Glory Days for Willie Totten

Sept. 22, 2005

By Jason Owens


Jerry Rice's retirement from the NFL last month prompted a barrage of highlight reels and tributes to the football great's career. With those highlights came the inevitable comparisons of the success he enjoyed with Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young.


Throughout the celebration, one name was consistently left out: Willie Totten. The casual college football fans reading this might be asking: who is Willie Totten and why should I care? But the die-hards know that Totten was Jerry Rice's first big-time pitch-and-catch partner at I-AA Mississippi Valley State, where the two combined to shatter NCAA passing records.   


By the time Totten, known as Satellite in his playing days, finished his career with the Delta Devils, he had led his team to a 28-11-1 record and owned more than 50 I-AA passing records. In 1984, Totten and Rice hooked up for 1,845 yards and 28 touchdowns in 11 games. The Delta Devils scored at a clip better than 59 points per game. Totten's senior year stats - 358 of 593 for 5,043 yards and 58 touchdowns -- make good career numbers.


Now Totten looks to revive the magic Rice and he had on the field as the head coach at MVSU. Totten is in his fourth year leading his alma mater, his first head-coaching job at the collegiate level.


He started his coaching career under another football legend as a graduate assistant for Eddie Robinson at Grambling State in 1988-89. He returned to MVSU as an assistant in 1990 and took over as offensive coordinator in 1996. After the 1998 season, he moved on to coach Eastside High School in Cleveland, Miss.


In 2001, he jumped on the opportunity to take over at MVSU and the pressure that comes with playing in Rice-Totten Stadium. And it hasn't been easy, especially coming off a last-place SWAC division finish in 2004 with a 3-8 record. Totten is excited to lead his alma mater and optimistic about the 2005 campaign.


"It's always good to be back home and give back to the school," Totten said. "We bring back an experienced team; we feel this is our year. We have 10 starters back on offense and nine on defense."


And it looks like the experience is paying off; the Delta Devils have already doubled their '04 conference win total with a 2-1 start. They have wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Southern.


Whatever strides the Delta Devils make, Totten knows better than to expect another Jerry Rice to show up on campus to evoke the days of the `Satellite Express.'


"Jerry was special," Totten said. "He's an outstanding person -- real enjoyable to be around. He had a real passion for playing football."


What he can do is instill the work ethic that Jerry Rice showed at MVSU and throughout his NFL career. A future Hall of Famer who many consider the greatest to ever play the game sets a stellar example.


 "He wasn't that fast, but he worked real hard," Totten says of Rice. "If you were the fastest guy on the team, he wanted to race you. He lost a lot of races. But he ran the best routes and was the hardest worker on the team."


He can also point to his own accolades, as he's a member of the class of 2005 College Football Hall of Fame inductees.


Whatever is in store for head coach Willie Totten, his legacy is already secure at MVSU. Now if he can just work some of Jerry Rice's college footage into the highlight reels.


Jason Owens is an editor for



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