10 Questions With MVSU Soccer Star Student Athlete Laadi Issaka

(Photo Credit: MVSU Athletics)

Check out my questions with one of the top goal scorers (second at the time of this article being published with 12) in the nation, Mississippi Valley State University forward, Laadi Issaka. She is an upperclassman at MVSU hoping to lead them to the SWAC tournament. The Devilettes finish their season with six games at home as they look to make their conference tournament with Issaka leading their offense. She has averaged one goal a game so far for MVSU, an average placing her in a tie for third in the nation. Issaka is a Health, Physical Education and Recreation Major who is quite involved in the community and beyond, and is a superb student with a 4.0 GPA. Below are some questions with her answers on her whole experience at MVSU, her background in soccer, and more.

What lead you to choose Valley?

“I got to know about Valley from my friends/former teammates (Ernestina Abambila and Prita Gyasi). They told me a lot about the school and how they are willing to offer me a full scholarship to study and play. And it was always my dream to still do what I love and further my studies, so I accepted it and started the process because I was just some steps away from making my dream come to reality. Valley is more than just a school, it is a place you can call home.”

What has led to your continued offensive success during your time with the Delta Devils?

“I was always told by my mom that when I was a child and anytime I try doing something, I always put every effort that will help me become successful and I will never stop until I reach my goal. I think this still applies to me till now. I’m always determined and ready to work hard to get the end product which is a success and because I am very competitive, I like to win and always want to come out successful in everything I do. I am also passionate about everything that I love to do. And most of all the support I had ever since I came to the Valley. I also don’t let my adversity to distract me but rather I use it as an opportunity to excel.”

What inspired you to choose your major?

“Growing up I took part in a lot of sporting activities and it made me fell in love with it and by so doing, I told myself why don’t you study something that pattern sports then I decided to choose my major. My coach (Malik) back home also saw that I had the love for sports and the love for helping people so he encouraged me to follow that path.”

What has been your favorite class in Valley?

“I don’t actually have one particular favorite class. All the classes I took or I’m taking all seem interesting to me and I can’t actually choose one.“

What do you attribute your on-field success to?

“First of all, I will attribute my success to God for giving me this wonderful talent, however, as the saying goes “God helps those who help themselves” I wouldn’t say is only God but also the hard work and perseverance that I put in. Also, the power of the people around me has been a very big help too. When I talk about the” power of people” I mean, the people that are involved in my life every day and are very supportive. Again, I am self-motivated and I never cease learning from my teammates/people. Furthermore, my family, teammates, professors, friends, and coaches are all attributed to my on-field success. These people keep pushing me to do better and better every day and always tell me to accept both negative and positive criticism.“

What are your individual and team goals for the rest of the season?

“As an individual player in my team is always my goal to be better than yesterday, set examples, always be there to help my team when needed and also to always leave a place better than it was. And as a team, our goal is to be very successful at the end of the season but our ultimate goal is to win our conference championship however this doesn’t come easy, it needs a lot of hard work and I believe my team is ready to take that challenge. “

What is your dream job with your degree?

“My dream job is to be a coach/ and a teacher. I have always had the desire to help people especially in sports and I think choosing this path is the perfect fit for me.”

How has your game developed since coming to the Valley?

“My game has really improved a lot ever since I came to the Valley and most of my teammates and friends back home can testify to that. This is because finding the back of the net used to be a big problem for me but now I think that doesn’t seem to be a problem for me following the success I have had, that is becoming the top scorer in the nation  [at the Division One level] in 2016. Also, my level of competitiveness has improved drastically in the sense that, our conference seems to be the most competitive and aggressive and I have gotten the opportunity to play with big schools from other conferences.“

What is the biggest thing about life you have learned playing soccer?

“Playing soccer has taught me many important life lessons that I carry and use every day. This life lesson that I have learnt in soccer will never be forgotten or depart from me. They have made me a better person and shaped me into the person I am today and will be in the future. I am still learning new things every day from soccer and my team. However, playing soccer, in my opinion, consistently make you a better person. Furthermore, and that no matter how good and talented you are, you definitely need one or two people to help you achieve most of the things in life or to be successful i.e being a team player.  It has taught me to be confident, optimistic(giving up is not an option) most of all dedicated and committed. One thing it taught me and I learned again is to keep fighting for it no matter how tough the road might seem and never quit on a lost or failure but rather learn from it. Lastly let me not forget about these two important factors,  which is hard work and time management! These two plays a vital role in my success so far.”

What inspired the “Back to School” theme that helped you win the 2018 Career Development Award?

“It has always been my dream and passion to help the community especially young kids, who are still growing. So, the Back to School Bash was the perfect tool to use in reaching out to the community. Also, I get to tell my story to encourage and serve as a role model to them and that anytime they think of quitting, they should know someone was once in their situation but made it through. The road may seem rough today but the end result will wipe all the bitterness away.“

 

MVSU Football: A Chat With Starting QB Chris Fowler

(Photo Credit: MVSU Athletics)

Mississippi Valley State University Delta Devils’ sophomore quarterback Chris Fowler Jr. is coming off an opener against North Dakota where he was the main conductor for the quick-strike offense of the Delta Devils. This team runs a system that relies on his ability to make quick reads and adjust to the defense on the fly.He finished with 263 yards and a touchdown pass last week. The system that Fowler plays in encourages quick passes to his talented group of wide receivers lead by seniors Quinn McElfresh and Booker Chambers, as well as junior Demarcus Frazier.

The Delta Devils take on Jacksonville State tomorrow night on the road at 6:00 PM on ESPN Plus.

Recently, I had a chance to talk with Fowler about some of his off-field experiences, why he choose MVSU, a bit more about what he hopes to improve on in his sophomore season, and how his game has developed so far.

What are your off the field goals for your sophomore season?

“One of the things I take pride in, is my effort in the classroom. So I would like to be an Academic All American for the second year in a row and maintain a 4.0 GPA like I did last year.”

What are some fun off the field things you and your teammates like to do when not practicing?

“My teammates and I like to compete, so that competitive nature follows us off the field as well. Whether it’s a Madden tournament, bowling, racing, or ping pong in the locker room, we all have fun striving to be the best at whatever it is we are doing at that moment. The funnier moments come in the locker room when you have guys rapping/singing and dancing to their favorite artists while the others are cracking jokes. “
What inspired you to choose your major?
 “A variety of things. Let me start by saying I didn’t just come to college to play football. I wanted to push myself the same way I do in the weight room and on the field, in the classroom as well. With that being said, I wanted something that would challenge me but also give me something to fall back on if the game of football didn’t work out. I used to always wonder how criminals would serve a sentence where “the time didn’t fit the crime” based off some loophole in the system. It just so happens my mother is a paralegal so we had a lot of books about the laws and particular cases in the house growing up so I knew Criminal Justice would always be a major that had a special place in my heart.”
Why did you come to MVSU?
 “I felt wanted. Coach Anderson did a GREAT job recruiting me and they stuck with me through thick and thin.”
What are your career goals?
“To be happy and love whatever it is I end up doing. I know that if I love what I’m doing and I am genuinely happy doing it, then I’ll be successful no matter what it is. “
What is the biggest area of your game that’s developed since you have come to MVSU?
“My feet. Coach Flowers [Offensive Coordinator] has done an awesome job at stressing how important my feet are in relation to rhythm, timing, and velocity. The constant drilling in practice has caused me to play faster and more confidently in the pocket. Every time I catch a snap I hear Coach Flowers’ favorite five words ‘YOU HAVE TO DROP HARD!’ “
What are some of your favorite spots on campus but away from the field to be?
“Study hall, the weight room and my room. I love to help people, so in study hall when I see my teammates or other athletes struggling with a subject I’m strong in, I take pride in being the first to lend a helping hand. In my opinion the weight room is where championships are won and lost. The sweat equity from the weight room can take teams a long way late in the season and I love giving everything I have in the weight room for this team. Last but not least, my room. Like the old saying goes, “There’s no place like home.” Sleep is a big part of my recovery and I like to read knowledgeable books in my down time; both of which happen in my room.”
What do you get from being at MVSU that you could get no where else.

“Gratitude. Being at MVSU made me thankful for the little things in life that I sometimes used to take for granted and for that reason Valley will always hold a special place in my heart. “

35-7: How Tonight’s Score Does Not Tell the Whole Story for MVSU

(Photo Credit: Russ Hons – FightingHawks.com)

When I talked to Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils’ Head Coach Vincent Dancy a few weeks ago, he wanted to see what type of team he would have this season. Well the Delta Devils found out a few things about their team tonight in Grand Forks.

Despite the 35-7 final score, MVSU found that they can compete with the teams they play. Dancy, and starting quarterback Chris Fowler noted their ability to utilize their superb passing game to move the ball as needed. He finished the night 22-39 with 263 yards and a touchdown pass to Demarcu Fraizer. The senior corps of wideouts for the Delta Devils will be their strength on offense this season,They made play after play tonight and did not drop a ball.

Fowler’s ability to find Frazier, Booker Chambers, and Quinn McElfresh among others will determine a lot about the 2018 Delta Devils and their performance in the SWAC. Chambers impressed me with his ability to create big plays both in the slot and in special teams. He finished the night with 150 total all purpose yards.

Head Coach Dancy noted some more things. The Delta Devils left according to him 17 points on the board as they gave up a fumble on the UND goal line, a missed 29 yard field goal, and not being able to punch in the best kick return of the night from Booker Chambers which only went for 79 yards. In addition, the Delta Devils played a tough game on defense and forced UND to run the ball frequently. Despite the final statistics, they do not tell the entire story for this team. While UND was able to move the ball, Coach Dancy’s defense forced some mistakes and made UND make plays to beat them. UND is one of the toughest teams MVSU will play this season. For Coach Dancy to take this team in his first game as their leader, and help keep them in it through three quarters and competitive throughout should leave MVSU fans with hope for the future of the Dancy Era.

One thing that stood out to me was at the end of the game. From the press box it looked like Fowler was motioning for the punt team to stay off the field to punt to UND to end the game. The team still punted but the body language of the Delta Devils showed me something tonight. This team traveled across the country to open up another season in North Dakota and handled themselves well. They played a team with a superb pass rush, running back trio, and talented wideouts just to name a few of their high-skilled areas, and hung with them.

MVSU still has things to work on this week, of course, if they can convert on half of their chances that they create they will be in more games in SWAC play and beyond. This bodes well for the future of what Dancy wants to do. He has instilled a complete culture of competition and 100 percent energy as a basic expectation in Itta Bena. As Fowler said of Dancy, “he treats us like champions.”  That showed in every aspect of how the Delta Devils warmed up and played tonight. If the MVSU that went five for seven in converting third downs in the first half can repeat the things that drive them against Jacksonville State and beyond, then good things both this year and long term could await one of the most storied schools in the country regarding developing top-tier NFL talent.

 

 

MVSU-UND Preview: An Interview with First Year MVSU Coach Vincent Dancy

In just three weeks, UND Football will open its 2018 campaign against the Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) Delta Devils at home in front of a raucous Alerus Center. I reached out to first year Head Coach Vincent Dancy for his thoughts on taking the MVSU job, what he is hoping to accomplish this season, and more. Check here for some thoughts from Clarion-Ledger reporter Tyler Cleveland on what to expect from MVSU this season, and what the Delta Devils should focus on as they prepare to make the trek north.

  1. What inspired you to take this job as head coach?
    • “I’ve always dreamed of being a head coach plus the rich tradition that MVSU has had in the past years made this job more appealing.”
  2. What type of style does your team play?
    • “Offensively we play a high tempo ground and pound system with multiple formations. Defensively we are an even front team with multiple coverages in the secondary.”
  3. Long-term, what is your vision of Delta Devils Football?
    • “My vision for Delta Devils Football [involves four areas].
      • For every athlete to complete their degree requirements.
      • To establish the football [team] as a consistent winner.
      • For [the] MVSU Football program to be one of the leaders in FCS attendance.
      • To win the Celebration Bowl.”
  1. What do you look to gain from your trip to Grand Forks?
    • “I look to gain a clear cut identity of who we are heading into the 2018 season.”
  2. Your offense features preseason 1st team all-conference wideout Quinn McElfresh. What do you expect him to bring to this team both on and off the field this year?
    • “Quinn is a special football player and our team knows that but we expect him to be more vocal and lead us on and off the field.”
  3. What does 1st team all- conference linebacker Patrick Harbin bring to the defense?
    • “Experience- Patrick has been in the program 4 years now and has been a contributor 3 of those years. So his knowledge of the game should help us out tremendously.”
  4. Who is one standout freshman fans should keep an eye on this season?
    • “Caleb Johnson, He’s a dynamic RB from Memphis, TN who can do a lot of things very well out of the back field.”
  5. What is your goal for this season?
    • “My goal is to have a first-class team and image in everything we do. Also, to be competitive in conference play and win games we are favored to win.”
  6. What does the program’s legacy mean to you, especially regarding helping 21 players get drafted by NFL teams?
    • “That’s one reason why I wanted this job. The legacy that Coach Archie Cooley, Willie Totten and Jerry Rice established here will forever be remembered. Also Deacon Jones, who invented the term “sack” will always be glorified as long as there is football being played!”
  7. What is the one thing you would tell fans in Grand Fork that they may not know about MVSU Football?
    • “That we’re hungry and ready like never before!”

UND Football:Getting to Know an Opponent-Mississippi Valley State

In a few weeks, on a Thursday night in Grand Forks, the UND Fighting Hawks will end their fall camp and take on the Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) Delta Devils in the Alerus Center. Given how little of the Devils’ conference that UND fans have seen come to Grand Forks, it made sense to check in with one of the people who cover this team on a more frequent basis. I had some questions about MVSU, and the town of Itta Bena, MS where the school is located for one of the writers who covers this team for the Clarion Ledger, Tyler Cleveland. Look for more coverage from Seamore of UND Football with insights on the team in the weeks leading up to this game and throughout the season.

The Delta Devils are lead by first year coach, Vincent Dancy. He takes over a team that won two games last year. MVSU finished 2-9 last season including a 1-6 record in the Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC).

Below are my questions for Tyler with his answers included. For UND fans looking to understand more about the SWAC, give Tyler and the Clarion-Ledger a follow on Twitter and read his and work, he goes into depth into MVSU, Jackson State, and Alcorn State, three SWAC programs filled with tradition in their programs.

Questions 

How long of a rebuild do you expect MVSU to go through?

“I don’t want to put a number of years on it, but let’s just say first-year coach Vincent Dancy has his work cut out for him. There are no magic buttons to push when you take over a program that is 3-30 over the past three years, and Dancy wasn’t on anyone’s short list when Valley started the hiring process. He’s a great communicator and solid X’s and O’s coach, but he doesn’t have the built in recruiting connections the other two in-state SWAC schools have. He’ll need to develop some pipelines of his own, and quick.”

Do you see any similarities in coach Dancy taking over now to when Bubba Schweigert took over in 2014?

“I can see the similarities there. Both of their predecessors had struggled against the big boys in their respective conferences. Valley couldn’t get past Southern and Grambling the same way UND had struggled with Montana and Eastern Washington. Both landed their job by presenting a plan to get over that hump. The most glaring difference, to me, is the age difference. Schweigert took the Dakota job at 55. Dancy is one of the youngest head coaches in the country at 33.”

What do you think went into MVSU having a number of players drafted, and how much exposure to pro scouts do the Delta Devils get.

“From its inception until the early 1990s, MVSU had a great tradition of producing NFL players. Deacon Jones helped redefine the defensive end position in the 1960s, and the 49ers drafted some guy named Jerry Rice out of Itta Bena in 1985. Corner Ashley Ambrose was the last Delta Devil to get drafted in 1992. Thanks to the recruiting services like Rivals and Scout, those kinds of guys are no longer getting overlooked by the Mississippi States and Ole Misses of the world.”

When fans head down south to Itta Benna, MS, what is one area of that town they should see?

“Well don’t blink, or you might miss it. Itta Bena is as small-town Mississippi as it gets, with mosquitoes the size of aircraft carriers. Your best bet for food is probably Capricorn’s Internet Café, or you could treat yourself with a visit to Lusco’s for some seafood in nearby Greenwood.”

Why do you think coach Dancy was elevated to full-time head coach?

“Recruiting to Itta Bena is tough. MVSU has the smallest athletic budget of any school in Division 1 and the Delta Devils have not had any real success on the football field in more than a decade. Rather than go out and hire a more experienced coach, Athletic Director Dianthia Ford-Kee decided to go with the younger, more charismatic Dancy. They are banking on his ability to connect with recruits and raise the talent level.”

What type of offense does MVSU run?

“Dancy wants to run the football. The Delta Devils have been running an old June Jones-style run-and-shoot offense – I guess they call it the air raid now – for the past three seasons with little success. They still want to spread it out, but they’re going to try to use the run and intermediate passing game to set up play action opportunities.”

Based on your January piece from when Coach Dancy was elevated to the head coach role, how creative has coach Dancy been in selling his vision for the Delta Devils given the financial constraints of MVSU.

“The short answer is that he desperately needs to win some games so he has something to sell besides a vision. He’s had to be pretty creative this season in terms of recruiting – taking a hyper-local approach and spending a lot of time at Mississippi’s junior colleges.”

Tell us a bit more about the two preseason all conference players the Delta Devils have, wideout Quinn McElfresh and linebacker Patrick Harbin.

“Well Quinn’s a hard-worker from your neck of the woods, up in Brainerd, Minnesota. He’s not a true deep threat, but he was the guy in former coach Rick Comegy’s pass-happy offense last year because of his route-running ability and good hands. Harbin isn’t physically overwhelming, but he can really run and just seems to be in the pile at the end of every play.”

What are some of coach Dancy’s goals for his first camp as the head coach?

“He wants to change the culture and put his stamp on the program, but those things take time. In terms of camp, he just wants to identify leaders early on, find his best 22 players, then his second-best 22 players and try to find a way to put them in a position to be successful. It really is that simple right now.”

Do you think that Delta Devils bring their marching band north for this game?

“They will if it’s in the contract. And if it is, ya’ll are in for a treat.”

What are MVSU’s biggest concerns that the Fighting Hawks present as well as MVSU’s biggest strengths that the Fighting Hawks could overlook?

“Valley has really struggled to protect its quarterback over the past couple of seasons, and to disastrous results. The Delta Devils averaged around -10 rushing yards a game last season – that’s no typo – and it’s not like they’ve upgraded at all five offensive line positions since then. Pass rushers like Mason Bennett and Jaxson Turner might be able to make a living in MVSU’s backfield, and that’ll make it a long game for the Delta Devils.”