Underdogs: Malcolm X Shabazz HS
Band of Brothers
Once the high school of former New York City mayor Ed Koch (it was called South Side High School then), Shabazz is now located in one of the most gang-infested parts of Newark. Students arrive from all different parts of the city, none of which would be considered safe. Even if several different parts of Newark are represented at Shabazz, Friday night is showtime. The football team looks playoff-bound again this year and "The President's Band," which has performed for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, is always there to perform. Violence, rivalry, drugs and conflict lingers near the Shabazz field, but Coach Darnell Grant says it hasn't crossed its gates. Under Grant, the team is a brotherhood, it's only enemy, it's weekly opponent. Because, as the team motto states, if you're not a bulldog, you're dog food.
One of the top players in the Super Essex Conference, Jackson was taking a bus home from school one day when he was the subject of an attempted robbery. The friend he was with was shot in the leg (he survived and is fine) while Jackson made it away safely. Jackson is now a viable collegiate football prospect and has the Bulldogs out to a 3-1 record.
The star of the team, league, and conference, Benton holds over ten Division-I offers and will likely play linebacker in college. A powerful running threat as well as a sure tackler, Benton hopes to be the first Bulldog to play in the NFL since Stylez G. White played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2007-2010.
Mills took over Malcolm X Shabazz in 2011, and changes are already taking place under his watch. Mills has actively fought truancy and low graduation rates in his year at the helm, and he also is seeking publicity for the school. Last year, Shabazz played its first televised football game, which was also the first in the district's history. By offering vocational education in conjunction with its traditional education, Shabazz has progressed over the last two years.
Grant is in his third season at the helm at Shabazz and is looking to return the Bulldogs to the playoffs. The coach has emphasized brotherhood in his quest to build Shabazz into a team of champions and enriched young men. Grant drives several players home from practice every day to make sure they avoid any neighborhood violence.