Hall of Fame trio powered Vicksburg through a decade of football success

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The air in the conference room was thick with tension, and not a little bit of disgust.

Houston Markham, Jr., who had led Temple High School’s football team to three consecutive Big 8 championships and a 39-game winning streak, and then led North Vicksburg High School through two seasons during integration, had just been told he was being passed over for the head coaching position at the new Vicksburg High School.

Markham was to be the lead assistant, while South Vicksburg’s Rush McKay took the head coaching job. The superintendent asked if anyone had anything they wanted to say as an uncomfortable silence filled the room.

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Markham broke it in his usually blunt way.

“I said, ‘That’s my damn job,’” Markham said. “I’d been here six or seven years and won all these games, and he’d been here two years and won this many games. When we left, somebody told me I’d just lost my job. I decided if I didn’t say what I said, then I didn’t have a job to lose. The next day I picked up the paper and saw where Houston Markham, Jr., was the head coach of Vicksburg High School.”

Michael Dottorey

That one defiant stand set the course for the Gators’ Big 8 championship run in 1973, and indirectly led to the rise of a generation of talent. On Thursday night, the era will be celebrated when three of Vicksburg’s best football players from the 1970s are inducted into the Vicksburg Warren School District Athletic Hall of Fame.

Markham will join Michael Dottorey and Sylvester Stamps in the Hall’s Class of 2018. Dottorey was a linebacker on that 1973 championship team and went on to play college football at Alabama and Jackson State. The running back Stamps came along later in the decade, playing from 1977-79, and is still Vicksburg High’s all-time leading rusher with 2,946 yards.

Dottorey and Stamps both played for Markham when the latter was the offensive coordinator at Jackson State in the late 1970s, giving them all a connection that makes their inductions even more special.

“The lessons (Markham) taught me have been a foundation of what I’ve become,” said Dottorey, who has worked at Northwest Mississippi Community College in various capacities since 1980. “Football opened doors for me, but I’m not on the football field any more. The foundation Coach Markham and Coach (Cardell) Jones instilled in me are the reasons I’ve done so well.”

Sylvester Stamps

Markham was born in Brookhaven and played football at Alcorn State, then came to Vicksburg in 1966 as an assistant coach at Temple. He took over as the head coach the following year and won three consecutive Black Big 8 championships at Temple before it closed in 1971.

After two years as North Vicksburg’s head coach during the integration period, he led the combined Vicksburg High School to a 10-0-1 record and the Big 8 championship in 1973 in its first year of existence.

One of the key players on that team was Dottorey, a fearsome linebacker who made the All-Big 8 team and several regional all-star teams. Dottorey was also a starting forward on Vicksburg’s basketball team and competed in the discus for the track team.

“(Dottorey) was smart and courageous, and he was huge and could run like a deer. Most of the time we lined him up over the tight end and he jammed them up,” Markham said. “We couldn’t have done it without him. He was the key to our defense.”

Dottorey signed with Alabama and played three seasons there, but eventually transferred to Jackson State. Dottorey was second on the team with 99 tackles in his senior season with the Tigers, but was not selected in the 1979 NFL draft.

After a couple of free agent tryouts failed to pan out, Dottorey went to work at Northwest Mississippi Community College. He has been there ever since, serving in a half-dozen different high-level positions over the years. He’s currently a recruiter.

Dottorey specialized in counseling and mental health, and served as the president of the Northwest Region of the Mississippi Counseling Association and the Mississippi Community/Junior College Counselors Association. In 2016, Northwest Mississippi Community College established the Mike Dottorey Endowment Scholarship for disabled students with need.

“I’ve been blessed,” Dottorey said.

Markham left Vicksburg High in 1975 to become the offensive coordinator at Jackson State. He stayed in that job for 12 years, and one of his early recruits was Stamps.

Stamps was a bit undersized, at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, but was one of the fastest players in the state. He scored 30 rushing touchdowns in three seasons with the Gators and helped them reach the Big 8 championship game in 1979. Stamps was an All-Big 8 pick in 1978 and 1979, and led the statewide league in rushing in his senior season.

At Jackson State, Markham turned him into an even bigger star. Stamps led the Southwestern Athletic Conference in return yardage three times.

“He had incredible quickness. He was a guy they’d forget was out there because he was so small,” Markham said. “We were playing a game at Alcorn, and it was muddy. The players from Alcorn were slipping all over the place while he was going left and right and all over. He had incredible balance.”

Jackson State won two SWAC championships during Stamps’ college career, and he went on to play six seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Stamps was mostly used as a kick returner in the pros. He only had 795 combined rushing and receiving yards and two touchdowns in his career, but led the NFL in kickoff return average in 1987 with Atlanta. That season he was selected first-team All-Pro by the Sporting News.

“That’s a really cool way to make a living, because you’re not taking a pounding. You’ll last a little longer and not take a beating,” Stamps said. “I thought I had a pretty decent career. If it wasn’t for some injuries, my career would have lasted a little longer.”

Stamps is also part of a bigger legacy in Vicksburg. More than a dozen members of his immediate and extended family have played college football over the years. When adding in cousins and other relatives, even he admits he’s lost count of the actual total.

“That’s a lot of pride in that family,” Stamps said. “I’ve got a lot of nephews that have come through Vicksburg and Warren Central with the Stamps name.”

Stamps, who now lives in Jackson, also credited Markham with showcasing his talent at the college level.

“Coach Markham is an outstanding coach, and one of the coaches I really, really admire. Coach Markham was designing plays for me to use my ability, like on screens and draws, to use my speed and get me in space. He let me be a football player.”

For his part, Markham showed he could succeed at the college level as well as in high school. He had a 63-16-3 record during his decade at the helm of Vicksburg’s high school programs. His win total is tied for sixth all-time among Warren County’s coaches, and his .783 winning percentage ranks third among those who coached at least 50 games.

After his stint at Jackson State, he was hired as the head coach at Alabama State in 1987. There, Markham compiled a 68-39-5 record in 11 seasons. His 1991 team went 14-0, won the SWAC and Black College Football national championships, and is regarded as the best team in school history. His 68 wins are the most by any Alabama State coach, and the school’s football office and training complex bears his name.

“I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to work in a situation like I did, with the people I did. When you succeed, it’s because of the people around you,” Markham said. “I never made a tackle. I never threw a pass.”

He did make a stand once, however, that set the tone for a decade and left a lasting mark on Vicksburg High’s program.

“The attitude the players had, the coaches that came in after him, followed the same pattern,” Stamps said. “Players still had the same mentality about working out and lifting weights. We followed that pattern and took up where he left off from.”

VWSD Hall of Fame Inductees
Class of 2016
Tony Smith (WC football)
Carl Blue (WC football)
Sean Brewer (WC football)
Cynthia Hall (VHS basketball)
Barry Hassell (Vicksburg tennis)
Class of 2017
Michael Phelps (VHS basketball)
Taylor Tankersley (WC baseball)
Robert Morgan (WC football)
Eddie Burns (Vicksburg football)
George Nasif (VHS foootball)
Mary Logue (WC basketball)
Jackie Pettway (WC softball)
Class of 2018
Lucy Young (WC softball, soccer)
Houston Markham (VHS football)
Michael Dottorey (VHS football)
Sylvester Stamps (VHS football)
Monique Varnado (VHS track)

VWSD Hall of Fame Ceremony
The Vicksburg Warren School District Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony is Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. at the Vicksburg Convention Center. Tickets are $20 and are available at the VWSD athletic office on Mission 66. For more information, call the VWSD athletic office at 601-631-2822.

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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