Posted by: Ted D. Davis
Atop the hill just off 18th street and 13th Avenue, a few blocks north of Vulcan Park and Museum and just south of the University of Alabama Birmingham University and hospital sits Ramsay High School. One of seven schools in the Birmingham city, Ramsay is ranked 9th within Alabama and 1,071st among high schools nationally (schools are ranked based on their performance on state-required tests and how well they prepare students for college). Its teachers and administrators have consistently prepared students for matriculation at institutions of higher education throughout its existence, and its boys and girls basketball teams have ranked among the state’s best, having won a combined six state titles in the last thirteen years.
What Ramsay lacked the last thirty-five odd years is football, having dropped its program in 1976. It didn’t continue the sport for thirty-six years, when it hired Rueben Nelson in 2011 to rebuild the program. Its reentry into competition has been nothing short of a spectacular success because in just six seasons Nelson and his players earned a 13-2 record in 2017 and the 6A state football championship with a 21-16 win over Opelika High School. It was the first state football championship in school history and the first state football title for a Birmingham city school since Banks High School won the 1972 and 1973 state titles.
Magic City Radar considers it a privilege to have been given the pleasure to speak with Coach Nelson about his teams success, his gratefulness for that success, and his refreshing lack of surprise at it.
MCR: Congratulations on your teams success!
RN: “Thank you very much”.
MCR: Did you have a sense that a state championship was probable heading into the season?
RN: “I knew the guys were working hard and that if we worked hard great success was possible. I knew we had potential for this, all our guys bought in, and we were able to make it happen”.
MCR: Was there a point in the season when you doubted the probability of winning a state championship? Was there any time when team chemistry was off or conflicts might have derailed your accomplishments?
RN: “Not at all. I knew going in and out of games that if we worked hard, executed, and stayed hungry that we’d overcome anything. Even though we lost two games, to Mountain Brook and Grayson, Georgia, I felt like we’d win the next game. I never doubted our potential”.
MCR: Talk to me about your players. What makes them special and who stands out?
MCR: “They all stand out, and they all did an outstanding job all season. All of them were committed to our system and gave us their all, but our seniors in particular were fantastic leaders. Specifically, Right Guard Jonathan Bishop is an amazing athlete who opened up holes and kept our quarterback protected all season, as did Left Guard Andrew Robinson, another incredible athlete. Likewise, quarterback Baniko Harley and defensive linemen Matt Kenty and Jaylen Gladeney did a fantastic job leading us”.
MCR: What is your coaching style and what type of student/athlete enjoys playing for you?
RN: “We’re hardnosed and we want to be hardnosed. We wanna run the football consistently, run it between the tackles, and throw it some off the strength of the run (traditional, professional style football). But our style is to run the football and play hardnosed, discipline defense”.
MCR: What is your teams strength going into next season? How will you prepare for the upcoming season?
RN: “We’re going to do things the way we always have. We’re going to run the ball, block well, throw some off the run, work hard in the weight room to get stronger, and play great defense”.
MCR: Any player scholarship signings from this past season’s squad?
RN: “We had eleven players sign college scholarships, including one Division 1 signee to Troy University, nine Division 1AA signees, and one Division 1AAA signee”.
MCR: What’s your background as a player?
RN: “I played two years at Alabama A&M University. I absolutely love working with these kids. God has given me this privilege, which I’m grateful for. This is His will, and I love helping these kids learn, grow, and succeed”.
MCR: Where can fans follow Ramsay Ram football?
RN: “There’s a Twitter page that one of the fans maintains. I go on there from time to time and I can attest that it’s well managed. It’s @Ramsayfootball”.
MCR: Thank you Coach Nelson! I wish much success in the future.
RN: “You’re welcomed. Thank you, man”.