Three weeks into the spring football season and North Carolina Central has already lost two major components in its program.
Running backs coach Adrian Jones left in March to take the head-coaching job at Shaw University. Jones, who coach Southern Durham to a state championship before joining the NCCU staff, was instrumental in coaching redshirt freshman RB Dorrel McClain to the 2015 MEAC Rookie of the Year award.
Now, special teams coordinator/linebackers coach, Mike Mendenhall, has left to take a linebackers assistant position at Princeton.
Mendenhall has put NCCU’s special teams unit on the map since joining the staff in 2012: four of six longest punt returns in program history; four of the top seven single-season punt return leaders; and four of the top eight kickoff returns in Eagles history.
Several Central players became stars. Mike Jones broke NCCU’s punt return yardage record in a game. Ryan Smith snapped the record for career kickoff returns. Arthur Goforth broke the school’s single-season punt return record, and Adrian Wilkins is the only player in Division I-FCS with five special teams touchdowns..
Last year’s special teams defense wasn’t too shabby, either. The unit blocked 18 kicks (punts, field goals, PATs) over the past three seasons.
Now that his team has finished atop the MEAC standings two years in a row, Coach Jerry Mack is now suffering the same fate as men’s basketball coach LeVelle Moton: good assistants from a winning HBCU program are being recruited away for better perks.
Mack is still the star of the Eagles football program, and he’s a good recruiter, but the loss of Jones and Mendenhall will be tough shoes to fill.
Bulls showcase new uniforms
The Durham Bulls will break out a new uniform design for their inaugural “Durm Night” on June 9 at the ballpark.
“As lifelong fans, this is a dream opportunity,” said Runaway brand founder Gabriel Eng-Goetz, whose company designed the uniforms. “What better stage to showcase pride for our hometown than under the bright lights of Durham Bulls Athletic Park?”
Durm Night will be a celebration of the Bull City’s art scene. The team unveiled its new Bull City Blues uniforms three week ago, which will debut next month.
“As we aim to celebrate the creative arm of Durham, a uniform designed by a Durham-based clothing company was a no-brainer for us,” General Manager Mike Birling said. “We couldn’t be happier with the jersey design, and know that it represents the team and city well.”
The Bulls open the season April 7 against the Charlotte Knights at the DBAP. Visit durhambulls.com for ticket information.
Track & field weekend
Tickets are still available for NCCU’s track and field fundraiser this weekend.
Olympic medalist John Carlos is the guest speaker at Friday night’s banquet at the Hilton Durham Hotel. Six former NCCU track stars will be honored for their accomplishments.
A social is Saturday at 7 p.m. back at the Hilton, where the public can meet the banquet honorees, and concluding with a “Meet the Stars” brunch Sunday at 11 a.m. in the Pearson Dining Hall.
Visit NCCUEaglePride.com for more information.
Durham Academy will host its annual Athletics Spring Fling on April 14 at 4 p.m.
Five events – boys and girls track, boys lacrosse, girls soccer, softball and baseball – will be held throughout the day. While the competition is happening on the field, parents will be grilling up the goodies for fans, alumni and supporters at $5 a plate.
Wear your Cavaliers gear and you’ll be eligible to win a prize.