It was 12:47 a.m. and Chris Bouyer had a team meeting in less than eight hours.
The former Northwestern Trojan football standout laid in bed stressing about an idea that had germinated in his mind and grown for several years, ever since his first date with Mercedes Cain. They were back in high school, in Rock Hill, driving to the Olive Garden in his beat-up Nissan, which had no heat. She looked good in her dress and he looked sharp in his polo. But let’s be real; they were freezing.
So it was 12:47 a.m. when Bouyer finally settled on an idea for his marriage proposal to Cain.
NCAA rules had nixed the use of East Tennessee State’s football stadium scoreboard and loud speaker (impermissible benefits), so he decided to use a teammate’s speaker to play Lenny Williams’ “Cause I Love You.” And instead of a video playing on the scoreboard, Bouyer would give a speech, telling the story of that frigid first date, and then about the time when Cain cemented her place in Bouyer’s life forever.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
His mother was in the hospital, life slowly, then quickly, leaking out of her body. Bouyer had forgotten to bring his phone and there was only one number he remembered to dial on the hospital phone: Mercedes’. He called and she came to the hospital, sitting with him as he cried.
There was more crying as Bouyer stood on the field last Saturday telling this story. East Tennessee State had just lost to Samford 38-27 and, back in the locker room, he was initially unsure if it was appropriate to go through with his plan. Worse, a teammate’s Bluetooth speaker wouldn’t connect to the phone, meaning Lenny Williams wouldn’t play.
“At this point I was thinking let me just do it at the restaurant,” Bouyer said.
Worse, East Tennessee State’s loss to Samford meant that the Bucs’ FCS playoff hopes were out of their control. Bouyer might have just played his last organized football game. He was in the midst of an emotional and decision-making tornado.
Bouyer was seated in his locker, his head bowed, but when he looked up he saw 40 sets of eyes looking at him, his teammates. They said to do it, go for it, ‘we’ve got your back, man.’ Bouyer thanked the group and he wept.
In some kind of cosmic sign, the Bluetooth speaker connected to the phone and Lenny Williams was ready. So Bouyer walked out of the locker room and onto the field, into a large mass of parents and friends waiting to see the football players after the Bucs’ final regular season game.
When he found Cain, it was clear what was about to happen. A large group gathered and Bouyer told the Olive Garden story when he first had an inkling that Cain would always be by his side, and the second story at the hospital where she cemented that fact. The tears flowed and the words got clogged at the tip of his tongue.
Then he got down on one knee and popped the question. She said yes. Everyone cried or cheered, as Lenny Williams sang “oh, oh, oh, oh” in the background and Bouyer and Cain kissed.
Cain was ready for this moment. She thought her boyfriend would propose after the first game of the season, then maybe after the Homecoming game. Both came and went. She didn’t think it would be last Saturday because both of their families were in town and it was a hectic and busy weekend.
Cain was shocked, but to her credit, kept her cool. She later told Bouyer she didn’t want to ruin her makeup with a bunch of tears.
“That’s Mercedes,” Bouyer said, laughing.
Bouyer, who might be all cried out this week, is looking forward to life together with Cain. The pair graduate from college (Cain goes to College of Charleston) in May, 2019, and both are thinking about going to graduate school. Bouyer wants to get a masters in civil engineering, but his post-football future can wait for at least one more week. East Tennessee State was given an at-large bid in the FCS playoffs and will face Jacksonville State this week in the first round.
Bouyer can focus fully on football after pulling off a marriage proposal plan that overcame all the obstalces.
“She’s been there with me since Day 1,” said Bouyer. “Everybody said that was perfect.”
Rogan Wells, Valdosta State - the Blazers enjoyed a bye last weekend in the NCAA Division II football playoffs, which allowed Wells to soak up his big award. The former Fort Mill QB was named the Gulf South Conference player of the year last Wednesday.
Valdosta leads Division II in points per game (52.4) and Wells’ dual throwing and running threat is a huge reason why. He’s thrown for 2,219 yards and also scored nine times on the ground, second-best in the conference. The sophomore has also been incredibly careful with the football, tossing 28 touchdown passes with just four interceptions. He’s the first Valdosta QB to win the award since 2001.
Wells is also one of 37 players nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy, given to the top Division II college football player. The winner will be announced Dec. 14, 2018. Wells and Valdosta are back in action in the second round of the D-II playoffs Saturday at 1 p.m. against Bowie State.
Russell Hubbs, The Citadel - Hubbs forced a fumble during the Bulldogs’ 50-17 loss to Alabama. The former Northwestern Trojan linebacker also recorded a tackle during the game, but it was the forced fumble in one of his final college football games that he won’t forget.
Ali Shockley, Ellsworth Community College (Iowa) - Shockley, the former Northwester Trojan, was named first team All-Iowa Community College Athletic Conference last week after finishing third nationally in junior college football with 124 tackles.
Ryan DeLuca, Furman - Fort Mill’s DeLuca caught two passes, both touchdowns, for 40 yards during the Paladins’ season-ending 35-30 win over Mercer. DeLuca opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 16-yard scoring grab, then added another TD, 24 yards, in the third quarter. DeLuca finished his sophomore season with seven catches, four of those for touchdowns.
Caliph Brice, Hutchinson Community College (Kansas) - the former Northwestern Trojans linebacker was named second team All-Kansas Jayhawk Conference, after making 51 tackles this season. Hutchinson also added another scholarship offer last week, from Texas-El Paso. Brice also has offers from Florida Atlantic, Chattanooga, Gardner-Webb and several other schools.
Jerry Howard, Georgia Tech - Northwestern grad carried the ball 11 times for 43 yards and a touchdown as the Yellow Jackets won their fourth game in a row, beating Virginia 30-27 in overtime. Howard scored on a four-yard run early in the fourth quarter, the fifth touchdown of his sophomore season.
Markell Castle, Newberry - the York graduate and senior wide receiver finished his career with All-South Atlantic Conference first team recognition. Castle caught 52 passes in a run-dominant Wolves offense, gaining 727 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished his career as Newberry’s second all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He led Newberry in receiving stats each of the last three seasons.
Shea Rodgers, Newberry - Rodgers joined his teammate Castle as a first team All-Conference player, sharing the punter position with Wingate’s Christopher Birozes. Forty-two of the former Indian Land Warrior’s 56 punts either landed inside the 20-yard line or were fair-caught. He averaged 42.3 yards per punt and was also 20-for-20 on extra points and made 8-of-10 field goals.
Other locals’ performances
Malik Williams, Appalachian State - Williams, from Chester, caught three passes for 22 yards during the Mountaineers’ 45-17 win over Georgia State.
Anthony Johnson, Buffalo - South Pointe’s Johnson caught six passes for 95 yards but the Bulls were surprisingly routed 52-17 by Ohio last week. Johnson and the Bulls can still clinch the MAC East Division title this week with a win against Bowling Green.
Jamah Mitchell, Campbell - Mitchell, the defensive tackle from Northwestern, made a pair of tackles during the Camels’ 12-7 loss to Charleston Southern.
Eric Westbrook, Campbell - former South Pointe Stallion notched a tackle during Campbell’s loss to Charleston Southern.
Derion Kendrick, Clemson - Kendrick, the true freshman receiver from South Pointe, was involved again during the Tigers’ 35-6 win over Duke. Kendrick returned three kickoffs for 64 total yards, caught two passes for 37 yards and ran the ball once for three yards, totaling a team-high 102 all-purpose yards.
B.T. Potter, Clemson - another true freshman from South Pointe, Potter kicked off six times with four touchbacks during the win over Duke.
Logan Rudolph, Clemson - Northwestern grad made a tackle during the Tigers’ win over Duke.
Chandler Kryst, Coastal Carolina - cornerback from Fort Mill made a tackle-for-loss during the Chanticleers’ 41-17 loss to Georgia Southern.
Corey Seargent, East Carolina - Northwestern’s Seargent made three tackles as the Pirates blew out UConn 55-21.
Donavan Perryman, Furman - Rock Hill High grad made six tackles and broke up a pass during the Paladins’ 35-30 win over Mercer.
Steven Gilmore Jr., Marshall - Gilmore Jr., the true freshman defensive back from South Pointe, made three tackles during the Thundering Herd’s 23-0 shutout of Texas-San Antonio.
Josh McCoy, North Carolina Central - York’s McCoy caught a seven-yard pass during the Eagles’ 45-0 loss to North Carolina A&T.
Nick McCloud, North Carolina State - former South Pointe defensive back made two tackles during the Wolfpack’s 52-10 hammering of Louisville.
Josh Belk, South Carolina - Lewisville’s Belk made a pair of tackles during the Gamecocks’ 49-9 win over Chattanooga.
Farrika Grier, South Carolina State - the Bulldogs beat Savannah State 21-17 and Grier, the former Lancaster Bruins running back, carried the ball four times for 12 yards. Grier also returned a kickoff 22 yards.
Quan Caldwell, South Carolina State - receiver from Chester caught an 11-yard pass during the win over Savannah State.
Jerome Pettiway, South Carolina State - York’s Pettiway punted eight times during the Bulldogs’ win over Savannah State. Pettiway averaged 38 yards per punt, with one downed inside the 20-yard line and one longer than 50 yards.
Nick Sciba, Wake Forest - Clover’s Sciba hit two field goals, 32 and 20 yards, during the Demon Deacons’ loss to Pittsburgh. Sciba also hit an extra point.
Zeek Rodney, Wake Forest - senior defensive tackle from South Pointe made three tackles, with one for a loss, and recorded a QB hit during the Demon Deacons’ loss to Pittsburgh.
Kendrick Hicks, Wingate - Rock Hill High grad made two tackles, shared a tackle-for-loss and notched a QB hit during Wingate’s 41-31 win over West Georgia in the first round of the NCAA Division II national playoffs.
Xi Simpson, Wingate - Chester’s Simpson continued to start at right tackle for the Bulldogs, who won in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. Wingate piled up 245 yards rushing and the offensive line allowed just one sack in the win over West Georgia. The Bulldogs face conference rival Lenoir-Rhyne in the second round this weekend.
Jadeveon Clowney, Houston - active game for the former South Pointe Stallion standout during the Texans’ 23-21 win over Washington, their seventh in a row. Clowney made five tackles, with two for a loss, a sack and a QB hit.
Johnathan Joseph, Houston - Joseph, the Northwestern High grad, made four solo tackles and defended a pass during Houston’s win over Washington.
Benjamin Watson, New Orleans - Watson, the former Northwestern Trojan, played during the Saints’ 48-7 blowout of defending Super Bowl champs Philadelphia, but didn’t register any stats.
Stephon Gilmore and Cordarrelle Patterson, New England - the Patriots were off last week. They’re back in action this week on the road against the New York Jets.