Je'Vari Anderson

Dinner will honor football stars

Some people have it all — athleticism, brains, drive, and initiative. Student-athletes at Laney College are in this category.

From the 3.0 GPA and on-field achievements of current players, to acceptance at four-year institutions and life’s work of the alumni, it’s clear that playing for the Eagles helps many students be able to make the best choices for themselves.

In honor of these ongoing achievements for Laney football, the annual Wall of Fame dinner will be held from 4:30–8:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, in the Laney Athletic Field House.

Dinner will be served at 6:15 p.m. and the cost is $30. The date to RSVP is past, but anyone who would like to attend may purchase tickets at the door.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the honorary dinner for new inductees to the Wall of Fame, which is located in the Student Center.

The tradition began in 1998, with then-head coach Stan Peter’s idea to honor outstanding players, coaches, and support staff for their acheivements at Laney.

A $10,000 gift from former Washington Redskins linebacker and Laney alum Ken Harvey made the wall possible.

This year, former defensive back Tavis Campbell (1997–98), wide receiver Lester Gill (1998–99), running back Joe Cannon (1997–98), and longtime athletic trainer Greg Smith will be honored.

Former inductees can also provide inspiration to current athletes for their larger educational and life goals.

“You’re gonna be able to pursue your future,” said head football coach and Athletic Director John Beam, who was named the 2017 Bay Valley Conference Coach of the Year.

“Everybody’s goal is to keep playing and keep going to school,” he said. “They don’t come here unless they want to transfer.”

The Laney Athletics Department boasts a 90 percent transfer rate to four-year colleges and universities, and many of the students get opportunities to go to school for free on an athletic scholarship, he said.

“If you don’t get into the school of your choice out of high school,” Beam said, “you can come to Laney and have way better chances.”

In addition, many of the student-athletes will do so for free. The athletic department helps students find scholarships, although not always to a school they have heard of.

“There’s a place, somewhere in this country, that will pay you to go to school and play football. It may not be UCLA, but it’s free.”

Two Eagles players did commit to University of California schools this year. Running back Marcel Dancy is headed to Cal Berkeley, and defensive back Je’Vari Anderson will be attending UCLA this fall.

“Football is just a blip on the radar of life,” Beam said. “We tell them to find the school that’s got the major you want and will give you an opportunity to succeed academically.”

The inductees featured in this year’s ceremony represent some of the possibilities that are available to student-athletes after their time at Laney.

Smith worked as Laney’s athletic trainer for nearly 40 years and will be inducted as a “Cornerstone” to the Wall of Fame.

Campbell played for the University of Hawai’i after Laney and is now “very involved with the community,” Beam said.

Cannon is the author of several books about personal training, nutrition, and the dangers of over-exercising, and Lester Gill is “big in the IT business,” Beam said.

At the dinner, current players will get a chance to see and hear about former Laney athletes who went on to develop their skills and careers after football.

Thanks to the hard work of Beam and the other coaches, hundreds of student-athletes come to Laney every year to train and play for the Eagles for two seasons before they transfer or go on to other achievements.

“The bulk want to continue to play football,” Beam said, “but there are some that come to transfer because they want to be a firefighter or serve in law enforcement. One came and wanted to get into digital media.”

The ongoing health and safety of the players is a huge concern to the coaches as well.

“We’ve been really lucky,” Beam said. “The college has some funding that faculty can ask for. Every time we’ve asked for safety stuff, it’s been approved.”

Getting the funds to conduct the day-to-day-business of the football team can be a struggle, however.

“With all the funding cuts, it’s harder and harder to help these guys out,” Beam said. “When we have to play a game, they’re supposed to be fed, but we don’t always have the money. We’ve had to fight for the money to feed them.”

Eva Hannan is sports editor and writer for the Laney Tower

Eagles’ Anderson is Bruin-bound

In the Laney athletics field house, nobody knows where he is right now, but everybody knows who he is and where he’ll be next month.

The assignment: find Je’Vari Anderson, Laney College’s standout defensive back. He’s heading to UCLA to play for the Bruins in the 2018 season.

In his career as an Eagles safety he played in 21 games with 32 solo tackles, 10 assisted tackles, and three interceptions. Last season, Anderson was named a Region I All-Conference and All-National Valley Conference player.

He signed on to UCLA Feb. 6 with a scholarship to play as a linebacker. This is the first time a Laney student has gone on to play football for UCLA, Anderson said.

“He’s violent,” head coach John Beam said. “He understands the game. He’s explosive when he comes to make a play. People like that.”

Anderson is “football smart,” as Beam puts it, and he’s capable of much more than an impressive approach to playing the sport.

“They see this football player but he’s actually much deeper than that off the field. He’s introspective, he thinks things through and he’s a good human being,” Beam said.

Strength and conditioning coach Antuan Webb broke down what he saw as the story of Anderson’s success. “He came into the Laney program and has been a great citizen,” Webb said.

“Hard work in the classroom, hard work in the weight room, and on Friday and Saturday nights, he received an ‘A’ on the football field.”

After a false start out of football powerhouse De la Salle High School, Anderson now feels as though he knows how to stay focused. “I took school really seriously this time,” he said. “Laney’s been a great experience. The teachers and staff are great, and the coaches here are very organized.”

The shift from linebacker at Laney to safety at UCLA should be an easy one for Anderson. “He’s a bigger, thicker guy than he was,” Beam said, “so he’s changing into more of what we call a ‘down-the-box player’. He’s moving to the front end, and he’ll start five yards closer to the ball.”

Anderson’s versatility on the field is an advantage, and one that is still relatively new to football.

“Right now it’s not as common as it should be, but it’s definitely moving that way. Kids are built differently, and they can compete in multiple positions,” Anderson said.

He is aiming to get his graduate degree in neuropsychology, but he isn’t looking too far ahead. “I’m concentrating on my undergrad and excelling in my football season,” he said.

Anderson feels as though he learned the skills at Laney that he needed to make the grade at UCLA. “[Coach] Beam took academics really seriously here,” he said. “He makes time for it cause that’s what we’re here for anyway, right? A second chance.”

Anderson will be leaving behind many friends and admirers at Laney College. “The other day I programmed him in my phone as Mr. Anderson, because when I think of ‘mister’, I think of someone I really respect,” Webb said.

Goodbye, Mr. Anderson, you’ll be missed.

Eva Hannan is sports editor for the Laney Tower.