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April 19, 2014

Cally Belcher's death was a tragedy ahead of its time

Remember Cally Belcher, 20 years later

HUNTSVILLE — Cally Belcher was like a human highlight film in the late 1980s, even if the nickname was already taken by famous basketball star Dominique Wilkins.

As a defensive back for the Huntsville Hornets from 1987-89, Belcher was an intimidating tackler during a time in football when hitting was one of the more glamorous elements of the sport.

Former Huntsville coach Joe Clements remembers observing Belcher as a high school freshman, long before he developed physically into a Division I-AA player at Stephen F. Austin.

Belcher was like a coach’s dream during tackling drills early on and it soon translated to the games once he made the Hornets varsity squad as a sophomore in ’87.

“He would hit you unlike anybody else would hit you,” Clements said. “That’s how we learned about Cally. He will always be memorable for the way he played football because he would really hit you and hit you hard.”

Practice could be painful

Clements’ son Steve Clements played quarterback on the teams in Huntsville with Belcher and said practicing against his old buddy was less than ideal.

Even though Belcher mostly had a mild temperament, not known to be flashy, he was considered a complete menace for opposing teams that watched enough game film.

“He was an absolute terror on the football field,” Steve Clements said. “I didn’t want to practice against him. My offense didn’t want to practice against him. The offenses in our district would see a guy who could absolutely put you in the hospital any time he hit you. But at the same time, he had a kind heart and quiet confidence about himself.”

The older Clements said Belcher was one of his top two hitters in 35 years of coaching. The only other to compare was Houston Robert E. Lee’s Gary Yeoman. Yeoman went on to star at linebacker for the Texas Longhorns in the early 1970s.

“Those two, I guarantee, stand above everybody I ever coached and I say that with no hesitation at all,” Joe Clements said.

When the players watched game film on Saturdays, the offensive unit always asked coaches to show them defensive film so they could see the Belcher hits.

“It always happened,” Steve Clements said. “Sometimes we’d all be together, both offense and defense. When that was the case, everybody in the room was waiting to see those two or three big hits he had in that particular game. It was ESPN SportsCenter for us, back in the day.”

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