The most essential football players might just be the ones fans rarely talk about and barely notice. Also, their names are almost never announced on the PA system.
Yet no team moves near the end zone without them.
Assessing Virginia Union University’s upcoming season, the offensive line — aka “The Movin’ Van” — may hold the keys to the end zone engine and GPS.
“You always like to be strong up front, and we’ve put together an impressive group… four starters behind; plus, we’re going deep,” Panthers coach Alvin Parker said.
Meet “The Movin’ Van”:
Right tackle: Graduate student Brian Gibson, No. 57, 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, criminal justice major, of Baltimore.
Right guard: junior Justin Meade, No. 58, 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, business management; JR Tucker High in Henrico County.
Center: Sophomore Mark Lawton, No. 59, 6-foot-2, 280 pounds, criminal justice; washington d.c.
Left guard: Sophomore Larry Jones Jr., No. 63, 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, bookkeeping, Nandua High on the east coast of Virginia.
Left tackle: Graduate student Darian Bryant, No. 76, 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, program and instruction, Philadelphia.
A transfer from Temple University, Bryant is the only newcomer to the quintet.
They are big city men, except for Jones, who hails from the small town of Onley (population 516 and less than a square mile).
Meade, the only local member of the “Van”, took the scenic route from Tucker, located on Parham Road, to VUU’s Lombardy Street campus.
Before VUU, Meade played at the University of Virginia-Wise, about 362 miles from Richmond. He was transferred to VUU to be closer to his family and friends.
“Justin is a good player overall…he’s extremely athletic, smart and aggressive…sometimes we have to take him off the pile,” Coach Parker said.
VUU covered a lot of ground a year ago en route to a 6-4 overall record and second-place finish (behind Bowie State) in CIAA North.
The Panthers averaged 28 points and 362 yards per game, including 208 through the air and 154 on the ground. One of the main beneficiaries of all this blocking was Jada Byers, then a freshman.
Honored with All-CIAA and CIAA Offensive Rookie of Year awards, Byers zigzagged and propelled for 978 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
There will be a new quarterback this round. Two-year-old starter Khalid Morris has moved on. Transfers Christian Reid (of Charleston Southern) and Jahkari Grant (Rhode Island) are in the running to be No. 1.
So, all aboard for VUU football 2022.
“The Movin’ Van” is loaded and ready to roll.