Playing football at Birmingham Brother Rice can carry with it plenty of benefits, and for those who have the opportunity to play beyond high school, perhaps chief among them is the preparation it can provide to play at the next level.
Ed Viverette, who is a senior linebacker at Wayne State University, suited up for Brother Rice and credits that opportunity for helping him transition to the college level. A big part of the experience of being a player at Brother Rice is the opportunity to play for Al Fracassa, who has announced that he will retire at the end of the season, and Viverette has fond memories of his former coach.
“Playing for coach Fracassa, it was great,” he said. “Every time I go back, he gives me a big hug,” he said. “All the coaches there are great. I wish him the best. He’s a great guy, great man, great leader. I don’t know if I would be here (playing for Wayne State) if it wasn’t for him.”
While Viverette has nice memories of playing at Brother Rice, his time at Wayne State has left him with some good ones, too. Aside from making “life-long friends,” Viverette was part of a team that went to the Division II national championship game in 2011, and while the Warriors didn’t come out on top that day, the experience of being there is something he isn’t likely to forget anytime soon.
“That national championship was great,” he said. “Going to Alabama, we were there for a week. It was a lot of fun. We got to go to some elementary schools — the kids were great. They had little pep rallies for us. It was great.”
More recently, Viverette was selected as the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the week earlier this season, following a performance against Ashland University Sept. 14, in which he recorded nine tackles, three and a half sacks, and recovered a fumble he ran back for a 42-yard touchdown. He was also credited for two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble, helping to give the Warriors their first victory against Ashland since 2009.
It was Viverette’s first time receiving that honor, and it may go hand-in-hand with the kind of growth Wayne State linebackers coach Keith McKenzie, who played in the National Football League for eight years and was part of a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl championship team in 1996, has seen in Viverette since he arrived at Wayne State.
“I’ve seen a lot of growth, physically and mentally,” McKenzie said. “Physically, he’s gotten bigger, stronger and a little bit faster, to me. But the real growth is his leadership on the field. He’s always had ability to make plays; that’s one of the first things I saw when we were looking at film. I’m looking at the film — looking at (a) bigger kid and looking at Ed, and I’m thinking, ‘Well, the kid from Brother Rice is a better football player. The kid makes plays and he gets to the ball.’
“It hasn’t stopped, really. When he gets out there on the field, he finds a way to the ball; he finds a way to make plays. He helps his team win games. The growth has been tremendous.”
Making it as far as playing at the Division II level doesn’t happen by accident, and Viverette has given some thought as to what he would tell someone who has aspirations of being a college football player, and what the keys have been for him to come this far.
“Get your academics right,” he said. “No matter how good you are, if you can’t pass classes, you can’t play. For me, personally, my family pushed me to where I am today — wouldn’t be here without (them).”
Having the chance to play football at the NCAA Division 2 level is not one everybody receives, and Viverette expressed appreciation for the opportunity he has been given.
“Appreciate where you are,” he said. “Lot of people who wish they could be in your spot. … Take every day and live to the fullest.”
Viverette is majoring in criminal justice and is scheduled to graduate in December.