CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) – The Cleveland football team practices in the shadows of Rams Stadium where a host of familiar voices ring out.
The Rams coaching staff consists of four former players, including wide receivers coach Brandon Hughes.
“This Cleveland community, for us to go up through the Cleveland system from Cleveland elementary to Cleveland middle to Cleveland High School, and these adults see us mature and grow into young men, everybody just rallies and supports us,” Hughes said.
Cleveland High School was born just 11 years ago. Right from the start, the community embraced the program. Bryer Rogers was a part of the Rams” first varsity team. Now, a decade later, he’s back on the Cleveland sidelines.
“I spend four hard years — blood, sweat, and tears — on this field every morning, just like they have every single day,” said Rams strength coach Bryer Rogers. “I know what it takes to be here. I know what it means to be a Ram.”
And being a Ram is important to the alumni coaches. Right from the start, Marc Morris instilled a culture that continues to this day under current head coach Scott Riley. It’s a culture that all Rams players have seemed to embrace.
“The culture they created, the work ethic they helped install in me, is why I wanted to come back and try to install in other people, younger kids,” Rams offensive line coach Austin Jacob said.
Now, young kids in the Cleveland community dream of one day becoming a Ram.
“Seven years ago, when I was out here playing, a lot of these guys were 10 or 11,” said Rams defensive line coach Sterling Johnson. “They would come from the Pop Warner games and come and see me, so I think it really means a lot for them to actually be able to build an actual personal relationship with me.”
Relationships. It’s whats brought four former star players back home.
“It just means the world for me to be able to pay that back,” Rogers said.