learn our name is the much right in Oklahoma.
My receiver in his class after so long for these players, football isn't just about the game.
For a lot of them, it's also a way to help pay for their education to get a scholarship. And so these players need football and football needs them. We're on our football program is doing well, then our whole community is better.
But then in March, the pandemic hit. For me, I've been scared to go outside, so I've been stuck in my house, Delta State went to online classes, they sound like I'm being online and some to the players scattered in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
I live in Marietta, Georgia. Chicago, Illinois. I'm in Dallas.
And football spring practice, getting ready for the fall season was basically put on hold.
I'm making big plays, turning up with my teammates and the coaches when the sun's atmosphere. There's another for. This is in the dark coronavirus, the Delta. I'm Madeleine Baron. I spent the past few months, along with the rest of the In the Dark team reporting on coronavirus in the Mississippi Delta. Over the past several weeks, we've heard from doctors, nurses, pastors, politicians, prisoners and musicians. In this episode, the last episode of the special report, we bring you the story of a football team.
Our producer Natalie Yablonsky and reporter Curtis Gilbert have been following the Delta State statesmen and their coach as they try to make it through to the end of the semester as a team, despite the pandemic that has forced them apart. Episode six Delta State. April 15th, twenty six days left in the semester. Right, I'm going to go ahead and get started. The Delta State football team's weekly zoo meeting, family meeting tonight.
It's good to see you guys. The faces I can see. I miss you guys.
Basically, a virtual locker room pep talk. We always talk about what's important now, guys, led by head coach Todd Cooley.
Pay attention when I'm talking to you about there's only going to be about five to six minutes. Won't get off of you.
There are about 70 people on the call. Not everyone could make it. Players faces were bobbing in and out of the tiny frames. A lot of guys are calling into the meeting on their phones. Some are driving or walking. One guy was holding a toddler.
Next, please. Metronomes academic, as you mentioned, powerplays courageous. Can you mute your phone, buddy?
Oh, John Chancellor, I know you said can I unmuted you could actually tried to get the team to focus the two hundred thirteen days of my life coming what were two hundred thirty days out from the call.
I don't see thirty days out from Mississippi College, one of Delta states rivals. They play every year for a trophy called the Heritage Bowl. It's a big wooden trophy with an actual bell on top. They put it in their locker room on a special table. Last year they lost it and in two hundred and thirteen days they would have a chance to win it back.
Guys, listen to me very closely. We may not have the month of July to get you all in shape, OK? We might not get to make up the practices that we missed in the spring. I'm talking worst case scenario right now. Everybody's saying I'm saying yes. But what I'm trying to tell you all is this. Get your tails in condition.
And there was something else Coach Cooley was stressing about. To keep their place on the team, his players needed to maintain a 2.0 grade point average that works out to a C some of coach. These players are struggling to do that even before the pandemic. Now, with the players scattered all over the place trying to keep up with their classes, it was even harder, I'm telling you. All right. Now, you guys have got to be eligible.
You guys are trying to graduate on time. It's critical right now that you stay on top of this.
Anybody else got anything? No, sir. No, we got all your work.
I'll miss you. We like you. We're going to do this together now. We're going to get to play ball. We're going to do it together, baby. It's going to be a blast. I love you to. I'm out of here.
OK, Coach Colin Barnett's as on crazy, energetic, loving and caring person, you know, you could tell somebody speaking, though somebody from the real world is playful when you have to go in there and you don't want to mess with them when you can be a real mellow guy and three seconds later, you can be going through the roof, I mean, all the time.
He's very passionate about the game. So, you know, he take you serious like, you know, some people might think he's too hard on them and he really, you know, he was the best for those colors.
And he loves football to death, but he loved us even more. He told us before, before and after every practice. He loves us.
But I don't want to miss out on people.
Ask me all the time on fight because you're going to kick his ass down hard on our producer, Natalie, who's been talking to Coach Cooley for always about 100 yards. Our look at him, you know, and I think that's our job as coaches. That's we have a responsibility. That's what we signed up we signed up for to affect young men's lives. Cathartically is used to having tight control over his team. He gets up in their business all the time, so it's been hard for him to have his team spread out.
We've got players from all across country and from every walk of socioeconomic life. There is. You know, we've got players that have money. We've got players who don't have anything. You know, we've got players that are in a state where they've got curfew at six o'clock. We've got players that are in a state that don't have curfew at all. You know, you don't you just worry about everything.
He was worried they could get sick, that they might let their grades slip or their conditioning. He's worried some of them might not come back to school at all.
Are they making the right decisions or are they doing this? Because I think that they worried that they need to get out of this, like you feel like it's your job to worry about them.
Herbsaint. I mean, at the end of the day, you know, football has got an expiration date on it and football is a great game and it teaches you a lot about life. Obviously, I love it. I would do it. But this is about graduate and build me in and getting something out of this. And the thing that they need to get out of this is their education.
So this is the front of the house in order to protect the country. Baby girl.
Hey, Joe, my name is the right. It's a voluntary. I currently go to Delta State University. I play middle linebacker.
Our brothers and sisters call these clubs, get older brothers. Yes, 16, 13, 12, 18 and 18. And then the little girls.
She's very, very low, single parent. But this is the kitchen. This is my sister, Amalia Brown. Say, hey, I she's cooking. What are you cooking today? I think it's called Zeny.
I really know you don't know you cooking. And I just think it's a guy like this. I mean, well, I kind of want to try this out and I'm like, oh yeah, it's good. I guess my mother. What are you doing? What am I, the person I survived?
Henderson, your daughter's cooking. Oh, you know. Well, you a well, that's good. That's good. Oh.
Daventry was raised by his mom with a lot of help from his uncle.
He grew up in a really small town in Texas, the town of Coolidge, population 846, Malahide, Chinato beetle, my one acre laying around lots of joy last year for.
You know, making the best out of what you have.
That's the terrible nearly Daventry has the words I do this for my mama tattooed on his chest when things are getting hard. He thinks about his mom working three jobs just over to my mother.
She didn't work for 130 hours. She does put him who? She worked at a nursing home 30 minutes away. And you work at another nursing home. You could just see she. On his phone, Daventry keeps a picture of the mobile home where he grew up. There's my motivation saying that the picture is going to change because when I get suspicious, when I buy my mom to mention that she deserves. I'm saying this this what on my show, this is where we started from.
Daventry isn't banking on making it to the NFL or Daventry wants is a career as an entrepreneur to start a business and college for Daventry is a big part of that with a college degree is way more likely to have a good job and be able to support his family to buy his mom a house. There's something his uncle told him that's really stuck with him, the ultimate, you know, football one day is going to you know, you have to your education, you know, they could take football away from, but they can't take your mind.
Well. Your grades this semester looking OK. A reporter, Curtis, called Daventry to check in there. So I'm not the best, but, you know, I'm going to I'm going to actually, Daventry was having some trouble in school.
There's one class in particular, biology.
It's hard to keep up with. It's all my stuff in biology like law.
Amerca, what kind of stuff you learned in biology, maritime security, stomack, lousy AP biology major. I said, man matters too much information. I want to know how much pleasure. I mean, you know, I'm do this, but it just how crazy. Like when I took another test, like the past couple of weeks, I was like, man, these tests or like out of curiosity, we get a lot of it. I do like do you know what you want?
Say, I'm glad I was here because I don't know.
Daventry and the rest of the Delta State players knew what they needed to do, study workout studies some more, but there are just so many distractions like TV.
I like Game of Thrones, wanted it for the first time. I'm doing it so much.
TV from my teammates started watching Grey's Anatomy and it's like 15 seasons that there were video games recently playing better.
There were jobs, just get out of work, so I'm heading home and kids and probably right now is about to open my daughter and that is my table.
She's too much work and the kids running around jumping on big, like a lot of energy and everyday catastrophes of all kinds.
Back now to today's tornado outbreak with one guy in the middle of this pandemic even had to dodge a tornado.
So a little bit of our roof of our house while we was in it. So it was that bad?
It was a lot. April 19th, twenty two days left in the semester, Coach Cooley called another meeting and this time will start Taichiro Deon Allen.
You hear here this time he took attendance. His eyes scanned the screen as you check to make sure everyone was there.
All right, listen up. Here's what will tell you.
Not real happy with how our last team meeting we're at all Coach Cooley felt like the players weren't taking things seriously enough like their workouts or these weekly family meetings.
Everybody talks to me about text me when I had this great year, coach. We're going to do this. We're going to do that. I don't see that shit right now. Let me explain something, y'all. Tomorrow is April the 20th. We have two and a half weeks of school work, that's it. Don't waste a day, don't waste a moment. I got a quarterback to throw tennis balls against a dam wall. I got no weight said to push ups and no damn excuses.
Well, you know, I was inside. We had to stay inside. I mean, you can run in your yard over shit.
You can run on the street. Men I love understand this is coming from a place of love. I want you to be special, but we're not going to be special if we can't all get locked in like we are right now, you and me. And at the end of the day, that's how we bring joy back to our community and joy back to our campus, but ended up taking a piss out of somebody else's fault. That's how we do it.
That's our part in covid-19 case, you want to know and you know why damn everything else, that's what makes us feel good. You're going to have rough days. We got to be there for you even though we can't hug you. We can't physically come see you right now. We were going to freakin be there for you. We're going to talk to you. And when we see you, we're going to hug your neck because we love you.
But I need a group of men, a group of men that is locked into this. Everybody feel me on that is there is there?
This is what Coach Cooley was saying was men get to work. And they did, yeah, every day, stretching out by scratch, that makes you scratch it, so you must have a good time doing push ups. But all my teammates, we do push ups like every night we have like a face time. We can push and push up doofus. But I try to like 200 more push ups, day running last night at one point seven miles.
So I do think Sprint from the just. I do like cardio workout. I find workout on YouTube that I can do small lifting weights. These are my weights. It's a kettlebell I got. My weight is best. It makes you work harder. You know, once you take it off, you feel lighter on your feet. You can move quicker, fast, and you work on your legs, biceps, triceps, their curls, stuff for your trials and for good measure.
Yoga are trying to do yoga every day and they hit the books.
I got some homework to do that we had to write a final paper on basically everything we learned over here in the eight pages. You know, if if I don't have my grades, I can't play football and I can't do what I love. So I have to figure out a way to Bantry Henderson, the linebacker from Texas was one of the players who was trying to buckle down when the pandemic hit Cheban home in Texas.
His books for biology and everything else were four hundred and fifty miles away in Cleveland, Mississippi. I was going back to schools.
I love my books. There we are. Yes, I do. I couldn't do the essay because, you know, I just can't go look up stuff on YouTube to like to say, you know, like there's incorrect information, like accurate information.
So Daventry borrowed his mom's car for a day just in time to pack all my stuff. Acrylamide or Grandma Mosto got right back on the road. So now he had his books, it was hard to study in a house with six brothers and sisters, everyone cooped up because of the pandemic. So Daventry moved to his grandparents house nearby.
But I think it's time to go to a movie about Daventry grandfather Hindoo Henderson needed a fair amount of help around the house.
His health wasn't great by blood work or anything, but struggle is all for our boy. So, you know, so I'm helping out everything I can do, whatever I can help them out. Like my papa took a shower, cleaned up.
It was a lot quieter there and Daventry was finally able to study. All right, everybody, see, my screen is on April twenty sixth, 15 days left in the semester, Coach Cooley called another meeting. What's important now?
Right now, what's important right now, that's what we got to focus on. This meeting is right now, OK, right now, some of you guys might be taking finals this week. If not, you're preparing for finals. Get ahead. Men finish all assignments, finish all assignments, we're getting right down here to the end, Coach Cooley had prepared a PowerPoint. OK, next slide, let me explain this.
The next slide was a photo of wild horses running through a field.
We're going to be able to run wild together, man. It's common. We've got to prepare like a bunch of horses that have been caged up and they're finally they're finally set loose. That's how we have to be. One hundred days made in one hundred days, we're going to be practicing football. Are you going to be ready? And man, in two hundred two days. Somebody help me out who we got two out of two days isn't good.
You're damn right. Mississippi College. It's common is coming at me, and I just want to keep motivating you to let you know it's common, man, the next week and a half to two weeks are going to be huge for our football team. Mean everybody do their part. Prepare for your finals. Attack your finals. After the break, finals. I did go talk to me about what you have the rest of this week in grade in your grades are coming into finals week.
Coach Cooley called one of his wide receivers, Oakley Coleman, to check in.
We got a good shot here. So talk to me. Let's start with interpersonal communication, OK? For in the personal I you have turned him say what is right for a farmer is better to the coaching staff was keeping a Google doc on every single player, what classes they're taking, what specific assignments they had do.
So Coach Cooley knew that Oakley had been struggling in interpersonal communication ever since the class went online. A coach, Cooley, said there was still time.
So my saying is that he did well in the last two assignments that she's grading in the essay you just turned in and then you kill the final. We could be looking at a B. If not, that's called that's called the fourth quarter finish right there, Brother Igla. Meanwhile, Daventry Henderson was also stressing out about finals. Curtis called him to check in, keeping up late, writing an essay for world history.
My dad took a little nap about how life most of the morning I got back to. When we're back on AC. Something more, well, we hear that they were territory, I forgot to put my words to Page because I was going back over some of this and I'm like, oh my, we're excited. Hey, I have to go back and do they need it? And I looked at it. I say, man, this is a look out, not Guinness.
And I forgot to make it make it double space. I had to go back and make it double space. And then St. Louis finally.
And then there were the final exams, first aid, CPR, Biology Administration. You got finals and all of those due today. Yes.
Which one are you most worry about of those? Which one which one of those makes you, like, a little nervous about biology? Do you know what grade you're getting right now in biology?
I got sixty nine. Sixty nine. Oh. So you need to do pretty well on this test.
You can't exactly on this test.
Occupier's get a better. A week or so later, Curtis talked to Daventry again, and this time Daventry had some news that wasn't good. It didn't have anything to do with finals or with school at all. It was about his grandfather, Hindoo Henderson. The other night, Daventry was outside when you heard his grandmother calling his name, trying to get his attention, he ran into the house and saw his grandfather on the floor.
My grandma was shaking and trying to get him to I was chicken if he had a pulse. But I can tell if my pulse to his pulse. There was no pulse, Daventry grandfather was dead. One of the people Daventry wanted to tell was his coach, Coach Cooley. He talked about how much he met him and I said, well, is he still going to be watching your voice, you know, watching you perform and watching OBIS? Cathartically said he was proud of how Daventry was handling it.
You know, Daventry was, he said, but he still got that million dollar smile and he still like, you know, I know what he wanted from the coach and this is what I got to do. All right, guys, we're not going to be here long. I appreciate you guys being here May 11th, the last day in the semester. Time for one more meeting.
We're going to get through this together. Just remember what we talked about. We cannot control what is going on right now. All we control is how we respond to it, how we handle this adversity. We play football in adversity is just part of what you eat every day. You get up and you have your eggs, you have some cereal and a little adversity. Little adversity for lunch, little adversity for dinner. You used to taking it every day.
So let's respond to it the correct way right now. I love you guys. I'll let you know when we're going to meet again. But right now we just stay connected with one another, stay connected with your coaches. I can't wait to get back with you guys.
Have you been so proud of you? Keep working out. Keep getting your rest. Keep having your business. We don't get together for too long. Will you please go, go, go, go. The school year had come to a close. And Coach Cooley called Natalie with an update, his men, his players had done what he needed them to do, what they needed to do for themselves. They passed their classes, almost every one of them, and the team had a collective GPA of two point nine nine, almost a solid B.
And as for Daventry Henderson, the guy who once said about biology, Lord have mercy, the student his grandfather had died in the middle of all this. Daventry had finally gotten his grade back from his final exam in biology out of a possible score of one hundred and fifty, Daventry scored a 126. That's 84 percent. After finals, Daventry could finally celebrate and the way he celebrated mass by going shopping for Mother's Day.
I don't know what I'm doing for Mother's Day since I think I'm happy right now. I'm free to look. Yeah, yeah. He decided not just to get a gift for his mom. Daventry put together all these gift bags.
He bought candles and bracelets and many bundt cakes. We got cakes saying the case won't pass that outside the mother's feet.
He drove around town handing them out to basically every woman he saw that paid for a it's like your people give them a rose.
What the. After making it through some really tough months, it's time to feel good for a change we got through. No, I'm satisfied with it. I'm moving on to the next. I've got a key person. No. This fall, if everything goes as planned, Daventry, Henderson and the rest of the team will be back in the classroom and back on the field.
And pretty soon, they hope, will be gathered not for a zoo meeting, but upstairs in the field house and the family meeting room with their coach very calmly, can't wait to see their eyes. Can't wait to you know, I don't know if you've ever been to a church in the South. You know, people will take time to get up to greet one another, but they're happy to see them, you know, and I look for that.
That. In the dark coronavirus in the Delta is reported and produced by me, Madeline Baron, managing producer, Smara Framework producer, Natalie Yablonsky, associate producer Raymond Car and reporter Parker Yasko. Significant additional reporting and production for this episode by Curtis Gilbert. The series was edited by Catherine Winter. The editor in chief of APM Reports is Chris Worthington. This episode was mixed O'Clery Schwebel original music for the series by Gary Maistre. To see photos that accompany our series, you can go to our website in the Dark podcast Dog Photography for the series by Bhatinda.
We want to give a special thank you to a very special person, someone who's been behind the scenes helping us on in the dark every step of the way for the past two and a half years, booking plane tickets, dealing with expense reports, noise, having candy, ready for late night edits. Shelly Langford, the project coordinator for AP reports. Shelly is leaving to take a new job. Shelly, we wish you the best. We love you and we'll miss you.