Stay in pros too short for 4 from Bowie State, Morgan

September 01, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

The summer proved interesting but ultimately unkind to four football players from Morgan State and Bowie State, each of whom got a fleeting taste of the professional game.

Matt Steeple, the Northern High School product who starred on the defensive line at Morgan State and earned Division I-AA All-America honors last season, saw health problems ruin his chances with two NFL teams. Steeple signed a free-agent contract with the Chicago Bears, but was waived after he failed a team physical. Steeple then worked out for the Cleveland Browns, who considered signing him but waived him after he flunked his physical again, albeit due to a different ailment.

"With the Bears, it was my heart. Their doctors told me I shouldn't play football," said Steeple, a 6-foot-3, 300-pounder who has a heart murmur, a condition he had checked before being cleared to play in his senior year at Morgan State. "I saw another doctor, who cleared me. At Cleveland, the doctors told me my heart was fine, but my knee was another story."

Steeple had arthroscopic knee surgery after last season and rehabilitated the knee, but Cleveland doctors judged it as too weak.

"Now, I'm just playing the waiting game," said Steeple. In the meantime, he is thinking about coaching at Northern and/or Morgan State while pursuing his degree.

Steeple's former teammate, wide receiver Jesse Humphrey -- who piled up a school-record 1,071 receiving yards last year -- had a brief stay with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Humphrey spent two weeks on the practice roster before being released.

Chris Thompson and Gary Beckford, who played at Bowie State on the defensive line and in the defensive backfield, respectively, had decent tryouts in the NFL. The San Diego Chargers signed Thompson as a free agent, while Beckford signed a free-agent contract with the New York Jets. Each of them survived until the next-to-last cut.

Hunter's successor

With Bill Hunter having announced his intention to retire next year as Towson State's fifth athletic director, the hunt for his successor is about to begin. An 18-member search committee has been formed, with its first meeting scheduled next week.

"One reason for such a large committee is that we anticipate a very large task," said committe chairman Dr. Charles Maloy. "This is a critical time in Towson State history."

Although the job will not be advertised until later this month, one interesting, possible early candidate has surfaced -- former Baltimore Spirit coach and general manager Kenny Cooper.

"Some [Towson State] alumni people have contacted him [Cooper]," said Tony Agnone, Cooper's partner and agent.

Maloy was surprised when Cooper's name was mentioned to him.

"He [Cooper] has not been contacted by me. As of now, there are no applicants," Maloy said.

Back to earth at Morgan

After its upset of Coppin State in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament in March, the euphoria has long faded for Morgan State's men's basketball team.

The school has since bid farewell to coach Michael Holmes after an 8-21 season, and has promoted assistant Lynn Ramage to interim head coach. The Bears also lost senior guards Chico Langston and Terry Sellers. What's more, Morgan State will have to trudge on without All-MEAC forward Gerald Jordan, who has transferred to Pitt.

Another tough road for Coppin

Coppin State's men's basketball team has gained a national reputation in the past few years, partly because of the Eagles' NCAA tournament appearances and partly because of their difficult December road schedules.

This year will mark the Eagles' toughest non-conference schedule yet. Coppin State opens the season at Oklahoma, then will travel to Kansas State, Missouri, LSU and Kansas, before spending Christmas at the Michigan State tournament that includes Long Beach State and Ball State.

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