Together: Indians teammates to play college football
Published 10:20 am Friday, February 6, 2015
After playing together for four years at Southampton High School, Russell Ballance and Coby Williams will get to play together for four more years in college. The Indians teammates have accepted football scholarships to play at Virginia Union University, starting this fall.
They won’t likely be on the same side of the ball this time, but Ballance said it was still good to be on the same team.
“It’s like a dream come true,” he said. “It most definitely will make it easier. We’ll be able to room together and have each others’ backs.”
Williams echoed that sentiment.
“That’s going to be awesome,” he said. “We’re going to get to represent Southampton High School.”
And that’s key, said Southampton High School head football coach Willie Gillus. The first few months at Norfolk State University were tough because the Emporia native didn’t know anyone.
“When you leave home for the first time and go off to college, it can be tough on a young man,” Gillus said. “Those first two months of football and the transition in the classroom are hard. But they’ve got someone there they’ve already been in the trenches with, and that’s big.”
Virginia Union University is a Historically Black College in Richmond, and the football program went 7-3 this past season in the CIAA. Playing for the Panthers will net both a scholarship of $22,500 per year, and depending on how they test out, each of them has a shot at additional academic scholarships.
“We are excited anytime kids get an opportunity to further their education and younger guys can go watch them play,” Gillus said. “It’s a testament to the school and football program — the impact it can have on young men’s lives. It’s good for families to not have to pay the cost of education.
“That’s what it’s all about. Of course, we want to win games, too, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.”
Ballance will be a punter and kicker, and he’s got a shot at starting as a freshman. The coach also told him that he might have a shot at playing quarterback down the road.
“Ever since ninth grade, when I moved up to varsity and they had me kick for the team, I’ve always had the drive to get better and move onto the next level. This is what I’ve been working for these past four years,” Ballance said about getting to play at the university level. “This just seemed like the college that showed the most interest and where I can excel the most at.”
Playing as a freshman can be challenging, but Gillus said he believes in Ballance.
“They were hot on his trail,” he said about the coaching staff at Virginia Union. “As a punter, he has the opportunity to play right away as a freshman, and that will be tough, but he has the ability to do it.”
Ballance, whose father, Paul, was also a punter in high school, has been working with a private coach, and the all-district punter and kicker is looking forward to the challenge. As for playing quarterback, even if he doesn’t get to, he said the coaching staff liked that he had the ability to throw.
“There’s always the trick play as a punter or kicker,” he said with a smile. “The coaching staff has talked to me about that.”
Going in as a freshman running back, Williams will have some obstacles to overcome to start first year.
“Like Southampton High School, Virginia Union has a great tradition at running back,” Gillus said. “I think he’ll have an opportunity, though. One thing that sets Coby apart from other running backs is his field vision — it’s unbelievable how well he can see it all right there in the trenches. He’s just got to work on getting bigger and stronger, like most young freshmen entering college. He’s been working hard in the weight room and will continue to.”
Williams said he isn’t worried about the challenges he would have to face.
“I’m looking to start — that’s my goal — to go in, start, and be the future at Virginia Union,” he said. “I will work as hard as I can. I’m going to work on getting bigger.”
One of the things that Williams liked about Virginia Union was how the coaching staff saw him.
“They did not down me because of my size,” said the 5’7, 170-pound running back, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards his senior year. “They said I am a great runner, and they like that I’m fast and determined.”
Both members of the Indians’ squad were excited and thankful for all the school had done for them.
“I want to thank the coaching staff at Southampton High School. And I want to thank Todd Covington — he helped me outside of school,” Ballance said. “I also want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ — I wouldn’t be here without him.”
“I want to thank all of my coaches and all of my family and friends,” Williams said. “And I want to thank God for allowing me to see this moment — it’s a blessing. I want to thank Him for all of the miracles in my life.”
Ballance said he is going to major in business, and that he’s looking forward to moving to Richmond. “Well, mostly,” he added.
“I’m going to miss it here — it’s been my life for the past four years,” Ballance said about Southampton High School. “Change isn’t always fun, but it’s what you have to do to move forward.”
Williams, too, is going to miss the school, but for him it’s definitely time to move on.
“It’s time to start making greater things happen in my life,” he said, adding that he’s going in undecided, but his eye is on the education program. “That’s something I have in mind — I would like to be a teacher. The education program is great at Virginia Union — they are on top of that.”
His sister, Taneshia Jones, was the first person in his family to go to college, and Williams said he’s excited to get an opportunity to go to school on scholarship, thanks to football.
“She attended Virginia State University, and that’s going to be fun because Virginia Union and Virginia State are big rivals,” he said with a laugh. “Though I know she’ll be on my side.”