Tom Archdeacon: A true homecoming for CSU’s Colbert

After a long road to find the right fit, Demetrius Colbert wound up at Central State, where he watched his dad play. NICK NOVY / CONTRIBUTED

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After a long road to find the right fit, Demetrius Colbert wound up at Central State, where he watched his dad play. NICK NOVY / CONTRIBUTED

He remembers the trips vividly.

“From the time I was a little boy — even sometimes after my pee-wee games — I’d come with my dad to the homecoming game at Central State each year,” Demetrius Colbert said. “He played at Central for Billy Joe and he liked coming back to the school. And it was a big deal to me.

“Central State was like Ohio State to me back then.”

He said once he and his dad made the trip from their home in Cincinnati to the campus in Wilberforce, he took everything in:

“They had all these festivities at homecoming. I’d play in the bouncy house and then we’d go over where they were cookin’ ribs and get something to eat. I’d get Marauder merchandise — hats, glasses, all kinds of stuff — and we’d go out on the field and be on the sidelines for the game.

“I remember the band coming out and putting on a show and because I was so young, I used to look up to the players like they were NFL guys. I heard all the stories: How they won the national titles. How they beat a team 101-0.

“I know I’ve still got a hat at home somewhere with players’ autographs on it. I haven’t seen it in a long time. It’s probably got a bunch of dust on it.”

Saturday afternoon Colbert will knock the dust off those CSU memories when he takes the field at McPherson Stadium for the season opener following two years of seeing his dreams turn into dead ends.

“I told him if it was me I probably would have given up after all the stuff he went through,” said his dad, William Colbert, who was a 265-pound offensive lineman for the Marauders in the mid-1980s, was sidelined after an auto accident and then came back to school in the early 1990s to compete in track and field.

“But (Demetrius) kept telling me, ‘Dad, I’m definitely gonna fulfill this dream. He wouldn’t quit.”

Along the way his son said he learned some lessons: First and foremost, bigger isn’t always better.

That’s why he’s now part of the Marauders’ NCAA Division II program.

And why he dropped his weight from “over 280 pounds” back to the 230 to 235 range.

After a standout career as a linebacker at Colerain High School in Cincinnati, Colbert was a 3-star recruit who verbally committed to Eastern Michigan University for the 2015 season. But he said when Eagles coaches wanted him to sit out for a season, he turned his attention instead to Ohio University and signed on as a preferred walk-on with a promise, he said, of a scholarship.

OU coaches had him switch from linebacker to defensive line and told him, he said, to gain weight.

“I ate a lot, lifted weights, drank a whole lot of protein drinks and got a lot bigger,” he said.

At OU he was “almost 300 pounds,” his dad said.

Closer to 280, Demetrius countered.

Before the 2015 season, the OU venture fizzled and eventually Colbert returned home to Cincinnati.

“He dropped a class that he needed to get (financial) aid and it just didn’t work,” his dad said. “His plan to go to a big school just didn’t iron out.”

‘Fantastic spring’

Demetrius’s older sister, Charlinda, is a talented, 5-foot-11 volleyball and basketball player at Savannah State University and he initially hoped to join the football program at her school.

But Earnest Wilson, the coach he said he talked to then, left for Elizabeth City State in North Carolina before the 2016 season.

Although Demetrius hoped to follow Wilson, his dad said the school couldn’t come up with any scholarship money for him.

Ironically CSU’s opponent Saturday is the ECSU team coached by Wilson.

So after yet another road went nowhere, Demetrius eyed a familiar path.

“I had wanted to go to a bigger team, a bigger school, but I found out that wasn’t for me,” he admitted.

Without his dad knowing, he then reached out to the Central State coaches and was invited to join the program.

“That was shocking to me because he did it all on his own,” his dad said.

After coming to CSU for the spring semester, Colbert dedicated himself to losing that extra weight:

“I was working out three times a day and pretty soon the weight was just shedding off.”

Marauder coach Cedric Pearl said Colbert had “a fantastic spring” practice session and because of it he will be the starting middle linebacker for a team hoping to improve vastly on last year’s 1-9 campaign.

“I think we’re definitely on the rise,” Colbert said. “We had some good athletes join the team this year. I think we have a different attitude than last year. It’s not so much ‘me,’ as it is a team thing. Everyone wants to do everything they can to make this program better.”

And few people have worked harder in the preseason than Colbert, who pared over 50 pounds.

“I feel way better than I did,” he said. “I move better. I play better and I think I look better.”

He said everyone agrees with him.

Well, almost everyone.

“I think my mom liked me when I was bigger,” he laughed. “I guess it’s cause I looked like a Teddy Bear.”

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