Tigers Lose Assistant Coach To Benedict
Savannah State University wide receiver coach Favian Upshaw has left the program and has taken over as quarterback coach at fellow SIAC school Benedict College.
Upshaw joined the SSU staff back in August after spending time at Tulane University where he served as a graduate assistant coach since 2018, earning a master’s degree in liberal arts.
During his time at Tulane, Upsahw served as an assistant coach for the quarterbacks during the 2018 Cure Bowl. Prior to Tulane, Upshaw was the co-offensive coordinator and a teacher at Astronaut High School in his native Titusville, Florida.
Upshaw started his collegiate playing career at Florida International. Following a red-shirt year in 2012, he transferred to Georgia Southern. In his three years (2014-16) at GSU as a quarterback, he completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 1,126 yards and six touchdowns while throwing nine interceptions. he also ran for 1,309 yards and ten touchdowns.is no stranger to Savannah.
Upshaw was named the MVP of the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl, leading his team to a 58-27 win over Bowling Green in the Eagles first bowl game in school history. He helped secure the championship with a career-high 199 rushing yards on 12 carries with four touchdowns.
Benedict is coached by SSU alumn Chennis Berry, who earned all conference football honors as an offensive lineman at SSU who earned his undergraduate degree in business administration.
Wilks Named Missouri Defensive Coordinator
Mizzou head coach Elijah Drinkwitz has hired former Savannah State head football coach Steve Wilks as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. Wilks returns to the college ranks after spending 14 seasons in the NFL, including a oneyear stint as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. Wilks was a part of six teams that reached the NFL Playoffs, including Super Bowl appearances with the Chicago Bears (Super Bowl XLI) and Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl L). During his 14 seasons in the NFL, five players earned All-Pro recognition under his guidance.
Wilks most recently served as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2019, where the Browns’ passing defense ranked seventh in the NFL after allowing 216.9 yards per game. Prior to Cleveland, Wilks spent the 2018 season as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals where once again, his team’s pass defense thrived. The 2018 Cardinals ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (210.0).
Before his stints in the desert and at Cleveland, Wilks spent six seasons with the Carolina Panthers (2012- 17), where he served as the team’s defensive backs coach (2012-16) and defensive coordinator (2017). He also held the role of assistant head coach for three seasons (2015-17). Coaching in his hometown, the Charlotte, N.C., native helped lead the Panthers to four playoff appearances in five seasons (2013, 2014, 2015, 2017) and an appearance in Super Bowl L following the 2015 season. The Panthers’ defense finished in the NFL’s top-10 in total defense in five of Wilks’ six seasons on staff, including finishing second in 2013 and seventh in 2017, his lone season as Defensive Coordinator.
Prior to Carolina, Wilks spent three seasons with the San Diego Chargers (2009-11) and three seasons with the Chicago Bears (2006-08), coaching the defensive backs at both stops. In San Diego, the Chargers led the NFL in total defense (271.6 ypg) and pass defense (177.8 ypg), while in Chicago, Wilks helped coach the Bears to an appearance in Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, his first in the NFL. The Bears earned top seed in the NFC Playoffs after a 13-3 record in 2006 and were led by a stout defense that ranked as the NFL’s third-best.
Prior to his 14 years in the NFL, Wilks spent 11 seasons coaching at eight schools at the college level, including a oneyear stint as a head coach at Savannah State (1999), and at Power-5 programs Notre Dame (2004) and Washington (2005), where he coached the defensive backs. Wilks served as the defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith (1995-96), Savannah
State (1997-98) and East Tennessee State (2002), and coached the defensive backs at Illinois State (2000), Appalachian State (2001) and Bowling Green (2003).
In 1998, under his leadership, Savannah State’s defense led the nation in total defense and rushing defense to become the top-rated Division II defense team in the nation in 1998. The national ranking earned Wilks the title of Division II Defensive Coordinator of the Year by the American Football Coaches Magazine. Wilks was a defensive back at Appalachian State from 1987-91 where helped the Mountaineers capture the Southern Conference championship in 1987 and 1991. He finished his collegiate career with 103 tackles, four interceptions and four blocked kicks. He attended training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 and played one season with the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1993, playing defensive back and wide receiver.
Wilks earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications from Appalachian State. He and his wife, Marcia, have two daughters, Marissa and Melanni, and a son, Steven James.
SSU Alumni Remember Hank Aaron
Legendary baseball player Hank Aaron died in his sleep on January 22. He was 86.
The Mobile, Alabama native who worked his way up from the Negro Leagues to the Major League set Major League Baseball records for home runs RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases in his 23- year playing career. His most memorable moment, though, came on April 8, 1974 when he hit his 715th career home run — breaking the record formerly held by Babe Ruth.
Although he was too young to see him play in person, 1994 Savannah State University alumnus Michael Fayoyin remembers Aaron as a humble servant more so than a athlete.
“On a few occasions I had the luxury of enjoying some of his epic events and soirees at his lovely home in Atlanta,” states Fayoyin, who was a three-sport athlete (football, basketball and track) at SSU as well as serving as student government president. “He was always so extra nice and inviting. Mr Aaron was truly involved civically. I remember him and his wife partnering with causes locally in Atlanta anytime they was called upon. I have been blessed to have had the pleasure of meeting him and being in his presence.”
Rev. Frank Ellis recalls seeing Aaron play in the 1950s in Savannah. “I saw him play at Grayson Stadium when he played with the Jacksonville Braves. Back then, Blacks could not sit in the regular stands. They had a section for Blacks on the left on the third base side,” states Ellis. The retired educator and coach who played sports, taught and coached at Johnson High and Savannah State added that Aaron acknowledged the Black fans in the stands for their support. “We remember seeing him (Aaron) play when he was up and coming. We had no idea he would become the home run king one day.”
Savannah native Joe Gilbert, who graduated from Savannah High and Savannah State, played in the Braves organization in the mid 1970s and was fortunate enough to meet Aaron. “ I met Hank Aaron after I had a meeting with Bob Lucas who was the farm team director. We spoke and he wished me the best.”
Gilbert went on to say that as a youth he was a big sports fan and that Aaron was his hero. “I watched him every chance I got. I was especially thrilled when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record. As a young boy, I will never forget that moment.” He went on to say that outside of baseball, Aaron will be remembered as a hero who never forgot where came from and was a person that provided the assistance needed for many under privileged people to achieve their dreams through his charity work.
Funeral services for Aaron were held on January 27 at Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta followed by his burial at South View Cemetery which is the oldest African American cemetery in Atlanta.