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December 19, 2002

Culberson, Thrasher make best of admirable talents

From: Jackson Clarion Ledger, MS - 19 Dec 2002

• Provine player, MSD coach earn top All-Metro honors

By Robert Wilson

Quinton Culberson wants to use his talents to take him to the NFL.

Joseph Thrasher wants to use his talents to minister to athletes and in the process teach them how to play football.

Both took huge steps this football season toward reaching their goals.

Culberson, a dynamic free safety/wide receiver from Provine, and Thrasher, a 23-year-old energetic coach for the Mississippi School for the Deaf, are The Clarion-Ledger Metro Football Player and Coach of the Year, respectively.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Culberson has been Mr. Excitement for the Rams for the past three seasons. Whether using his extraordinary acceleration to knock down a potential touchdown pass or his breakaway speed to run away from a defensive back and catch a TD pass, Culberson made big play after big play.

Culberson had 64 tackles and three interceptions on defense and caught 22 passes for 430 yards and 10 touchdowns on offense. He was also the long snapper on punts. And opposing coaches always made sure they knew where No. 1 — Culberson's number — was.

Even as a freshman, Culberson was trying to break into the lineup on Provine's team that reached the Class 5A championship game.

"Quinton could have started at 99 percent of the schools in the state that year, but we had two outstanding cornerbacks in Michael Cooley (now at Jackson State) and Narada Taylor (now at Hinds Community College)," Provine coach Willie Collins said. "Quinton has been in the starting lineup since he was a sophomore and has been making great plays for us.

"We moved him around a lot this year to get him around the football more. We moved him to inside linebacker some later in the season and he did a great job."

Considered one of the top college prospects in the nation, Culberson is arguably Mississippi's most prized recruit. He has visited Mississippi State and has set up visits to Ole Miss, LSU and Southern Miss in January.

"My dream is to make it to the NFL," Culberson said. "My brother (Quincy) made it. He was signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys and then he tore his quad muscle."

Quincy, who played at Jackson State, introduced Quinton to NFL players Corey Bradford and Sylvester Morris of JSU. And Quinton knows Washington Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot, a former Provine, Hinds Community College and Mississippi State star.

"I know it's going to take a lot of work and dedication," Quinton Culberson said. "My brother (who is 12 years older than Quinton) is a good person and he believes you must work hard at what you do."

Thrasher, 23, knows all about working hard, too. He played fullback and linebacker at Vancleave and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, then played fullback at Belhaven College. He majored in sports ministry, then went to work at MSD two weeks after graduating from Belhaven.

Thrasher has led the Bulldogs to back-to-back eight-man national deaf championships and 12 consecutive victories. When he accepted the job, he did not know sign language, and he inherited a program that hadn't fielded a team for two years because of a lack of players.

"I taught the players football and they taught me sign language," Thrasher said. "The past two years have been a blessing for me."

Thrasher's father, Dale, is a pastor who works with his mother, Beverly, in Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Thrasher has found another family in Jackson.

"These players are like my family," Thrasher said. "It's just not football that we are learning there. We are teaching these young men about life and how to deal with problems they will face in the future."

Thrasher has overcome obstacles most coaches don't face. In addition to rebuilding a program that stood idle for two years, he learned how to communicate with deaf players, how to withstand bus trips that sometimes last 10 hours and how to mold a team of players who hail from across the state.

He did it well enough for the Bulldogs to go 6-0, winning by an average of 45 points per game.

"It's been a wonderful journey," Thrasher said. "I talked to (Fellowship of Christian Athletes regional director) Bill Buckley and prayed about this before I took the job. It's been great.

"I've become a much better person because I'm had the pleasure to associate with these young men. They are dedicated, intelligent and great athletes, and many people aren't aware of that."

Among those players: freshman Ro' Derrick Brown, the All-Metro kick returner who accounted for 1,988 all-purpose yards, 25 TDs and 13 2-point conversions. At least one college coach told Thrasher that Brown is a Division I prospect.

"I've been blessed with some outstanding athletes and coaches," said Thrasher, who is assisted by Tyrone Blackmon, Fabian Dean, Arness Georgetown and Rodney Hayes. "They have to overcome so many hardships and are still focused and excel at football. I am amazed every day at things they do on and off the field. They have a lot of character and pride."

Copyright © 2002, The Clarion-Ledger.