Last Updated: June 21, 2015

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Former Scotlandville star’s road to Super Bowl began in Pitts’ living room  

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nick Underhill / 

Brycen Bolden is only 3 years old. There’s little indication he knows what he’s watching, but this is how things are done in Pitts’ family. He’s proud of his football heritage and that he played for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowls I and IV. Besides, this is the same thing Pitts did with grandson, Brandon Bolden, and he’ll be suiting up for the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks.

Why change now?

“He loves his grandpa to death just like I did,” Bolden said. “He pretty much does the same thing. My son is 3, doesn’t even understand what the Super Bowl is, but he’s watched I and IV a good three times since he’s been born. Just trying to get him started young.”

In many ways, Bolden’s football journey from Scotlandville High School in Baton Rouge, to Ole Miss, and now to the New England Patriots, where he plays at running back, can be traced to Pitts’ Baton Rouge living room.

 

There, Pitts says, Bolden became fascinated with the memorabilia from his playing days, watched those same Super Bowl tapes, and ultimately fell in love with the game.

Though he had an early fascination with football, Bolden did not play at a young age. He was too big to play youth football, failing to meet the weight requirements, and stuck with baseball until he was in high school. That’s when he started providing Pitts with the memories he still holds dear to his heart — like the time Pitts claims his grandson jumped clear over a defender to avoid being tackled.

“From then on, because everybody knew him and knew that he was my grandson, (they) would come talking to me about it,” Pitts said. “They would say, ‘How are you teaching him to do all that kind of stuff?’ I’d say, ‘I didn’t teach him anything, he did that all on his own.”

Bolden, who has 139 carries for 634 yards over his three-year career and stars on special teams, is not willing to take all the credit. Much of his success is because of the tutelage of his grandfather, who he says calls him after every game and goes over every single one of his plays from the opening kickoff to the last play of the game.

These grading reports, as Bolden calls them, have been instrumental to his success. But there’s one point the two cannot see eye-to-eye on. And when it is brought up to Bolden, he immediately begins laughing.

 

“When Brandon runs with the ball, Frank says, ‘Brandon, put that ball in your right hand and hold it tight to your body,” Diane Pitts, Frank’s wife, interjected during a recent interview at the couple’s home.

There’s only one problem.

“I tell him all the time I’m left-handed,” Bolden said.

Now 71, Pitts now battles Alzheimer’s and his memories are fading. A detail here or there might be off, but the memories of his career are lucid and he keeps abreast on all things Patriots — referring to himself as a “retired Chiefs fan.”

He can tell you all about the nerves he experienced before Super Bowl I, which his Chiefs lost 35-10 to the Green Bay Packers. Pitts, who caught 175 passes for an average of 16.6 yards per reception with 27 touchdowns during his 10-year career with Kansas City, Cleveland and Oakland, can also tell you all about his special teams plays during that game.

 

His memories from the fourth Super Bowl are more pleasant. He ran three reverses for 37 yards with gains of 19, 11, and 7 yards and caught three passes for 33 yards. His favorite play during that game was a reverse, which set up a Jan Stenerud field goal.

“Hank Stram was the orchestrator of all that,” Frank Pitts said. “The name of the play was ‘51 Go Reverse.’ Hank had it in his head I was probably one of the quickest ones that could get from one corner to the other corner running that reverse.”

He was right. The plays helped the Chiefs earn a 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.

Some thieves tried to rob Pitts’ of his memories from that game when they broke into his home around 2005 and stole his Super Bowl ring as well as an AFL Championship ring from 1966. However, shortly after, a group of legislators presented Pitts, who was working as a sergeant at arms, with replacement rings at a Saints game.

He now keeps the rings safe by keeping them on his fingers, which is where they will be this weekend when he’s scolding his grandson for carrying the ball in his right arm.

“It’s heart-warming just realizing that my grandson is stepping in my shoes and going to the ‘Big Show,’ ” Frank Pitts said.

Now Brycen Bolden is going to have third Super Bowl to watch. Who knows, maybe someday he’ll have his own video to add to the collection.

Playing in Super Bowls seems to be the family business.

 

ROUGH RIDERS  35
BLACK KNIGHTS  23

THE 13TH ANNUAL RED STICK BOWL IS PROUD TO DISPLAY THE TALENTS OF THE ALL STATE SELECTIONS IN THIS YEAR'S GAME CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FOLLOWING PLAYERS:

CLASS 5A
JACK GONSOULIN, PK, CATHOLIC HIGH

CLASS 4A
AJ FLETCHER, LB/K, ST MICHAEL
CHRIS REID, DB/P, ST MICHAEL

CLASS 3A
MALCOLM DEDRICK, RB, LIVONIA

CLASS 2A
TYQUINCEY KILBOURNE, LB, EAST FELICIANA

CLASS 1A
TREVAS SAMUEL, OL, SOUTHERN LAB

Livonia’s Stephen Guidry, Catholic-Pointe Coupee’s Jonas Guichet guide Rough Riders to Red Stick Bowl title

St. Michael’s Chris Reid to fill two roles in Red Stick Bowl

During the 2014 football season, Reid averaged more than 42 yards per punt and set a school-record with a punt of 71 yards. Throughout his career, he’s averaged 40 yards per punt. He credits his yearly improvement to Warriors assistant coach Chad Davis.

Reid signed a scholarship with the LSU baseball team last month after committing to the Tigers just before the start of his junior year. LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri offered Reid while he was at junior baseball nationals in Minnesota, and Reid committed the next day.

On Reid’s signing day, Mainieri told him he would be able to walk on to the Tigers football team during his sophomore season.

Until he became starting punter during his freshman season at St. Michael, football had always come second to baseball for him.

But after his junior year, playing college football became a possibility. He received football recruiting letters from Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Texas Tech and LSU.

“He’s just a smart guy that knows how to fit in and use his abilities the best he can,” St. Michael coach Paul Varnado said.

“For him to sign a scholarship with LSU, you have to be a great athlete and great baseball player. He is both.”

At one point in his career, Reid was on kickoffs, field goals and extra point kicks. But the heavy load took a toll on his lower back. However, before the start of his senior season, Reid decided to play defense.

Reid began to look at defensive schemes the week before the season opener and had two interceptions in the first game against Walker. He finished the season with seven interceptions.

“He’s always been a good athlete since he was a young kid,” Varnado said. “He’s always been able to move around and that’s why he plays shortstop and will be a walk-on kicker his second year.”

Reid is trying to soak in the excitement of playing with new coaches for the Red Stick Bowl . But he said the best part of this experience is his new teammates and opponents.

“The athletes are better,” Reid said. “The guys are bigger, stronger and faster, so that makes it fun. It makes everybody else better too. These guys out here are all great some way or another in what they do on the football field, and that’s why they got chosen here.

“It’s very honorable to be chosen to this, because it’s the best of the best in our area. It’s been fun learning new things and seeing the team coming together. It’s been pretty fun to be out here with these guys.”

 

Red Stick Bowl set for Olympia

Some of the Baton Rouge area’s top senior football players are set to end their high school careers with Sunday’s U.S. Army Red Stick Bowl.

 

The annual all-star game set for 2:30 p.m. at Olympia Stadium features the Black Knights and the Rough Riders. Talent for the teams is dispersed through a draft. Both squads are eager to prove those selections were the correct ones.

“What we have here is a collection of the best athletes in the Greater Baton Rouge area and surrounding areas,” St. Michael coach Paul Varnado said. “It’s going to be a good show for both sides.”

Brett Beard, who coached at Woodlawn but accepted the job at Live Oak during the week, is head coach for the 45-player Black Knights. Varnado is head coach for the 45-member Rough Riders.

While at Woodlawn, Beard coached against 17 of his Black Knights players in District 5-5A games. He also has four Woodlawn seniors on the his all-star team.

 

Most players will have played at least one-regular season game against one or more of their all-star game teammates. The coaches have also coached against players on their team, factors that make these matchups a little more intriguing.

“Watching those guys go from district opponents to come together and play as a part of your team, that’s what’s fun,” Beard said. “The kids in this area play great football. Now you get to see all those studs come together, put their craft together and gel together.”

Varnado has players from Parkview Baptist, Livonia, Denham Springs, Lutcher as well as Catholic-Pointe Coupee, Springfield, St. Michael, Zachary and White Castle.

There’s been a little trash talk between teammates about who beat who during the season and toward opponents about who will win. Beard enjoyed hearing the playful banter throughout the week.

The teams also have some well-known players. Recent Nicholls State commitment Charles Brooks of Woodlawn and Plaquemine’s D’Morea Wicks are the quarterbacks for the Black Knights, while the Rough Riders have St. Michael’s Jeffrey Vaccaro and Catholic-Pointe Coupee’s Jonas Guichet at quarterback. Running back Malcolm Dedrick, who helped lead Livonia to a Class 3A state title just over a week ago, is part of the Rough Riders roster.

 

 “These kids know each other,” Beard said. “They’ve battled against each other for four years now. It’s one last chance for them to get after it. You hear them make the comments, you can’t help but laugh. We got some great football in this state much less great football in this area.”

It can be hard to pick starters for all-star games. To choose his four starting defensive linemen, Rough Riders defensive line coach Clark Nocentelli of Central Private created a competition. Anytime the defense went head-to-head with the offense during practices, Nocentelli made it an opportunity to earn points. He added up all the points up at the end of the week, and the four players with the most points will be the four defensive-line starters.

Varnado added Sunday’s game will help many of the players better understand the speed of college football by playing with other all-star athletes. He said he hopes the Rough Riders respond to the challenge.

“The speed of the game will be different for some players,” Varnado said. “The best players from teams will play football with the best of the Baton Rouge area. When high school kids go to college, everybody’s faster.

“It’s definitely an eye opener for some of these guys to see how fast their competition moves in practice. It’s going to be just as fast if not faster on Sunday.”