The annual North-South Classic all-star football game will be played Saturday night in Charleston. Recently, the event started honoring former players from the game and now brings them back as North-South alumni.One of this year's honorees is former East Bank star Chris Massey, whose story is a rare one.He was a fine athlete for the Pioneers in the mid-1990s but no one really recruited him at the Division I level. He walked on at Marshall as a linebacker under Bob Pruett.Since he wasn't playing at linebacker, he looked for another way to get on the field. He told his coaches, "You know I can long snap a little," so they gave him a shot. As it turns out, he was good at it. Good enough to win the job, and he never had a bad snap in his Marshall career.
As a senior, Massey was prolific enough to get drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2002 draft. He turned that opportunity into a 10-year career with the Rams and briefly with the Chicago Bears. One of his best friends with the Rams was former WVU quarterback Marc Bulger.Once Massey earned some credibility, the Rams also used him as a backup fullback in certain situations.Massey was not a big-name star when he played in the North-South game in 1997. The fans at that game had no idea that they were seeing a future NFL veteran, but now we know. nn
When I think of East Bank, I am often reminded of one of the names in Pioneer history who is often forgotten.From 1968-71, Lanny Steed was one of the more exciting basketball players in the Kanawha Valley. A prolific scorer from the minute he stepped on the floor as a sophomore, Steed immediately began challenging the records of former Pioneer legend Jerry West.Under the direction of coach Buddy Kearns, the Pioneers, with Steed, Ron Calloway, Lester Weems, Minor Woods and others, were one of the more exciting teams in the Kanawha Valley. Steed was a physically mature, high-flying player who could score inside and out. When Steed was a senior in 1971, the Pioneers had talent, but they had the misfortune of being in the same sectional as an outstanding George Washington team that went on to win the AAA state championship.Current GW coach Rick Greene remembers Steed well."I guarded him one night and he scored 44 points. With the 3-point line, who knows how many he would have scored," Greene said. "After the game, Coach [Fred] Aldridge told me I did a good job. He said if anyone else on the team had guarded him, he would have scored 60."Billy Joe Hicks, a former DuPont guard and the longtime baseball coach at Hurricane High School, remembers this about Steed's athleticism.
"In one game, Steed got the ball out on a fast break and I got back as fast as I could and got right to the spot where I knew I could draw the charge," remembers Hicks. "I stood there, waiting for the contact and he just jumped over top of me. I saw the bubble gum on the bottom of his shoes." Steed was best known in the Kanawha Valley in high school for basketball, but college scouts felt he had more long-range potential in football. He signed to play with Marshall and was a starting wide receiver as a true freshman on the Young Thundering Herd team that re-started the football program in 1971. Reach Frank Giardina at firstname.lastname@example.org