MONTGOMERY – Robert Speer has been associated with Aransas State football practically his entire life.
His family moved to Jonesboro when he was 10 years old. His father, Wayland, was an Arkansas State Trooper, who was assigned to escort the ASU football teams at home or on the road. The younger Speer tagged along.
Speer played for seasons for Arkansas State from 1973-76 under head coach Bill Davidson. The ASU teams compiled a 30-12 overall record in his four seasons, including a perfect 11-0 record in 1975.
“When I was 10 years old, we moved to Jonesboro, where the University is located and my dad (Wayland) was a state trooper and he worked all the football games, so he’d take me along with him,” Speer said. “I was fortunate to go to school there and play football there in the 1970s.”
Following his senior season, Speer was selected to play in the 1976 Blue-Gray All-Star Game at the historic Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.
“I was fortunate to come here and play in the Blue Gray All-Star Game,” Speer said. “That was big game back then. The Blue-Gray All-Star Game and the Senior Bowl were the two prominent all-star games to go to.”
Speer played defensive on the Gray team that posted a 31-10 win on Dec. 24, 1976. The Gray team was coached by Homer Rice, who was the head coach at Rice University. Richard Williamson, who was he head coach at Memphis, was the assistant coach. Williamson played at Alabama and was later a Crimson Tide assistant coach. He was also the coach at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“There are a lot of memories,” he said. “George Wallace was here. He was the guest speaker at our luncheon. I guess, I am still an honorary colonel. That’s what it said on the certificates they presented to us. The hospitality was excellent. They understand college football. We had a great time. I played with a lot of great players from all over the country that we had read about or watched on TV. It was a good experience.”
After a brief stint in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, Speer followed in his father’s footsteps in law enforcement. He was an Arkansas State Trooper and after his retirement he went to work for the Craighead County Sheriff’s Office. In both roles, he has served as an escort for the ASU Athletic Department.
“It’s a public relations thing,” Speer added. “It’s good for law enforcement engaging young athletes. There is such a cross- section of people on college football team and people in athletics. It’s good that we can have a positive experience with them.
Now 40 years later, Speer is still on the job and back in Montgomery for the sixth annual Camellia Bowl.
“This is my second Camellia Bowl,” Speer added. “I have been to every bowl game in ASU history. Anytime you come to the South the hospitality it great. We were excited when we got the word we were coming here. We all love sports or we would not be here. We stay here a lot. When we play Auburn or Troy, we always stay here in Montgomery. We enjoy the downtown area, all the hotels and restaurants.”
FORMER LEE COACH ATTENDS FIU PRACTICE
Former Robert E. Lee head football coach Tyrone Rogers was a guest at the FIU practice on Wednesday at Alabama State University.
Rogers played for FIU head coach Butch Davis with the Cleveland Browns from 2001-04.
“It’s always good seeing Coach,” Rogers said. “I played four years for him, enjoyed all four years. He’s always energetic, very enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. I had the opportunity to go to the playoffs with him, first time since the Browns have been back (as an expansion club to replace the Ravens). Seeing him is awesome.”
Rogers played at Alabama State and spent his entire pro career with the Browns. He recorded 125 tackles and 13.5 sacks for the Browns.
ASU LINEBACKER GETS SECOND CHANCE AT CAMELLIA BOWL
Arkansas State is playing in its second Camellia Bowl in the last three years. The Red Wolves lost to Middle Tennessee 35-30 in the 2017 Camellia Bowl.
ASU linebacker Trent Ellis-Brewer missed his team’s last Camellia Bowl appearance after suffering a torn ACL late that season. Two years, later the Red Wolves and the Daphne (Ala.) High School product are back in the capital city.
Ellis-Brewer is thrilled with the chance to play his final college football game in his home state.
“I think it’s great,” Ellis-Brewer said after Wednesday’s practice at Huntingdon College “I tore my ACL my sophomore year towards the end of the season and missed out on (Sun Belt Conference) championship game and bowl game. Just bouncing back from that and being a local guy and playing my last game in Alabama is just amazing.”
Ellis-Brewer was having a career year before the ACL injury against UL Monroe in 2017. He had recorded 35 tackles and two pass breakups for the Red Wolves. He was the second-leading tackler among ASU linebackers.
He said his work to get back on the field was more mental than physical.
“I think it was more mental,” he said. “I had to come back with the right attitude.”
He chose ASU for a lot of reasons, but mainly the program’s family atmosphere.
“It’s the family atmosphere here,” Ellis-Brewer said. “ They recruited me out of high school. I committed right before my senior year in high school and I stayed with them. The family environment and everything else about it, I love the school and Jonesboro. I love it.”
It’s ironic that he will be able to close out his college career about 150 miles from his hometown in front of family and friends.
“I have a quite a few people coming to the game,” he added. “There are several of us, me, Caleb Bonner, BJ Edmonds. There are a lot of Alabama kids on this team. It’s special to play at home and play one last game with one another.”