Tag: Brannon Cahela

Southern culture: Football reigns in the South while national numbers decline

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Former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver lies motionless on the ground after being hit in a Dec. 19, 2010 game again the Jacksonville Jaguars. Collie suffered three concussions between 2010 and 2012. The number of students participating in football at the high school level and down is decreasing nationally, partially due to safety concerns involving concussions (photo by AJ Mast/AP Photo).

Brannon CahelaStaff Writer

During my senior year of high school, a friend and teammate of mine received a concussion while playing football. He “got his bell rung,” so to speak. He was a wide receiver, and I was an offensive lineman, so he was too far down the field for me to see, but I still remember the collective gasp of the crowd as his head hit the ground after he’d taken a hit.

After the whistle blew, everyone cheered as he walked off the field. Later, on the sidelines, as we were going over plays for the next drive, my teammate looked at me and asked, “Hey, it’s 42-14. How’d that happen? I thought we had only scored 21 points?”

I was alarmed. I asked him if he knew who were playing and where we were. He thought we were playing Gadsden City when, in fact, we were playing Lee Huntsville. I went to the trainer and told him something was terribly wrong, and a few minutes later my teammate was on his way to the hospital to be treated for a concussion.

That was more than five years ago. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), since then (2013), high school football participation has declined nationally by roughly 35,500 students. Many point to a rising concern for safety as the reason for a decline in participation. Many parents are fearful of the long-term brain damage that can be caused over multiple years playing football, particularly if enough hits are taken during a child’s early brain developing years.

While there is a decline among football participation at a national level, could this decline be apparent throughout small southern towns like mine? Football is a big deal in Alabama. On Saturdays, everyone is pulling for the Tide or the Tigers. During the work week, fathers volunteer their time to coach their kid’s peewee programs. On Friday nights, entire towns head to the local high school stadium to cheer on the home team. It doesn’t matter if their child is on the team or not. In small towns there isn’t much else to do. Football is ingrained into who we are as a culture.

Even though participation in football has declined steadily over the past few years, it would still take many years of consistently dwindling participants to dethrone football as the most played high school sport. There was a total of 1,059,399 students playing high school football in 2016-2017. The sport with the second highest number of participants—basketball—had a total of 600,136. That’s still nearly 450,000 students away from coming close to football. So, is there really anything to worry about as far as the future of football is concerned?

Coach Cliff Mitchell has been an assistant football coach at Albertville High School for almost 16 years. He’s seen a lot of things in his time as a coach, but he hasn’t seen any decline in football participation. Albertville’s roster has actually grown within the last few years.

“I don’t think kids’ interest in football has wavered at all,” said Mitchell. “I just think that parents have become a little overly concerned with safety over the years because of the everything in the news.” “Everything in the news” being concussions.

Due to social media, Coach Mitchell says that it’s much easier for coaches to be in contact with parents. The increased contact has led to more questions, the most common being if teams have the proper protocol in place to deal with a concussion.

“Of course we do,” said Mitchell. “Our athletic trainers are very well trained and experienced. If a kid gets a concussion, there is a series of tests that they have to pass before they can continue playing.”

To concerned parents Coach Mitchell says this, “Safety is our number one concern. We all love football, but we all love our kids more, and we want to make sure that they’re taken care of. We treat them like they were our own.”

While the parents of high school athletes are more aware of concussions, the largest concern lies around children under 12, with many organization questioning if kids that young should even be allowed to play the game. Illinois and Maryland have both proposed bills that would outlaw full-contact football for children under 12.

“I think it should be up to a parent. I don’t think any form of government should say what your kid can and can’t do,” said Mitchell.  “I’m worried about the helicopter state of everyone hanging over us and trying to protect us. We don’t need to live in a bubble. Sometimes you get hurt, that’s part of life. Don’t take something away that more than half of the country enjoys.”

While no public official in the state of Alabama has called for any age limits on the sport, the Alabama High School Athletics Association (AHSAA) has enacted restrictions on how much contact can take place during the practice week. Players aren’t going full speed every day like they did when I played. But do these restrictions cause more harm than they prevent? If players aren’t used to tackling every day, are they going to be skittish in game situations, causing more injuries?

“I don’t think so,” said Mitchell. “Right now, it’s about as good as it can get. Right now, we have plenty of time to get in a good practice and enough tackling. If there were any more limitation, though, I think that could lead to more injuries.”

Restrictions on tackling have been implemented at all levels of football, from youth programs all the way up to the NFL. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison concluded that after contact during the practice week was limited, there was a significant reduction in concussion rates.

(A more recent study by UW-Madison shows that students with a history of concussions are more like to struggle academically.)

Many argue that the life lessons football teaches boys greatly outweigh the risks of playing the sport.

“The thing with sports in general, and, especially football,” said Mitchell, “is that it turns a lot of boys into men. They’re all going to have tough moments in life, and football really teaches kids how to make it through them. The sport helps them to grown as human beings. It’s a grind. It’s like going to work. I think that you find that boys who play sports, and especially football, are a little more successful as men.”

While football participation may be decreasing, at a national level, and even in Alabama. Football is still very much a part of small town southern culture. “I think we’re a little tougher down here,” said Mitchell. “It’s just what boys do in the south; they play football.”

*Brannon Cahela is a graduating senior majoring in digital journalism. This piece was written for COM 420 Advanced Reporting.*



Black History Month celebrated with banquet


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The 2018 Hidden Figures awardees (from left) Vinson Houston, Earl Warren, Cleo Lemon, Sandra Sudduth and Tracy Broom stand with JSU President Dr. John M. Beehler (Brannon Cahela/The Chanticleer)

Brannon CahelaStaff Writer

JSU concluded its celebration of Black History Month with a banquet in Leon Cole Auditorium on Tuesday, February 27. The banquet was well attended by a diverse group of students, faculty, community members and special guests. The event was planned and organized by JSU Diversity and Inclusion Committee and the SGA.

The evening began with a moving performance by the JSU Gospel Choir. Afterwards, Breon Moore, Vice President of Student Government Association and Master of Ceremonies set the tone for the evening by saying, “This evening we will appreciate the past, celebrate the present and embrace the future.”

The JSU Gospel Choir performs. The choir is directed by Dr. Myrtice Collins of the David L. Walters Department of Music (Brannon Cahela/The Chanticleer).

After Moore’s opening remarks President John M. Beehler gave a short speech on the importance of diversity.

“At JSU we strive for excellence in all that we do, including diversity and inclusion. Every organization at JSU is better and makes better decisions if it includes all people from all races, colors, creeds and nations,” said Beehler.

After Beehler’s short speech, President of Alpha Phi Alpha, Xi Xi Chapter, Khiry Smith presented Black History through the spoken word. The performance included a few quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dinner and entertainment for the evening included a buffet style meal featuring soul food classics like fried chicken, ribs, macaroni and cheese and collard greens. Accompanying dinner was a fashion show by Forever Young Modeling Troupe.

After dinner the highlight of the evening began as Dr. Heidi Louisy presented the 2018 Celebration of Hidden Figures. The Hidden Figure awards are a celebration of individuals currently working at JSU who contribute to the university’s growth in diversity.

The Black History Month banquet was the finale of JSU’s Black History Month programs that have included a special story time at the library and a trivia competition (Brannon Cahela/The Chanticleer).

Among those awarded this year included: Tracy Broom, Assistant Athletic Director and Senior Woman Administrator; Vinson Houston, Chief Information Officer; Cleo Lemon, Gamecocks Wide Receivers Coach; Sandra Sudduth, former instructor at JSU and current member of the Regional Medical Center Board of Directors and councilwoman for the City of Jacksonville; and Earl Warren, director of institutional development.

Following the presentation of awards, WBRC Fox 6 News Reporter and JSU alumni Jeh Jeh Pruitt gave an inspiring presentation as the event’s official keynote speaker. During Pruitt’s presentation, he spoke of the African concept “Ubuntu” meaning, “I am who I am because of who we all are.”

“We have to help each other to succeed in order for this life to be what it is,” said Pruitt. “Remember the word ‘Ubuntu’ and what it means and how you can help someone. And how it takes a village for someone to be successful. I don’t know about you, but I think Jacksonville State University is that village. I think that JSU knows the concept of Ubuntu.”

The evening concluded with closing remarks by Dr. Louisy who, along with JSU Diversity and Inclusion Committee, helped plan and organize the event.



JSU remembers Justin Tinker

Justin Tinker (right) in his Facebook profile picture (Justin Tinker/Facebook).

Brannon CahelaStaff Writer

Students gathered to mourn the loss of graduating senior Justin Tinker on Monday evening at the TMB auditorium. Tinker was struck by a vehicle on Highway 204 near campus on Tuesday, February 6.

Initiated by Active Minds Club President Paris Coleman, the Active Minds Club, ACE tutoring services and the SGA came together to plan a candlelight vigil to honor the memory of Tinker. Among those in attendance were his family, friends and professors.

Tinker, a chemistry student, planned to attend graduate school at Auburn University. He shared his knowledge with other students as a tutor with ACE.

Tinker was very intelligent and had a great knack for music and art. He was a talented drawer and was able to pick up any instrument and be able to play it within minutes. To know him was to love him, family and friends said. He was very kind-hearted and generous to anyone he met, and had a great love for all animals.

“At JSU we are more than just college students, we are a community and we are a family,” said SGA Vice President of Student Activities Kasey Gamble. “JSU is a super close-knit school, and it is important for us to acknowledge when we lose a member of our family and help one another in any way we can.”

Among those who spoke at the candlelight vigil held for Tinker were: Active Minds Club President and 2017 Homecoming King Paris Coleman; Dr. Donna Perygin, Tinker’s research advisor; Quinton Thornton, personal friend and science education major; Dr. Laura Weinkauf, Tinker’s physics and astronomy professor; Dr. Nixon Mwebi, Tinker’s chemistry professor; Bro. Joey Hanner, Pastor at Union 3 Baptist Church of Gadsden, and Tinker’s younger brother Tristan.

Those that spoke had nothing but kind words to say about Tinker. He was beloved and respected by those who knew him. Those that shared their memories of Tinker at the vigil portrayed him as an incredibly intelligent, hard-working, humble and resilient young man who showed great love and kindness to those he came into contact with every day.

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Justin Tinker (left) poses with other members of the Gaston High School marching band in August 2012. Tinker marched saxophone in the band and graduated from Gaston in 2013 (Tabitha Angela Rinault/Facebook).

It is often difficult to understand the loss of someone so young and with such potential. Students seeking help during this time may call (256) 782-5475 to schedule a free important with the JSU Counseling Services.

Tinker was scheduled to graduate this spring, and his diploma will be presented to his family at the spring commencement ceremony.

Those in attendance asked Justin Tinker and his family be kept in the thoughts and prayers of the JSU community.

Storytime success at Children’s Corner


Cocky and the JSU cheerleaders show off their Fear the Beak signs with the help of the children who attended the library’s inaugural storytime in the Children’s Corner (photo by the Jacksonville State University Houston Cole Library/Facebook).

Brannon Cahela, Staff Writer


Tuesday, January 23 marked the first ever Children’s Corner story time on the fifth floor of the Houston Cole Library.

A group of children and parents listened, laughed and clapped along as JSU’s cheerleaders read them titles selected by fifth floor librarian Mrs. Laurie Heathcock.

Houston Cole’s Children’s Corner was opened in October 2017. Formerly inhabited by old reference books and shelves, Heathcock decided the space would better be used as a fun area where children could come to read and relax.

The first guest readers at Houston Cole Library’s Children’s Corner were the JSU cheerleaders and Cocky. There were many laughs and smiles by all in attendance as the cheerleaders got to take time to meet with the children before story time began.

“It’s an honor to be asked to read to these children,” said cheer captain Carlee Waits. “It’s amazing to be seen as a mentor and a role model to these kids. As a cheerleader, complete strangers know who I am, and it’s great to represent the university in a positive way.”

Head cheerleading coach R.J. Conroy was also there to show his support for the new children’s reading program at Houston Cole.

“This is a great way to show these kids the importance of reading, which is something we’ve kind of gotten away from,” Conroy said. “This is just a great way to share with the community something new going on at JSU”

Stephen and Jennifer Craig, JSU alumni, brought their daughter Ella to the event after reading about it in The Anniston Star.

“I think it’s great that athletes are giving back to the community in a way that makes these kids so happy,” said Jennifer.

It not only brings joy to the children to have such strong role models read to them.

“It just really put smiles on all of our faces the way these kids look up to us,” said cheerleader Dayleigh Dorsett..

The first installment of story time at Houston Cole Children’s corner was certainly a success, but Laurie Heathcock has big plans for the space’s future.

“We would love partner up with local public libraries to provide them with more space to do their summer reading programs,” Heathcock said. “It would be amazing if we could bring in children’s authors and illustrators to meet and interact with the kids.”

If you are interested in being a reader at Children’s Corner, please contact Laurie Heathcock through her e-mail at lheathcock@jsu.edu or give her a call at (256) 782-5245.

Heathcock said she would love to see fraternities and sororities volunteer to read, so if your Greek organization needs community service projects, contact her immediately.

While Children’s Corner is a celebration of childhood literature, it also a colorful refuge from the grey dullness of the rest of the library. If you’re sick of staring at your anatomy textbook, head over to Children’s Corner and enjoy the colorful murals and beanbag chairs.


Chilean Chef brings flavors of Chile to the Caf

Brannon Cahela, Staff Writer

JSU students and faculty were treated to a unique dining experience on Friday, November 10 at Jack Hopper Dining Hall. In addition to the typical fare served at the Caf, students were granted the opportunity to sample a variety of Chilean dishes prepared by acclaimed Chef Mauricio Alejandro Arteaga Campos.

Chef Mauricio payed a visit to the JSU dining hall as part of Sodexo’s Global Chef program, sharing his Chilean cuisine with America. This tour allows people to experience the flavors of Chilean cuisine, which is unfamiliar to many American pallets.

Chef Mauricio Alejandro Arteaga Campos visited the Jack Hopper Dining Hall on Friday, November 10 to present diners with a taste of his Chilean culture. (photo via Sodexo at JSU [@JSUDINING)]/Twitter).
“Every day we try to provide diners with a unique experience.” Said Chef Mauricio. “Food is experience. Although our food is simply prepared, we prepare it with love and we believe the end result reflects that.”

There were many staple dishes of Chilean cuisine available including a skewer with chicken, pork and peppers; chicken cooked in Cognac; barley risotto with onion and tomato and a salad with shredded beef and caramelized onions.

Chilean cuisine is simply prepared with fresh, quality ingredients and stems from many Spanish influences. Chile has a diverse agricultural climate, making many fresh fruits and vegetables essential in Chilean cuisine.

For more than 20 years, Chef Mauricio has delighted thousands of Sodexo guests with his culinary specialties. He has served more than 3,100 guests per day at the historic Banco de Chile in Santiago and more than 7,000 daily meals as Executive Chef at Minera Escondido, the world’s largest copper producing mine in the northern Chilean city of Antofagasta.

Chef Mauricio’s interest in cooking began as a child, when he saw his father cooking with wood and flame. His interest then developed farther as he became more classically trained.

After studying International Technical Gastronomy at El Instituto de Capacitation Profesional de Chile, Chef Mauricio trained at Hotel Carrera in Santiago. He then joined the culinary teams at Paseo San Damian Mexican Restaurant, Restaurant Branigo Gourmet Pub, and Hotel Hyatt, and catered kosher food events for more than 12 years.

“It has been an amazing experience to be able to share the food of my country with the people of America. It is so awesome when people come to me and tell me how delicious my food was and how much it meant to them to try Chilean cuisine,” Chef Mauricio said.