Cecils, big and little
CHESAPEAKE, Ohio -- Cecil Fletcher, Jr. looks forward to the day that people have forgotten about him.
Fletcher, Jr., the former Marshall University football star, is the father of Cecil Fletcher III, the standout student-athlete from Chesapeake Middle School. At the rate Fletcher III is making a name for himself, Fletcher, Jr.'s wait might not be long.
The younger Fletcher stars in football, basketball and track for the Panthers and last week won a state championship in the long jump in Division II at the Ohio Middle School Track and Field Championships at Dublin-Scioto High School. Fletcher leaped 19-feet, 1.25 inches to outdistance runner-up Ethan Tabor of Sheridan by nearly six inches.
Fletcher also placed third in the 100-meter dash with a time of 11.85 seconds, just .36 off the pace of champion Collin Genslinger of Germantown Valley View. Fletcher was fourth in the 200 in 55.30, just 2.46 behind first-place finisher Ivy Harrison of Galion.
"I was pretty excited to get first in the long jump," Fletcher III said before a weight room workout Tuesday morning. "When I got third and fourth in the other events, at first I was mad. Then I thought about it and realized that's third and fourth in the whole state and that's pretty good."
Pretty good indeed, especially in a state as large as Ohio, a hotbed for athletes.
Fletcher, Jr., knows about that Ohio competition. He came to Marshall from Wintersville, Ohio, in 1984 and starred at linebacker. Fletcher, Jr., was a freshman on the Thundering Herd's 1984 team that was the first winning squad for the program in 20 years. As a senior, he captained Marshall's 1987 team that advanced to the NCAA Division I-AA national championship game in Pocatello, Idaho.
Despite all those accolades, Fletcher III, 14, had no idea his dad played college football until three years ago.
"He's told me some stories," Fletcher III said. "It's pretty cool. I'm trying to live up to that and be the best I can be."
Fletcher, Jr., says his son has no need to live up to anything the former Herd standout did. Fletcher, Jr., wants Fletcher III to be his own individual with his own accomplishments in his own areas, sports or otherwise.
"I never tell any of the kids I coach that I played," Fletcher said. "Nobody cares how many tackles I had. I want them to learn because of the coaching, not because I played."
Fletcher, Jr., said he is proud of his son, as well as daughter, Faith, 11. Fletcher Jr., met his wife Tonya while at Marshall and the couple has been together ever since.
"I've been very blessed," Fletcher, Jr., said.
So has Fletcher III. Blessed with speed, athleticism, intelligence and more. The younger Fletcher was voted by Chesapeake Middle School teachers and coaches as the winner of the Archie Griffin Award, named for the two-time Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State University. The Griffin Award is a combination academic/citizenship honor.
Mention of the Griffin award brought a broad smile to the young athlete's face.
"I'm probably more proud of that than I am of the state championship in the long jump," Fletcher said. "Every teacher and coach voted on it. That's special to me that they think of me that way."
Panthers track coach Ken Brown said his star long jumper/sprinter is deserving of the honor.
"Cecil is an outstanding kid," Brown said. "He can do anything. He never complains. He's very coachable. The other kids love him. It's impossible not to like him."
Brown didn't use the word "humble," but Fletcher III is just that. He made it a point that he is a team player and he prefers team sports.
"I like football the most," said Fletcher, a running back. "I like the competition. In track, a lot of times you know who is going to win because you know everybody's times. It's not always that way in football. It's more competitive."
Fletcher III set two school records this track season. He ran the 100 in 11.3 seconds to break the mark of 11.6 shared by Mark Runyon (1994) and Donald Richendollar (1996). Fletcher's long jump of 19-8 broke the school record of 19-6 set by Josh Browning in 2010.
A standout in the classroom, Fletcher III said he'd like to play college athletics some day. For now, he's content to prepare for his freshman year of football. Fletcher III said he receives strong coaching at Chesapeake, as well as from his dad and former Marshall football and basketball player Reggie Giles, who was Fletcher, Jr.s teammate with the Herd.
"For a while, Cecil didn't realize Reggie and I played together," the older Fletcher said with a laugh. "I don't have any memorabilia and I'm not vocal about it. He thought Reggie was cool."
"Dad gives me a lot of tips and pointers," Fletcher III said. "The big problem I had was not pumping my arms when I ran. He pointed that out and when I started pumping my arms, that's when I set the school record in the 100. Reggie has helped me a lot with training. He's helped me a lot."
Fletcher, Jr., an estimator for a highway safety company, said he's pleased his son is interested in sports, but added that athletic accomplishments are but a small reason for his pride.
"He really is just a good kid," Fletcher, Jr. said. "He's more competitive in school than in athletics. He prefers to play sports rather than watch them. He probably couldn't tell you who is in the NBA or NHL playoffs. He gets more enjoyment out of playing. I tell him to enjoy it. If he never plays anywhere beyond Chesapeake High School, that's fine. Enjoy the moment. If this is as good as he'll ever be, there's nothing wrong with that."
Four other local athletes performed well in Dublin. McKenzie Long of Ironton won the girls 200-meter dash in 26.79. She was second in the 100 in 12.82. Allie Marshall of Fairland placed third in the high jump with a leap of 4 -10. Jacquelyn Wagner of Fairland threw 79-11 to finish eighth in the discus. Caleb Greenlee of Gallipolis placed eighth in the 3,200 in 11:46.18.