Mayfield Laid To Rest
Former Savannah State University football player Michael Mayfield was laid to rest on January 11, 2021. Mayfield, 57, died on January 5 after a battle with cancer as well as covid-19.
The former allaround athlete had been unable to work in recent months due to having liver and colon cancer.
Mayfield came to SSU in the early 1980’s out of Franklin County High School. The Royston, Georgia native joined his brother, Luther, on the Tigers football team. Luther, who died in 2014, was a defensive lineman for the Tigers while Michael played tight end.
Michael’s time in a SSU uniform was short lived. He had to quit the team because of a heart con- dition.
After leaving Savannah State, Mayfield worked various jobs and was an active part of the communities in Franklin and Hart counties where he was a recreation football and basketball coach as well as serving as a referee for football and softball games.
“He was a outstanding young man,” stated Mayfield’s former coach at SSU, Frank Ellis, Jr.
Carnell Mills, a former SSU teammate who played wide receiver for the Tigers added “He was a great teammate and better person off the playing field. He was always positive and full of life.”
According to his obituary, Mayfield was funny, selfless, loving, kind, compassionate, forgiving, patient and generous. His younger brother, Rev. Davie Mayfield, gave the eulogy and said that anybody who ran into his brother ran into his smile.
“To know Michael is to love him.” He added that his brother had gotten to a point in his life where he wanted to know Jesus and everything about him. “He had rededicated himself and that the most important thing to him was building that spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Services for Mayfield were held at Mack’s Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Hartwell, Georgia.
Catching Up With Lee Pearson, Jr.
This week’s segment is with Savannah native Lee Pearson, Jr. who is a high school sports official.
The football season for the Georgia High School Association recently wrapped with its championship games. Although none of the local public schools participated in any of the games, the city of Savannah was represented in the Class AAA contest with Pearson being one of the officials working with the game crew.
When asked about his experience of working his first state championship game, Pearson said he was nervous in the beginning but once the game started he had to lock in and treat it as just another game. “The atmosphere and the pomp and circumstance surrounding high school football in Georgia is electric and indescribable. It’s one of those you have to be there experiences.”
Pearson worked the game between Pierce County and Oconee County as the head line judge. “I am the quarterback on the field. Many of the communications regarding scenarios, disciplines, situations, and mechanics come from the head line judge pre-snap. Also, I am responsible for the chain crew and the down and distance.”
When asked how is one selected to work a state championship game as well as the playoffs, Pearson replied “There is a blind evaluation process that is anonymous, as in, we don’t know who is evaluating us, and they don’t know who the people are that are being evaluated. We get graded based on a criteria that includes mechanics, disciplines, and foul recognition. At one point, our crew was graded the number three crew in the whole state after the first few weeks of the playoff season. Its a ‘survive another week’ process just like any of the teams playing every Friday night.”
Pearson, who currently resides in Kennesaw, said the crew that worked the state championship game was put together during the last few weeks of the regular season based on their rankings within the association. They worked about eight games together through the playoffs and the last few weeks of the regular season.
One of the personal goals Pearson set for himself was working a state championship game. He has achieved that but is wanting more. “I believe the ultimate goal of every official is to reach the pinnacle of every specific level they are on. Every high school official wants a state championship, then to advance to the collegiate level. Once there, the goal is a conference championship, bowl game, or college football playoff game.”
The 2020 football season was indeed a interesting one, thanks to the covid-19 pandemic which Pearson says was life changing for everyone but he appreciates the way schools, administrations, and the officials association administration worked together to preserve as much of the season as possible. “I had quite a few games get cancelled due to contact tracing, most were sub-varsity. I lost one varsity game early in the season. Not too bad considering what was going on around the country.”
Following the footsteps of his father, Pearson worked as a scorekeeper for city and county recreation departments when he was 19. His big break came when someone failed to show up at work at Ambuc Park and he got a chance to work as a softball official. He credits people like D. Maurice Turner, who died in October 2020 for being a mentor to him over the years. “Mo was the first person that made me take every aspect of my officiating profession seriously, especially my appearance and demeanor, something that I use to create a presence on the court and in the field.”
Lucius Levett, Willie Dorsey and Glenn Jones are others who he credits for taking him under their wings to show him the ropes. Those softball games led to Pearson official games in baseball which led to him doing football and basketball contests as well.
The son of Lee and Margaret Roberts Pearson, Lee Jr.’s roots run deep in athletics and at Savannah State University.
His father was a star athlete in his hometown of Waycross and later spent a quarter of a century as the Savannah State sports information director. His mother, a retired educator, was a cheerleader during her days at Tompkins High. Lee Jr. and his siblings were all active while attending Savannah State. Lee Jr. played football and basketball, little brother Donald also played on the SSU basketball team while his older brother Todd played in the marching band.
A proud Beach High School alumnus, Pearson and his family also have deep ties to Tuskegee University. “I am a sixth generation descendant of Lewis Adams on my mother’s side. He was my great great great grandfather.” Adams was a former slave, tin smith and community leader who is best remembered for helping establish Tuskegee Institute in 1881.
Now that football season is over, Pearson will be officiating basketball games and in the spring will transition into officiating baseball games. He is also a personal trainer who is certified by the American Aerobic Association International and International Sports Medicine Association.