Competing for the Fort Valley State Wildcats, former Charlotte High School running back Mike Bellamy returned to the college gridiron on Saturday, September 7, during a 36-21 loss to the Valdosta State Blazers in the Macon Heritage Classic.
Bellamy recently enrolled as a junior at the historically-black college, located 20 miles south of Macon, Georgia, and earned a spot on coach Donald Pittman’s Division II football team.
As one of four running backs to carry the ball for the Wildcats, Bellamy rushed 7 times for -2 yards. The 21 year-old Florida native did accrue 21 positive yards, including a personal-best 9 yard gain, but also suffered a 23 yard loss, which dropped his final number considerably.
Bellamy additionally caught two passes for 9 and 6 yards from quarterback Eugene Smith, who led the squad with 41 rushing yards.
Posting 454 yards of offense in the season-opening clash at Henderson Stadium, the Blazers proved too tough, and seized a dominant 29-8 halftime edge. Fort Valley closed the gap late in the game, but their opponent demonstrated why the powerhouse from southern Georgia is defending Division II national champion and has captured 3 titles in the past decade.
Playing for the Fightin’ Tarpons from 2007 to 2010, Bellamy became just the seventh high school player in state history to exceed 7,000 career rushing yards. He was named the Sporting News High School Athlete of the Year in 2010, when the Florida native impressively amassed 2,382 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior.
Gifted with rare speed, Bellamy also ran track for Charlotte High and earned accolades away from football, including state championships in 100m and 200m.
As one of the country’s most highly-touted recruits, Bellamy committed to Clemson University and scrambled for 343 yards as a true freshman in 2011.
Despite showing potential on the field, Bellamy’s path away from Charlotte County was rocky and the running back was suspended for the school’s appearances in the ACC Championship and Orange Bowl. Disappointingly, the Tarpons’ alum was ruled academically ineligible in the spring of 2012 and departed the school after a single season.
Hoping to stay on the field, Bellamy next enrolled at East Mississippi Community College — the 2011 national junior college champion — but the troubled player was quickly dismissed for a violation of team rules last August.
The running back eventually landed at tiny Eastern Arizona College, where he appeared in 7 games during the 2012 season and rushed for only 139 total yards.
The opportunity to oppose superior competition with Fort Valley State may represent Bellamy’s last chance at football and supporters hope he takes full advantage of it. The running back’s college career has been halted on a pair of occasions, but he retains a year of eligibility, and could even transfer back to Division I, if able to recapture the glory once seen at Tarpon Stadium in Punta Gorda.
Bellamy and the Wildcats next travel to Savannah, Georgia to meet the Savannah State Tigers on September 14.
The 2013 team will compete in ten regular season contests, prior to potential appearances in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship Game and Division II playoffs.
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Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.