Inspiration is something all athletes need plenty of to be successful at a high level. In the case of the Lafayette Commodore football team, the inspiration this year was to win the school’s first title and become the first team in the history of the state to finish a season 16-0.The Commodores’ ultimate goal of winning the title was realized four weeks ago and the joy that accompanied it can still be felt on campus. Practice for building the second perfect team in school history may be over until the spring, but there is still a lot of hard work going on for the Commodores. In between lifting weights and some members of the team playing basketball, the players are also busy raising money to purchase the championship rings that will help them remember the 2010 season forever.
Serving as the inspiration for the players to achieve their goal of raising money for the purchase of the rings is Lafayette County native Pam Malone. Malone, who is a third cousin to sophomore offensive lineman Jordan Willms, is the owner a Super Bowl ring. Malone was awarded the ring, valued at $13,000, back in 2001 while working in the front office for the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore won Super Bowl XXXV after the 2000 season and because Malone was a full-time employee of the team, she was presented a gold, diamond encrusted ring just like the players and the coaches got.
The experience of watching the Ravens — led by Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden — win the title is something Malone won’t forget, nor the feeling of being presented the ring made custom by Jostens.
“It was a great feeling to have been a part of that team, that organization, and to get that ring. Every team does things differently and some are more generous than others. Some owners include their front office workers and some don’t so I was very appreciative of (owner) Art Modell and (owner) Steve Bisciotti because they paid for everything,” said Malone, who graduated from Oxford High and then Ole Miss before starting her marketing career and working with various professional sports teams. “They really believed that we were a part of the team and that we helped make a contribution to the team winning the Super Bowl as well. I’ll never forget that feeling.”
Malone still has the letter from ownership in the same box she stores the ring in because of what the experience meant to her. Malone was hoping that feeling would rub off on Willms, so she brought it from Texas during her recent visit for Christmas.
“Jordan and I talk about football. That’s one of the things we have in common and I wanted to show him the ring so that he could understand just how much it meant to me and that he should enjoy all the benefits of being a part of a state title team,” Malone said. “It’s no less of an accomplishment what they did winning the state title than what the Ravens did winning the Super Bowl. I really wanted him to understand how big of a deal it is to win a state championship and that it doesn’t always happen.”
There was a level of surprise Malone had when she first found out that the Commodores had to purchase their own title rings. But after some more thought, the realization that school districts that barely have enough money to maintain an education system each month, couldn’t help buy the rings made more sense.
“It was a huge surprise to me that they were going to have to buy their own rings at first. That’s when I said that the players still have a little more work to do raising the funds for the rings,” Malone said. “I’m hoping that the community can help them find enough money to buy the rings. If they went to the games and enjoyed the team as much as the players did playing the games, then I’m hoping they would donate say a $1 for each game, each win. I really know how special this season was to the players and how much they would appreciate it like I do my ring.”
Another important message
The other important message Malone had for the Commodores was about the dream of playing football in the NFL.
“It’s great if they make it to the NFL and become a successful player. But the thing I tell Jordan is there are a lot of jobs in the NFL than just playing,” Malone said. “There are a wide range of jobs like marketing, corporate sales, coaching, scouting that they can get involved in even if they don’t get a chance to play in the NFL. Most don’t think about that, but there are still a lot of ways to be a part of a professional team.”
A wise message and a great source of inspiration for players to use for the future. (December 30, 2010, Page 8A)