Sports column: Compiling our local college roster is an enjoyable chore

Published 8:00 am Sunday, August 28, 2022

About 20 years ago, when the internet was young and boy bands roamed the Earth, a young and intrepid sports writer at The Vicksburg Post was tasked with a simple assignment — find where all of our local college football players were playing and compile a list.

Whether it was a make-work assignment or something we could actually use has been lost to history. What is certain is that is has become an annual tradition and that young sports writer, now a grizzled sports editor, still returns to his roots every August like Southerners flocking to Destin.

Compiling the annual college player list is informative and necessary. It’s the database for our weekly “How They Did” feature that charts their performances, as well as some potential story ideas.

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Putting it together, however, is a tedious nightmare. Even after 20-plus years, I’ve yet to find a fast way to do it. The process starts with creating a separate list of every football-playing school in more than a dozen states, about 200 programs total. Let me tell you, there are A LOT of college football programs in Texas.

The next step is to visit each and every one of their web sites, scrolling through rosters until my eyes bleed and my finger is cramped in place around the mouse. Once I finish looking at a roster I’ll cross that school off the list, write down a name if necessary, and move on to the next one.

It takes a minute or so to check off each team, but with so many on the list those minutes add up. And if you’ve ever stared into a computer screen for an hour straight without blinking, you can see why it takes a few days to finish the job.

Why not use a search engine, you ask? They aren’t that efficient.

Why not just ask our local high school coaches where their guys are? Because the players we’re looking for aren’t just last year’s signees or high-profile stars at FBS programs.

The players I’m really searching for are those who slipped through the cracks when it comes to attention. Thanks to the transfer portal, players who seemed set at one program now move to another with little fanfare.

A number of our high school stars also often spend a couple of years at junior colleges, then quietly sign with four-year schools — some of them in pretty far-flung and obscure places.

This year’s list includes nearly 30 players at colleges in six states. The teams they’re playing for range from Southeastern Conference member Mississippi State to NAIA member Bluefield University in Virginia.

An effort is also made to expand the list just beyond Warren County’s borders. The total number includes a few from Tallulah, Port Gibson, Rolling Fork and Raymond.

At the end of the day, it’s an online scavenger hunt. Finding a local player who spent two years at a junior college, and is now a backup cornerback at Eastern Kentucky is what makes this whole endeavor worthwhile.

I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor at The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

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 139-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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