By David Brandt/The Associated Press
JACKSON — With his trademark sunglasses and ample swagger, Melvin Spears said he welcomed the challenge of trying to bring Alcorn State’s football program back to prominence.
Spears, 50, was introduced Wednesday as the Braves new football coach after spending last season as the offensive coordinator for Alabama State. He replaces Earnest Collins, who left after two seasons to become the coach at Northern Colorado.
Spears was selected over two other finalists — Fred McNair, the brother of the late Steve McNair, and Dwayne White. All three candidates are former Alcorn players.
“This really isn’t a press conference,” Spears said. “All the folks I see out here today — this is homecoming. This is supposed to be what it’s like when you come back to talk with your folks.”
Spears is a veteran coach, but he’s best known for a stormy three-year tenure at Grambling from 2004 to ’06, where his outspoken personality led to several controversial incidents. He was accused of running up the score multiple times and drew criticism in 2005 when he said Alcorn should forfeit after it couldn’t host a game in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“The fire that you see is still the same fire, but it’s a little more patient, a little more methodical,” Spears said. “The things you learn help. Sometimes you need to be patient.”
But he promised to bring the same high-scoring ways from his days at Grambling.
“We play for 60 full minutes,” Spears said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is. If we’re up by 100, so be it.”
Alcorn State finished with a 5-6 record last season, but returns quarterback Brandon Bridge, who threw for 2,086 yards and 19 touchdowns as a freshman.
“He’s got a reputation for spreading things out so I’m ready to go,” Bridge said.
Spears won a SWAC title in his second season at Grambling in 2005, but was fired after finishing 3-8 the next season.