Cape Girardeau City Council renames street after former SEMO athletes

Walter Smallwood and Curtis Williams won more than a few trophies and accolades during their athletic careers at Southeast Missouri State University.

Smallwood was a two-time all-conference football player and a conference track champion. He held multiple SEMO football records, including being the school's career rushing leader ó a record that stood for three decades after he finished his career.

Williams, a hometown athletic hero, was a basketball and track star. He was a conference track champion and MVP of the 1967 basketball team, setting multiple school and conference records along the way.

In 2003, the university named both to its Athletics Hall of Fame.

Those accomplishments would be enough for the university to petition the city to rename a portion of Bellevue Street on the university's campus as Williams-Smallwood Way, a request city officials promptly granted earlier this month.

Smallwood and Williams made a name for themselves in athletics, but they are noteworthy for other reasons as well.

Both graduated from SEMO and went on to long careers as educators. No doubt, they were able to exemplify for their students how hard work, dedication and teamwork can lead to individual and team success. They also had a valuable perspective on balancing athletics and academics.

The men were also among the first African Americans to receive athletic scholarships from SEMO. They blazed a trail for others to follow, and generations of athletes have used athletic scholarships to pursue higher education at the university, preparing themselves for careers after the final buzzer.

Smallwood and Williams are part of SEMO's storied athletics history, and that history will forever note their role in paving the way for other African Americans to pursue higher education through athletic scholarships. Their lives after their sports careers is a testimony to the men they became. Honoring them by naming a street that passes through campus after them is a fitting tribute.