Not forgotten: Family of former Trojans thankful for championship rings

Published 7:28 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Nathan Harris and Corey McCullers weren’t on the field in Jonesboro, Arkansas last season when the Troy Trojans took home their sixth Sun Belt Conference football championship, but their presence was still felt by many.

Harris and McCullers both lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents. McCullers died in a car wreck in the summer of 2015 and Harris lost his life in a motorcycle crash less than a year later.

Both McCullers and Harris would have been on the team a season ago and would have earned a championship ring. So Troy head coach Neal Brown made sure their rings returned home.

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Brown sent both a championship ring and a hand-written note to the parents of the two Trojans expressing the impact that they still have on the program.

“It was a big surprise,” said Harris’ mother, Carol Harris. “We were just surprised. We didn’t know that was coming. We are just really thankful that coach Brown thought enough of Nathan to send that. It meant so much to us.”

Mary Lou McCullers – mother of Corey McCullers – made her way up to Troy for the annual T-Day game this spring. Corey would have been a senior this season and her emotions were already running high. While at the game, she was pulled away by football secretary Judy Morgan.

“Mrs. Judy at the end of T-Day said ‘I have something I was going to mail to you,’” McCullers said. “We walked with her to the office not having any idea what it was.”

It was an envelope that Morgan suggested she opened somewhere else.

“She told me it’s going to make me cry,” McCullers said. “I told her ‘Mrs. Judy, this would have been his senior year and I have been crying all week anyway.’ We opened that envelope right there and pulled out the card and saw the box in there. He wanted a ring while he was there. “Knowing how my son felt about that and knowing that they thought enough of him and us, I can’t tell you how good that made us feel.”

Carol Harris thought she had to work the night the ring came in the mail. When it turned out she didn’t she was happy with the opportunity to cherish the ring.

“My supervisor called and told me I was going to be on call,” Harris said. “I started to say no I need to work, but I thought no I’ll let it ride and we were like wow.”

After time with the ring, Carol walked to the mailbox to find another Trojan item.

“I went to the mailbox to get the mail and in the mailbox was my Troy car tag that I had custom made,” Harris said. “It was a day full of surprises.”

Football was a passion for both players at a young age and both dreamed of playing football at the collegiate level. For McCullers and Harris, Troy was more than a college; it was home and it was family.

“Corey just loved Troy,” McCullers said. “He fell in love with Troy when his sister was down there. They gave him a chance to play football, which he loved.”

“He (Nathan Harris) loved the game of football,” Carol Harris said. “He was a very good student of the game. His goal was to be a professional football player. We thought that was going to work out for him because of his injuries.”

Coach Brown and Troy gave him an opportunity to continue to play the game he loved.

“Coach Brown was so good to let Nathan have a chance and let him prove himself. I am so glad that he did and I am so glad it was Troy. It’s such a unique family and we are part of that Troy family.”

Handing out championship rings is not the only way coach Brown is honoring the two players. Each week during the season, the Corey McCullers and Nathan Harris Spirit Award is handed out to a current Troy player.

“People really had a lot of respect for him (Nathan),” Harris said “He was a natural leader, a motivator and an encourager. The service award, for us, is perfect.”

McCullers was a verbal player that was never afraid to let his voice be heard.

“Coach (Matt) Moore told me sometime before the accident ‘When we have team meetings, I have to tell Corey don’t answer every question. Let somebody else answer,’” McCullers said. “To know that he made a difference down there means the world to a mother.”

With another season on the horizon, it’s safe to say that both of these players will stay on the hearts and minds of the Troy program.

“They just loved us and let us love them,” McCullers said. “A school that he loved, loved him.”