COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Head football coach Watson Brown has always taken pride in teaching his players the lessons of life in general when they're off the field – lessons like accountability, responsibility, teamwork, and how to pay it forward. As a result, the Tennessee Tech football program has begun to build a reputation within the community that demands the respect and recognition of players for what they do when they're off the turf.
Last weekend, in an effort to strengthen team camaraderie and give back to the community, the team worked with the Putnam County Habitat for Humanity at one of Putnam County's job sites, assisting with the construction of two new homes for community applicants.
And yet the true testament to the fact that Brown's lessons are not lost on his players comes in the moments off the field that require immediate action and good decision-making in spur-of-the-moment scenarios.
Marcus Edwards and DeShawn Harris, two returning juniors on the Golden Eagle defensive line, were recognized Wednesday for their efforts in assisting Cookeville and Monterey police forces detain a runaway suspect.
The incident occurred April 9, when the owner of a black 1995 Chevrolet pick-up truck spotted the vehicle in Cookeville, one day after having reported it stolen in Monterey. What later ensued was a high-speed chase through the TTU campus between the offender, David Lee Henry, and Monterey detective Mike Phillips.
"At some point, the guy bailed out of the car," Cookeville police office Mitch Harrington told the group of Tech players gathered for the recognition, "and he took off running. Two of your players, who are here today, saw this going on and did exactly what we want them to do, and that was not to interfere with the guy — we didn't know if he was armed, just that he was a known felon and a drug user and he had some needles and pills on him.
"They just kept pointing the guy out to us," Harrington continued. "He had pretty much gotten away from the Monterey detective, then at some point he got hemmed up where he couldn't go any further and the Monterey detective and one of our officers were able to apprehend him.
For their quick-thinking and smart instinctual reactions, Edwards, of Alabaster, Ala., and Harris, of Cincinatti, Ohio, were awarded commendations in the Tech football locker room Wednesday afternoon in the presence of the entire team and coaching staff.
Members of the Cookeville PD and Tech police were also present; Cookeville Police Chief Bob Terry and Randy Evans joined Harrington, while Tony Nelson represented the Tech police outfit.
"I'm pleased to make this presentation to these guys," Terry said. "These guys really deserved it. They exemplify Tennessee Tech's football team and what they represent. We're especially happy that citizens like this will take the time to stop and do the right thing, and we certainly appreciate it."
"Without that help, the guy probably would have gotten away," Harrington added.
So, two athletes found themselves presented with an opportunity to show off what they've learned at Tech, that which does not pertain to quarterback sacks and blitz plays. And, they took advantage of that opportunity – showing Cookeville another side of Tech football, a side that, once again, warrants the utmost recognition.
"We've got good kids here," said Brown. "One of the things I'm so big on is that before a kid leaves me in four or five years, I want him to understand how to walk out in the real world and be a person who can fit in and carry his load. It's not just about what you learn in the classroom. These kids get tired of listening to me because I keep talking about these things — how to fit in, how to work a job, how to be responsible, how to be a team player. I tell them there's times they're not going to be happy with what decisions have to be made, there's times you'll take things on a little bit, and you've got to learn how to do that."
Note: Thomas Corhern from the Herald-Citizen contributed to this report