They weren’t just great Black football players — they were people who made a difference
It’s been both enjoyable and educational to help Fort Dodge Senior High football coach Nik Moser and his staff honor former Dodger athletes on social media throughout February for Black History Month.
Moser contacted me last month to see if I would be willing to lend a hand. Being a local sports history wonk, I was ready to start digging through the archives immediately.
Many of the stories I knew. I’ve been watching games at Dodger Stadium for well over 30 years. A lot of the late-80s football players he wanted to recognize — Antonio Love, Charles Bodady, Joe Crooks, Jeremy Williams — were almost mythical figures to me, given my age and level of fandom.
By the time I reached high school, athletes like Alonzo Clayton and Mike Mosley were making headlines as I passed them in the halls. Quennel McCaleb graduated with my sister. I could name quite a few others who I still call friends to this day.
When I became Sports Editor in 2000, it opened the door to covering and getting to know many of the players first-hand. Kurtis Taylor. Monterio Poe. Jontel Clayton. Darreus Caston. Willie Williams. Kadyn Preston. Trey Mosley. Tysen Kershaw. All terrific players and even better people.
I learned a lot during this project, too. When we tabbed Bill Goodman a Fort Dodge Senior High Hall of Fame inductee in 2016, I found out he was one of just two Black students in his 1965 graduating class of nearly 450. Talk about a trailblazer. Goodman was a multi-sport standout who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, played minor league baseball for seven years, became a teacher, and later, a successful businessman in the Twin Cities area.
I’d always heard of Sam Mosley’s legendary performances and physique. When Bob Brown and I would sit around the office and occasionally reminisce nearly 20 years ago, he’d remind me that Sam was the best pure athlete ever to come out of this community — bar none. Mosley was a dominant athlete on the basketball court especially, averaging over 20 points per game and garnering all-state status twice for the Dodgers. He became a standout player at the University of Nevada, averaging a double-double his senior year as the Wolfpack took the conference championship.
In 1984, Mosley was selected by the Phoenix Suns in the fourth round. What many people don’t know is that Seattle also picked him in the 12th round of the NFL Draft. I’m still working on getting Sam to commit to a feature story and revisit all of this in the not-so-distant future.
The Thedford brothers — Ken and Mike — were standout running backs in the 80s. Their work holds up, as both still rank in the Top-10 all-time for rushing yards in program history. I was first introduced to Willie Thornton as West Des Moines Valley’s varsity basketball coach, but in 1983, Thornton was a quarterback and all-state defensive back for the Dodgers.
I met Tim Mosley four years ago during his FDSH Hall of Fame induction. Tim was an all-state wide receiver who became a star wideout and punter at the University of Northern Iowa. He eventually signed an NFL contract with the Denver Broncos.
Harold Lewis and Bill Grady were “new” to me, relative to the other names. Lewis earned first team all-state status as a Dodger defensive lineman in 1976. Grady, the 1979 squad’s leading rusher, scored a school-record five touchdowns in one game and garnered all-state status as well.
So I brushed up on the statistics and became well-versed in the records and accomplishments. That much was a given. What I quickly realized, judging by the daily reactions on social media to the posts about each athlete, was just how many lives each of them touched in their own special way.
Of course they were role models to younger Black students in Fort Dodge. It extended way beyond that, though. This wasn’t just about making an all-state list or being in the record books. It was the way their friends, teachers and other community members remember them: still to this day, the kind of Dodgers you’d want your kid to emulate both on and — more importantly — off the field.
Coach Moser felt this process was both important and long overdue. These men have played a critical role in developing the roots and personality of FDSH football through the decades.
Above all else, they deserve to be recognized as true leaders and memorable people. We honor them for Black History Month because it’s an appropriate gesture. But first and foremost, the spotlight shines on them today for the heart, soul and character they displayed during their time as citizens of Fort Dodge.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @MessengerSports