By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports
In the mid-to-late 1980’s, Shreveport-Bossier was home to some impressive high school football players.
There was Southwood defensive end Corey White, who signed with LSU.
Green Oaks linebacker Roovelroe Swan also signed with LSU.
Parkway’s Dennis Bamburg — who tied a national record with three kickoff returns for touchdowns in one game — signed with Northeast Louisiana (now ULM).
“These are guys I (felt) equal or better than,” said former Woodlawn Knight Lawann Latson. “Well, for whatever reason, I did not get one (college scholarship) offer. Not one visit. Not one phone call. Nothing.”
That’s right. Despite earning All-District (and second-team All-City) honors his junior year as a defensive back, and second-team All-District honors his senior year at running back, Latson did not hold a pen on National Signing Day. He had the talent, but didn’t have the size (5-6, 153) — or the grades.
So how did Latson reach the NFL and the Canadian Football League? Latson answers that question in his new book, “A Fighting Chance.”
“I went to college and I took my grades more serious,” said Latson, who walked on at Tyler Junior College and eventually earned a scholarship. He then landed a scholarship to Northwestern State.
“I maintained a 2.0 (grade point average) at Woodlawn, and I only did that because you had to have a 2.0 to play football,” Latson remembered. “Everything I did was football. When it got time to go to college, I made a 13 on the ACT. They (coaches) thought I would struggle in a college classroom. In the book, I make a joke about ‘they give you a 12 on the ACT for just putting your name on it.’ That just shows you how far behind I was educational-wise.”
In addition to his grades, Latson also focused on his body, making it “bigger, faster, stronger.”
“The weight room became my best friend,” Latson said. “My whole life, at every stage, I was told ‘Man, you’re just so small.’ ”
After a productive two seasons for Sam Goodwin’s Demons, Latson signed a free agent deal with the New York Giants. He then went to the Ottawa RoughRiders in the CFL, before finishing his career in camp with the New Orleans Saints. Not bad for someone who out of high school “did not get one offer. Not one visit. Not one phone call.”
“It speaks to his core beliefs that he intrinsically knew he could do it, and nothing was going to stop him,” said Dennis Dunn, Latson’s high school coach, now at North DeSoto. “When he was told he couldn’t, he found motivation in that. He is a testament to how powerful thoughts about oneself can truly shape one’s future. He believed he could, and never gave up on his dream.”
Latson has spent several years as a college and junior college assistant coach. He recently became receivers coach at Arkansas-Monticello. That’s in addition to helping educate young folks about what it takes to be successful.
“My message is to encourage kids, because I was that kid. I was lost for a long time. Football was all I did my whole life.”
It’s a life that has turned out well for the little guy.
Photo courtesy of Arkansas-Monticello