May 19, 2017 12:48:49 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- Even the best coaches sometimes need a lift from another source.
Late in his sophomore season, Starkville High School's Makell Brown was force to miss his team's region track meet.
Brown's mother LaToya felt like her son's grades were not where they needed to be.
"He bought in after that," Starkville track coach Steve Griffin said. "It could have gone either way. Makell dedicated himself to being the best he could be in both the classroom and on the track. That decision may have been the best thing to happen to him."
Another great thing happened for him Thursday as he and teammate/best friend Tavian Clark signed track scholarship offers with Meridian Community College.
The duo will room together and run track together for the Eagles.
"We have been best friends since pee wee football," Clark said. "It means the world to me that we are doing this together. We have always pushed each other. Like best friends, there is always a competition. We bring out the best in each other."
Ironically, Clark also had that "against his will" moment. Through a lack of personnel, he was asked to run the hurdles at a meet. After some resistance that day, it turns out the 300m hurdles are now his specialty.
"He is a talker, that is for sure," Griffin said. "What sets Tavian apart is he leads by example, too. He is going to talk the whole time but he is going to get the job done and he is going to show all of his other teammates how to do it.'
The friendship between the two began on the football field as one played quarterback and the other running back. In high school, the tough decision to walk away from football eventually took place. The Starkville track team benefited greatly from that decision.
"Once we got the hooks into both of them," Griffin said. "They became special track athletes. They devoted their full time to getting better at track. Both players really took off."
Brown, who ran the 100m, 200m and 400m for the Yellow Jackets this year, said the perfect combination of being pushed by a head coach, a mother and a best friend paid off in Thursday's signing.
"It's all about encouragement," Brown said. "I feel blessed to be in this position. A lot of people have put a lot of hard work into me and helped me get to this point. Being able to do this with Tavian is great. It means everything."
Friendship aside, the light came on in the classroom for Brown. His mother broke into a smile as the scholarship paper was signed.
Griffin asked both players to address their teammates, especially the younger ones.
"It all starts in the classroom," Brown said. "Sports can be taken away from you, so make sure you get your grades. Do everything right and you have a chance to be in this position one day, too."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter