The word “family” will be etched prominently onto the 2018 Class 5A state championship rings. It symbolizes the spirit that carried the Central High School Bobcats past a rough start and through a transformational season.
Coach Bryson Rosser smiles when he talks about the team choosing the ring’s design and explains that “family” is an acronym: “Forget About Me; I Love You.”
The ring also says “First ever,” a simple yet astounding fact about one of the area’s most storied programs. Central has made 24 playoff appearances, being runners-up in 1999 and 2016 before winning in 2018.
This was Rosser’s fifth season at Central and his first state championship as a head coach. But he won two of them as a quarterback at Hackensack High School in New Jersey (something he didn’t mention, but it’s right there in the record. He also didn’t mention that he is Tennessee’s 2018 Class 5A Coach of the Year, or that his record is 47-20 – he means that “Forget about me” business.).
“I’ve been blessed with some great opportunities and some great successes,” he says.
The Bobcats were a downtrodden bunch when he arrived. Things had been tough, particularly after longtime coach Joel Helton was forced out in late 2010. The job became a revolving door until the arrival of Rosser, who had played quarterback at Tennessee State. He had been an assistant coach at Nashville Hillsboro (which won a state championship in 2008, during his tenure) and Oak Ridge high schools before taking a job in his home state. He was hired at Central by then-principal Jody Goins (now at Lincoln Memorial University), who was at Oak Ridge when Rosser was there.
One of the first things Rosser did as head coach was reach out to Helton, who was struggling with health problems.
“I’ll never forget – he came back up to the high school – he hadn’t visited much since his departure – and we walked around the stadium and the track. He found out I was an offensive guy, so he brought me a book full of defensive plays. He said, ‘I’d rather you have it than it sit around the house …’ Our very first home game that year was against Karns, and it was Joel Helton Night. I said, ‘Coach, what do you think about tonight?’
“He said, ‘I know one thing: you better not lose this game.’ So we got down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter – we had some kids sit due to grades. But we came back and won 49-21. That was a good night, and I wish we’d had a little bit longer time together.” (Helton died July 5, 2015. Rosser brought the whole team, dressed in red and black jerseys, to the funeral.)
“But I know he still watches from above. His wife and daughter gave us a sendoff (to the championship game), and I still see his son, Zach. I am honored to have this relationship.”
And that’s what it’s all about, Rosser says. “I believe relationships are the basis to an education – football is a vehicle.”
Central fans are energized. There will soon be a street sign saying “Rosser Way” on Marion Drive (it’s an honorific and nobody’s address will change), and there’s an ongoing fundraiser to renovate the fieldhouse.
Rosser and wife Brook live in the CHS zone. He plans to stay: “I hope to be able to do this for a very long time. That’s the plan.”
Meet the Central High School state champions 2018: (front row) Will Siaway, Ryan Bolton, Caleb Johnson, Dakota Mitchell, Abraham Dudley Jr., LaTroy Askew Jr., Shannon Mills, Mark Adams Jr., Trey Johnston, Audric Moorer, William Price, Mello Coney; (second row) Brandon Ridner, Xavier Washington, Philip Young, Demetrien Johnson, Braden Gaston, Evan Walker, Eli Sharp, CJ Johnson, Dylan Smith, Luke Ferguson, Nicholas Longden; (third row) Dakota Fawver, Isaiah Osborne, Jarred Swislosky, Holden Collins, Makhi Anderson, Devone Moss, Trey’sean Moore, Kobe King, Jeremiah Hunley, Malik Robinson, Kalib Fortner, Jaidin Horton; (fourth row) Liam Fortner, Aiden Scarbrough, Jason Merritts, Deonte Middleton, Carson Brengle, Melvin Kyle, Jacob Vande, Connor Williamson, Jalynn Clemons, Kenneth McCallie, Preston Conner, Noah Parker; (fifth row) Jaylen Gaston, Daveon Hall, Gabe Neubert, Kross Smith, Jakobi Troutman, Bryson Richie, Matel Walker, Sam Myers, TJ Waters, Zach Ridner, Denson Minton, Aaron Mosqueda, Tyler Bost, Michael Shafer; (sixth row) Noah Nance, Logan Thompson, Sean Randolph; (not pictured) Joshua Bland, Quisean Jackson, Deontae White, Isaiah Huff, Joseph Meade, Daunte Holliday and Michael Miburo. (Team picture and names provided by CHS coaching staff)
Buy a locker to renovate the fieldhouse
Central’s Pride & Tradition Booster Club is raising funds to renovate the football fieldhouse.
All-new lockers (like the one at left) include a customized nameplate that can be used to memorialize or honor a former or current player, coach or family member. Lockers are available first-come, first-served for $300. Donations of any amount will be accepted, however. Checks can be made payable to Bobcat Pride & Tradition Inc., the CHS football booster club. Earmark the check for locker room renovation.
Pride & Tradition Booster Club is a tax-exempt organization and donations are tax-deductible, according to officers. Kelly Johnson is president, and Kristen Williamson is treasurer. Info: [email protected].
The promotional flyer concludes: “Thank you for paving the way for future Bobcats! You are helping the Pride and Tradition of Fountain City to thrive, by leaving your legacy. Thank you for providing resources to help us compete at the highest level and become one of the premier football programs in the state of Tennessee.”