McCord was one of 10 all-staters on Central's unbeaten state championship team of last fall. At 6 feet, 200 pounds, he was the smallest member of an offensive line that averaged 225. Several of McCord's teammates will sign with major football schools, but the grant-in-aid route holds no interest for him. "I think college should prepare you for what you're going to do the rest of your life," he says, "and I don't want to play professional football." What he'd like to do is give football a try at a place like Yale while taking premed.
Obviously, no school can have too many Scott McCords and Roosevelt Thompsons, and Central has had more than its share. It also has always had something that is becoming more and more difficult to find in schools—teachers and coaches dedicated to helping students get the most out of themselves. "Close contact with teachers outside the classroom is the rule rather than the exception at Central." says Roosevelt. "That's what makes it so strong in extracurricular areas—a faculty willing to get involved."
This is especially true of the athletic staff. "I have to give the Central coaches high marks for stimulating academic performance on the part of the kids," says Rule, who played three years of football at Central. "And it's a genuine stimulus, not a false front."
That stimulus has been more concentrated than ever this year. Last April the Little Rock school board raised the academic requirements for varsity athletes above the state minimum for all students.
Minimum eligibility rules are of no concern to boys like Scott and Roosevelt, but the lessons each believes he gleaned from participation in sports are. Scott cites the rewards of discipline and of finding out how to cope with various kinds of pressure. Roosevelt tells of learning to blend in with people of different skills and the importance of plain hard work and sacrifice.
"It wasn't until we won the state championship my junior year after having gone 6-6 the year before that I understood the difference hard work can make," he says. "Coach [Bernie] Cox always stressed that it was the key to being a winner, not just in football but anywhere."
In New Haven, Roosevelt, a prospective major in either history, economics or political science, has already become just that. While earning a starting berth on the Eli freshman football team and being a member of the Political Union, Athletes in Action, Black Athletes at Yale and the Calhoun College Council during his first semester, he continued to make outstanding grades. For the semester, he had a 3.75 average. "I feel I was as well prepared for the demands of Yale as anyone in my class," he says. "Central High may be a reminder of racial injustice, but it's also a beacon showing that a good education can be had in an integrated environment without violence."
Clearly, the kind of pride that Rule says his teachers and coaches "beat" into him is still alive and well.