Shelton Crews knew Rashard Pompey was tough. But early in the 2000 season Pompey’s sturdiness came to the forefront.
It was late in the fourth quarter, and Godby High School was trailing Madison High School by a score of 34-14. Godby had just scored a touchdown. Crews, head coach of the Godby Cougars, ordered his team to perform an on-side kick in hopes that his team would recover the ball and score again to close the gap even more.
Crews’ team was unsuccessful in its attempt to recover the football, but something else went wrong on the play. His star tailback, Pompey, was sprawled out on the field after absorbing a vicious hit from one of the Madison players.
So, the managers and other coaches went out on to the field to see what was wrong with their ball carrier. Crews noticed the managers and coaches laughing, which according to Crews, is a good sign.
After seeing what was going on, he decided to trek out on to the field to see what everyone was laughing about.
When Crews arrived, he asked Pompey was he OK. Pompey, lying on the field with a goose egg over his eye as a result of the hard hit, looked up at Crews and said, “I love this. I love this. I love this game coach.”
The comment from Pompey brought out a chuckle from Crews.
“After that game, I knew we had a tough one,” said Crews, in his sixth season as Godby’s head coach.
“He just didn’t back down from nobody,” Crews said. “Rashard is considered to be a throw back player. He’s just hard nose and tough, and those are the kind of players that coaches love.”
Even though he didn’t finish that game, Pompey returned the next week and had an outstanding game carrying the ball 35 times and racking up over 220 yards.
That season, Pompey went on to lead his team in rushing with 1,708 yards and he also led Godby to an 8-4 record, before losing in the second round of the Class 4-A District 2 state playoffs. Along the way, Pompey set single season school records for rushing and points with 96. Coming out of high school and in spite of his great statistics, many Division I-A schools passed him over because, by Division I-A standards, Pompey’s 5-foot 10-inch, 200 pound body frame is considered too small to compete on that level.
So, in the fall of 2001, Pompey walked on for the FAMU Rattlers, and in the 2002 season, Pompey emerged as the starting running back for the Rattlers. He has been a fixture in Head Coach Billy Joe’s famed Gulf Coast Offense ever since, to the delight of Joe.
“Rashard Pompey is an outstanding athlete and a super student as well,” Joe said. “He plays with a lot of dedication and speed, and he loves FAMU and the game of football. He really epitomizes what we want in a Rattler.”
In the 2002 season, a red-shirt freshmen, Pompey became FAMU’s starting tailback and in two seasons he’s gained 1,371 yards on 301 carries and nine touchdowns, and he is looking to make even bigger strides this season.
“I always expect more out of myself, so I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done in the past,” said Pompey, 21, a fourth-year criminal justice student from Tallahassee.
“When you are a competitor, you just don’t settle for less. In the off-season I just tried to get a lot stronger and faster so that I can be able to break more tackles. And I just tried to learn defenses a lot more.”
Pompey has worked diligently on the football, and that same attitude has carried over into the classroom where he carries a 2.8 grade point average.
“I try to work hard in the classroom just as hard as I do football field,” Pompey said.
“As I compete with players on the field, I try to compete the same when it comes to the books.”
But, his solid performance on and off of the field hasn’t gone unnoticed, in turn, propelling him into a sure team leader.
“Rashard always does the right things, “said Paul Sharpe, 21, a junior fullback from Apopka, and a good friend of Pompey’s.
“He won’t let no one else go and do the wrong thing, and he will be there for them. I mean that is just the way he is. He doesn’t just look out for himself; he looks out for his teammates as well.”
FAMU will travel to Champaign, Ill. Saturday to take on the Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois, and Pompey realizes that his Rattlers must battle a top Big Ten Conference team with all of the confidence that they can carry.
“Our team must go into the game with a lot of confidence,” Pompey said.
“The only thing that we are lacking is experience, but skill-wise, we have players that can step up and make plays. I feel that we are going to be OK, and we’re just going up there to play ball.”
One thing is clear: A man’s size can be seen with the naked eye, but his passion and determination can’t be measured onsite. It is unclear if Pompey’s teammates have adopted his mentality. If so, then the city of Champaign will only bear the name because they won’t be feeling bubbly on Saturday night.
contact ryan boyd at email@example.com.