Thursday, January 17, 2013
- by B.B. Branton
Having recovered from a broken foot in mid-November, UTC sophomore Lance Stokes once again has solid footing and ready to play in tonight’s home game with Appalachian State at McKenzie Arena. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.
“Lance and point guard Dontay Hampton are our two best defenders and now that both are back from injuries I am now a better defensive coach,” said Chattanooga head coach John Shulman.
More important than two good feet underneath his 6-6 frame is his life’s solid foundation thanks to the influence and guidance of his parents, Fred and Regina Stokes.
Home-schooled by his parents in his early education years and coached by his dad in a variety of sports growing up, Lance was prepared to face the adventures of college life and being away from home.
“I think it was important to home school our three sons (Lance, Landon and Luka) through elementary school as it gave us the flexibility to spend time with our sons academically and I could work with them in various sports,” said Stokes who was 6-4, 210 as a college freshman but played at 6-4, 275 in the NFL with career stats of one interception, one safety and 13 fumble recoveries (one in Super Bowl XXVI) from his defensive end position.
Author of “The Bridge That Brought Me Over”, the senior Stokes has used his life’s lessons to help provide that solid foundation for his sons.
“I use the illustration in the book that the planks that comprise the bridge to get me from point A to point B in life have included my mom, my great aunt and uncle and my coaches among others. And the bridge and the planks rest on Jesus Christ, our ultimate foundation.”
Looking at his pair of national championship rings from Georgia Southern from the mid-1980s under legendary coach Erk Russell and a 1992 Super Bowl XXVI ring with the Washington Redskins (and teammate of Chattanooga radio sports talk show host Gerald Riggs) one could think that life has been an easy road for the senior Stokes.
But quite the opposite.
Born and raised in Vidalia, Ga. – the home of the sweet onion – life has not always been that sweet for Stokes.
“My mother gave birth to me when she was 15 and being a single mom she worked in a shirt factory to support me and my two younger sisters,” said the 10-year NFL veteran who lost two other siblings when he was a young boy.
“We also had a great uncle and aunt close by who provided additional family support, but we had to go outside to go to the bathroom (outhouse) and draw our water from a well so life wasn’t a bed of roses growing up in south Georgia,” Stokes stated.
Even after a successful college and pro career, life’s challenges have hit the Stokes family.
Storm a Comin’: “It was Mother’s Day 2008 and we were in Orlando visiting one of my former Redskins teammates Tim Johnson who is a pastor there,” said Stokes.
“A friend of mine called me and was almost screaming that our house had been destroyed by a F-5 tornado.
“He said, ‘Fred if y’all had stayed in Vidalia this weekend you wouldn’t have made it. Your boys would be dead.’”
The Stokes family eventually re-located to the Orlando area and the three sons have done well academically and athletically while at Lake Highland Prep.
While Lance is in his second season with the Mocs, Landon (6-5, 220) has made a verbal commitment to play football next year at Vanderbilt and Luka, a high school sophomore, has his sights set on playing college football at Tennessee.
“I have done my best to stay out of their college decision-making process, but I have told them that if you have a chance to play in the Southeastern Conference, then go for it,” said Stokes who was a three-sport athlete at Vidalia High School, leading his basketball team to a state runner-up finish as a senior.
Sidelined: The next adventure came this past November when the Landon tore his ACL in his final high school football game followed by surgery on Dec. 7. A week later, Lance broke his foot in an early season home game and had surgery on Nov. 27.
“The coaches at Vandy have been great to us and have not wavered on their scholarship offer even when Landon got hurt last fall,” Stokes said. “That showed me a lot about their integrity.”
Red Letter Dates: But good times are just a few weeks away for Lance who turns 21 on Feb.5 (born 10 days after Super Bowl XXVI) and for Landon who is set to sign scholarship papers with Vanderbilt the following day.
After tonight’s Mocs’ game, Fred, Regina and Landon head to Nashville for an official visit weekend at Vanderbilt.
Having faced the sweet and sour times in life, the former Super Bowl champion continues to instill in his three sons the importance of a solid life’s bridge, the planks upon which they trust and the ultimate foundation underneath.
“Hail to The Redskins!“ … “Having been on a pair of national championship teams at Georgia Southern, when I first got to the NFL much of that excitement was no longer there … but my four years at Washington were so much fun …. It was as though I was back in college with the great fan and community support,” said Stokes whose teammates included Mark Rypien (QB), and Gerald Riggs (11 rushing TDs … “he was a beast”), Gary Clark (WR, 10 TDs), Wilber Marshall, Charles Mann and hall of famers Art Mont and Darrell Green.
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