Dreams came true for several locals during this week in history as many area football players were selected by NFL teams during the draft.
Benjamin Russell graduate Terrell Owens got things started in 1996 when he was picked 89th overall by the San Francisco 49ers. Owens went on to have a storied NFL career and is now a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He is arguably one of the most famous student-athletes to come through Tallapoosa County and it all started nearly 25 years ago.
“We were kind of hoping he might go to Atlanta because it’s close to home but he likes San Francisco,” Owens’ mother, Marilyn Heard, said at the time. “When he went to the NFL combines, he got a bunch of hats but he wouldn’t give anyone the 49ers hat.”
Owens wasn’t the only one to land a spot with the big leagues that year. Also on April 19, 1996, Dadeville graduate Brad Ford was picked in the fourth round by the Detroit Lions. Ford had a fine career as a Tiger and an Alabama Crimson Tide player before becoming an NFL cornerback. He played in the league for two seasons.
After those two started the trend, Central Coosa got in on the fun when Adalius Thomas went to the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. Thomas was a star linebacker who earned two bids to the Pro Bowl and he also won a Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000 and played for another with the New England Patriots in 2007.
Just five years later, Justin Tuck kept things going for the Cougars when he was picked by the New York Giants in the third round.
“It feels good to make it to the NFL,” Tuck said moments after the announcement in 2005. “I was kind of disappointed that I slipped as far back as I did but everything happens for a reason and I thank God for the opportunity that I have.”
At defensive end, Tuck won two Super Bowl rings, including a victory against Thomas and the Patriots in 2007.
Football players weren’t the only ones getting glory this week in history.
On April 26, 1984, Benjamin Russell’s Michael Ransaw racked up awards at the wrestling banquet, including the team’s MVP, after winning the 95-pound state championship. He also won awards for most points scored, quickest pin, most pins in a season and the Sellers State Champion award.
Ransaw is now the BRHS wrestling coach.
On April 21, 2005, Benjamin Russell’s boys soccer team was also feeling elation after winning a double shootout game against rival Sylacauga.
“The crowd was awesome,” said then-coach Sammy Teel, who is the father of current coach Austin Teel. “We only played 12 guys and whenever they got tired, the crowd would get a little louder to help them carry on.”
State — April 16, 2004
For the first time since 1980, an MLB-affiliated team hosted a game in Montgomery as the Biscuits played their inaugural game at Riverwalk Stadium. The Biscuits took an 8-0 win over the Huntsville Stars with Jarod Matthews getting the victory in the game. The matchup included Tony Gwynn Jr., Melvin Upton Jr., Joey Gathright and several other future big leaguers.
The stadium was sold out in the first game and despite the Biscuits finishing the season with a league-worst 57-83 record, they finished second in the Southern League in home attendance. The 2004 season still marks the highest attendance for the Biscuits in their 16-year existence.
National — April 20, 1916
One of the most historic ballparks in any sport around the world held its first game more than a century ago as the Chicago Cubs hosted the Cincinnati Reds at what was then known as Weeghman Park. The crowd of more than 15,000 got the show they paid for as the two teams battled back and forth before heading into extra innings where Cy Williams scored on a single by Vic Saier to give the Cubs a 7-6 win in their new stadium.
There was reportedly a bear cub at the game and for the next four years, the stadium was simply known as Cubs Park until the Wrigley family purchased the stadium and renamed it Wrigley Field in 1927.
International — April 18, 1942
A Game 7 was unheard of in the Stanley Cup Finals prior to this series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. But for Toronto fans, they knew they needed the series to reach a seventh game after the Red Wings won the first three and were seemingly going to ease to the championship.
However, the Maple Leafs stayed alive by winning Game 4 and surviving a near-riot on the ice in Detroit after the game which included the Detroit coach punching a referee after the game. Toronto stole the momentum, winning the next games 9-3 and 3-1 to force a Game 7. The teams traveled back to Toronto where the Maple Leafs won 3-1 in front of the largest hockey crowd to that point in Canadian history. They are still the only team to ever erase a 3-0 deficit in the Stanley Cup Finals.