Alcorn-JSU rivalry more than a game for Shields

Published 11:05 am Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thirty-six years ago, as a college freshman, Rick Shields attended his first Alcorn State vs. Jackson State football game.

He hasn’t missed one since.

Through wind and rain, joy and pain, the Vicksburg resident and devoted Alcornite has seen the best and worst of the rivalry that will be renewed Saturday afternoon in Lorman.

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Over the years, the game has meant a lot of things to Shields — simply a big football game at first, then later a chance to reconnect with family and friends in the way that only sports can provide. Shields said he expects a couple of dozen people in this year’s tailgate outside Jack Spinks Stadium.

“That was our annual trip home, at least that once a year,” Shields said. “For us, it’s our family get-together. We do a big tailgate party.”

Shields made the annual pilgrimage to Mississippi for the rivalry game for 20 years until he moved to Vicksburg in 2003. He’s been a season ticket holder since then.

Not all of his memories of the series are good. Alcorn is just 13-23 in the series in his 3 1/2 decades of attendance and endured a six-game losing streak in the 1980s and an eight-game slide in the late 90s and early 2000s.

There’s still more good than bad, though. He was there for the Steve McNair glory years and last year’s 48-33 romp in Jackson. There are fond memories of sitting in the rain for an ugly 9-7 Alcorn win in 1979 and the snow for one of the affairs at Memorial Stadium.

“My most memorable one for me was the second one. We lost my freshman year, and we were fired up the next year,” Shields said. “It was rainy, and our kicker kicked three field goals to beat them 9-7.”

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is at 2 p.m., but Shields will leave to make the hourlong trek to Alcorn’s campus before the sun comes up. Highway 552 — the only main road in and out of campus — will likely be choked wth traffic if he waits much longer.

“Most folks are leaving at 5, 6 at the latest,” Shields said.

Getting up early to beat traffic is a small price to pay for continuing a longstanding tradition. That’s what’s kept him coming back for 36 years, and what he hopes will keep him coming back for 36 more.

“Some of it has been a priority. If you want to do something, you plan for it. Sometimes plans go awry, but if you want to do it you can make it happen. I’ve been fortunate I haven’t been sick or anything like that,” Shields said. “My main focus is to get home, see mom, and relax.”

Ernest Bowker is a sports writer. He can be reached at 601-619-7120 or by email at

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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