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Derek Belt

Foley football’s past and present

A meeting of Lions

Foley High School legend Ken Stabler and current quarterback Roosevelt Byrd meet for the first time

By Derek Belt
Mobile Press-Register
Oct. 3, 2006

FOLEY, ALA. — On this afternoon, it wasn’t about records or numbers. It was about Foley High School’s past and present—two No. 12s, meeting for the first time on their own home turf.

It was about camaraderie and togetherness. It was about football, then and now.

Current Foley quarterback Roosevelt Byrd and Ken “Snake” Stabler, who held that position from 1961 to 1963, tossed a few spirals back and forth on the freshly chalked field at Ivan Jones Stadium, then talked football in the very same locker room that Stabler once used. Continue reading “Foley football’s past and present”

Please clean the Qwest Field roof

I lived in West Seattle for several years and took Highway 99 to and from the office. Every day, the site of the Seahawks’ brand new stadium was both impressive and revolting.

The marshmallow white roof had turned a sick shade of gray due to the dust and grime kicked up by the Port of Seattle and neighboring freeways. So I started a public Facebook group called “Please Clean the Qwest Field Roof.”

Less than a year later, the Seahawks had painted the roof blue like they should have done all along. This is our story. You’re welcome, Seattle. Continue reading “Please clean the Qwest Field roof”

A whole new ball game: Husky Stadium reopens

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Watching baseball with Sgt. Slaughter

By Derek Belt
Mobile Press-Register
July 9, 2007

MOBILE, ALA. — So there I was, perched high above Hank Aaron Stadium in the Mobile BayBears’ press box.

It was a Wednesday night, the Fourth of July, and my first Double-A baseball game as a Press-Register reporter was taking forever to finish.

All I could think about was my fast-approaching deadline when in walked a familiar face: Sgt. Slaughter.

The pro wrestling superstar who once battled the Iron Sheik and headlined Wrestlemania XII against Hulk Hogan pulled up the seat next to mine.

Continue reading “Watching baseball with Sgt. Slaughter”

Nation’s first profile of Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones

The future

Foley’s Julio Jones already cream of 2008 recruiting crop

By Derek Belt
Mobile Press-Register
Sept. 5, 2006

FOLEY, ALA. — When Foley’s Julio Jones steps onto the football field, try not to look away. You don’t want to miss something special.

Whether it’s awe-inspired fans in the stands, baffled defensive coordinators trying desperately to rein in the Lions’ talented wide receiver, or a growing number of college scouts and recruiting analysts, it seems all eyes are on the 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior these days.

“He’s a playmaker. He makes things happen,” said Foley quarterback Roosevelt Byrd, who last week hooked up with Jones 10 times for 143 yards and a touchdown in Foley’s 36-14 drubbing of Murphy in a battle of top-10 teams.

Following a stellar sophomore season in which he caught 51 passes for 805 yards and eight scores—and an offseason in which he stole the show at virtually every camp, clinic and 7-on-7 tournament he attended—Jones is being hailed as one of 2008’s top college prospects in the country.

Bryan Matthews of AuburnSports.com wrote, “While there’s still debate over who the top football prospect in the state of Alabama is for ’07, the early discussion over the state’s top recruit for 2008 begins and ends with Foley wide receiver Julio Jones.” Continue reading “Nation’s first profile of Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones”

Bob Rondeau is ‘The Voice of the Huskies’

Air force

Play-by-play man Bob Rondeau has seen the highs and lows of UW sports and is not afraid to tell it like it is

By Derek Belt
Columns Magazine
December 2003

SEATTLE — In October of 2000, the football game between Washington and Stanford was put on hold late in the third quarter while paramedics attended to downed Husky safety Curtis Williams.

Silence crept over Stanford Stadium following the helmet-to-helmet collision that 18 months later would claim the life of the 22-year-old senior. And though time itself seemed to stop, the radio broadcast did not.

Bob Rondeau was just as dumbfounded as everyone else as he kept a watchful eye on the action from the press box high above the field. With no television coverage that day, he was well aware listeners were glued to the radio, thirsting for every last drop of drama and detail.

And as the veteran broadcaster watched the tragedy unfold through a pair of binoculars, there was only one thing he could do—just keep talking.

The game eventually resumed and, despite a fallen teammate in the hospital, the Huskies pulled out an improbable 31-28 victory on Marques Tuiasosopo’s last-second touchdown pass. It was an amazing comeback for the UW and an unforgettable experience for its play-by-play announcer.

“When I got to the end of the game, I was ready to cry,” says Rondeau. “It was emotionally the most memorable game I’ve ever been involved with.” Continue reading “Bob Rondeau is ‘The Voice of the Huskies’”

The Huard brothers are Huskies for life

Deep purple

From Puyallup to the pros and back, Damon and Brock Huard bleed purple and gold as they blaze a bright trail as alums.

By Derek Belt
Columns Magazine
June 2016

SEATTLE — Los Angeles can look awfully good to a kid from the Pacific Northwest. Just thinking about the bright lights and endless summers can warm you up on a chilly, damp afternoon in Puyallup.

That was the case for 18-year-old Brock Huard in the winter of 1994. The nation’s top high school quarterback prospect and younger brother of then-UW signal caller Damon Huard, Brock had just returned home from a recruiting visit to UCLA. And he loved it there.

“I was seriously considering” joining the Bruins, he recalls. But the Huskies won out and Brock succeeded his older brother as Washington’s starting quarterback in 1996 after Damon graduated and went to the National Football League. Brock, too, would end up in the professional ranks, leaving as UW’s all-time leading passer after erasing several of Damon’s single-season and career passing records.

Damon, himself a star prospect out of Puyallup High School, didn’t waver in making his college decision back in 1991. “There was no doubt,” he says today. “I had always dreamed of being a Husky. To stay in my own backyard, it was a dream come true for a young guy.”

Things weren’t as clear-cut for Brock, the Gatorade National Player of the Year. There was just too much to like about the beautiful Southern California sunshine. Ultimately, he decided on the UW because staying home meant staying in the Northwest—for good.

“Damon and my dad both said if you want to lay down roots here, if you want to be part of this community, you could go win the Heisman Trophy at UCLA but you’re not coming back here. You’re just not going to have that kind of connection to the community. You’re going to be a UCLA guy in a purple-and-gold town. There was some real wisdom in that,” says Brock, now 39. Continue reading “The Huard brothers are Huskies for life”

Seattle schools’ loose transfer policy creates teenage ‘free agents’

By Derek Belt
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Jan. 27, 2008

SEATTLE — A toothless transfer policy for Seattle Public Schools allows some of the city’s best basketball programs to stockpile talent and turns coveted players into teenage free agents.

Aaron Dotson, the most recent high-profile example of a top-flight player jumping from one power program to another, transferred from Garfield High School to nearby Rainier Beach last year.

He was not forced to sit out the calendar year, as is required of any student who transfers schools for athletic purposes. Rainier Beach officials say Dotson did not transfer for athletic reasons and was therefore eligible to play. Garfield officials believe otherwise.

When filling out the paperwork to complete Dotson’s transfer, Garfield principal Ted Howard, after consulting with Bulldogs coach Dan Finkley and others, checked a box indicating he believed Dotson was transferring for athletic reasons.

Howard said it was all he could do to protest what he thought was an obvious attempt by Dotson to switch teams. Continue reading “Seattle schools’ loose transfer policy creates teenage ‘free agents’”

Can a camo Alabama hat get you a date?

A view from the top

Hat experiment opens eyes about intensity of Iron Bowl rivalry

By DEREK BELT
Mobile Press-Register
Aug. 19, 2007

MOBILE, ALA. — Hey Auburn fans, want to know how the other side lives? What about the Alabama people out there—ever wonder what it’s like to rock the orange and blue?

If so, then I’ve got a story for you.

I recently spent a couple of months submerged in undercover work so dangerous I often feared for my safety. It was investigative journalism at its very best. Newspaper reporting not for the faint of heart.

The premise: Would people treat me differently if I sported an Alabama hat or an Auburn hat?

In a word: absolutely. Continue reading “Can a camo Alabama hat get you a date?”

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