There they were, seated next to one another at a table in a back room of the George Pelbano Recreation Center where they got their football start playing for the Rhawnhurst Athletic Association.
There were four of them, now spread across three Philadelphia high schools, all wearing the commemorative jackets that marked Rhawnhurst’s undefeated 2010 season, the one that taught them how to be winners.
On the right was Vince Moffett, the soft-spoken punisher, now a starting junior running back for a St. Joseph’s Prep team that is tops in the city; to his left was the elusive one, Marquis Seamon, a two-way junior star at Judge who went down with a wrist injury in the season’s first game; next to him was his best friend, sophomore Samir Bullock, who has filled in dutifully at running back for the Crusaders with Seamon out; and finally, there was Rushawn Grange, the sophomore “goofy one,” according to Seamon. Grange is the starting running back at Northeast with a sparking smile and longing desire to be in the spotlight.
Together, they became champions, a mentality they have brought with them to the high school level. And together, they gathered last Saturday morning to thank the organization, and head coach Ed Trampe, who put them in a place to achieve future success.
“Football was the sport I wanted to play,” Bullock said. “I wanted to go somewhere where it was taken seriously. Coach Ed is the best coach I’ve had, because he prepared us for what came next. I don’t know where I’d be if not for him and this place.”
“You come here, and it’s like a high school team before you get to high school,” Grange added. “It’s no joke.”
They came here for different reasons. Moffett, the neighborhood kid, joined Rhawnhurst when he was 7 and went the distance until he was accepted into the Prep. Seamon is also from the area, but switched from Fox Rok to Rhawnhurst in hopes of finding a more intense program, one that featured grinding practices where teammates would literally carry each other on their backs for 100 yards before bear crawling back the opposite way. Bullock and Grange came from outside the neighborhood in hopes of finding an organization that treated football as more than just a game.
However, in the end, they all arrived looking to find what it takes to crack the starting lineups at cutthroat city football programs like Northeast, Judge and the Prep. Mission accomplished.
“Playing here gave me the chance to go to the Prep,” Moffett said. “I’m very grateful.”
Added Seamon: “Rhawnhurst helped get me into Judge, no question. I’m glad I played here.”
So far, things have worked out just fine. Moffett earned second-team All-Catholic honors as a sophomore in 2011 after rushing for 424 yards and pulling in another 177 through the air; he has put up almost identical numbers in 2012 for an undefeated team that just dealt La Salle its first division loss since 2009. Seamon stood out at cornerback a year ago and rushed for 53 yards this season in Judge’s opening game in Ireland before breaking his wrist; in his absence, Bullock has stepped up with 652 yards and four touchdowns (highlighted by 238 and 190-yard rushing performances); Grange has gone for 311 yards on the ground, 265 of which came in two games against Lincoln and Southern.
In 2010, their final year as Rhawnhurst teammates, the foursome capped an undefeated season with a championship win over rival Holmesburg. From there, Moffett and Seamon moved onto the high school level, while Bullock and Grange continued to advance their games in preparation to follow suit. The 2012 season has seen all four contribute at a high level; when Seamon was lost for the year, Bullock ran with his increased role. Together, they learned how to be unselfish, how to win, and most important, they learned from each other’s strengths.
“These guys right here (Seamon and Moffett) taught me how to be a running back,” Bullock said.
“Vince taught me how to be tough,” Seamon said. “He’s the toughest kid I know. I was glad whenever he blocked for me, because I knew he would put the defender on his back.”
“These guys taught me how to be more elusive,” Moffett said. “How to break the big run instead of just pounding the ball.”
Perhaps the biggest compliment came from Grange, who lamented about a failed opportunity to enroll at Judge with Seamon and Bullock due to poor grades. He’s hoping to fix that heading into next season as he looks for a program that offers stiffer competition and wider exposure.
“My motivation is them,” Grange said. “I see Vince in the paper and I remember how he taught me how to run low and hard. Marquis is a lockdown corner, and I want to emulate his speed. Samir is a highlight-reel running back, which I want to be. These guys motivate me to become a better football player.”
The man who all three schools owe a great debt of gratitude to is Trampe, who got these four to embrace a more disciplined approach while shedding any me-first attitude problems that needed to be adjusted.
“Here we have an environment to get kids ready, both mentally and physically,” Trampe said. “We practice hard here to get them ready for that level. For them to come here with no egos and buy into each other, into winning and getting better, that’s a testament to them. That’s why they’re special and why they are where they are.
“You can see certain kids just have it,” he continued. “When they get to me before high school, certain guys step up and separate themselves. For them to go from whipping boys who couldn’t do much right to disciplined leaders on these teams, how can you not be proud? You take pride as a coach and as an organization that you play a part in developing these kids for the future.”
Now, only Seamon and Bullock are teammates, but the four still keep tabs on each other. Most of all, no matter how much success they have at the high school level and beyond, they won’t forget where it all started.
“I’ll never forget this organization, because I wouldn’t be where I am now or be the player I am today without them,” Bullock said.
“We’re not going to forget where it all started … how could we?” Moffett asked. “We’ll remember in twenty to thirty years, I’ll bet.”
And even though his season of high expectations has been lost due to injury, Seamon put the bond these four share into perspective.
“It’s like family,” he said. “We stick together, and I hope to see them down the line doing big things in college and beyond, or whatever makes them happy. I know we’ll all have good lives, and much of it is because we all started here, together.” ••