The Legend of Willie "Satellite" Totten

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - For the past few years, a college football legend had been roaming the sidelines on "The Hill." As a player,  Willie "The Satellite" Totten was a genius at the quarterback position during his days at Mississippi Valley State. But in order to understand how great Willie Totten was, you have to go back 30 plus years and hop on the "Satellite Express."

In the 1980s, the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils football team was trying to find a make a splash, not only in the Southwestern athletic Conference, but also on the national scene. So then Valley Head Coach Archie Cooley aka the Gunslinger came up with the perfect idea for an unstoppable offense. One that he drew up in the dirt.

"I said so what if i put four on this side and stack them," said Archie Cooley. "One on this side and no back. How would you handle that?"

Cooley envisioned a no-huddle offense with 5 wide receivers and no backs. Something that's common in today game of football, but wasn't even thought of in 1980s.

The Gunslinger knew he had the athletes at wide receiver to run the routes, but he needed a quarterback to conduct the offense. So he turned to an athlete who had signed with Delta Devils  as a punter: Willie Totten

"I was averaging 45 yards a punt and really that's how I got to Mississippi Valley," said Willie Totten."

"I said to myself, he got the potential because when he shook my hand, he swallowed my hand," says Cooley. "This boy got some big hands, so he should be able to throw this football."

So Coach Cooley gave Willie Totten and his BIG HANDS a shot at playing quarterback. Totten and his guys worked with the offense during camp, but honestly they never thought. it would be used in a game.

"Actually at the time, we thought he was crazy because we never of anything like that," says Totten. "We tried it and it worked the first couple of times we ran the play."

" That's how it started, little by little, piece by piece and it all started from there," said Cooley.

And thus the Satellite Express was born. Totten and his crew were put up video game like numbers during the 1984 season. In three of their first four games, the Delta Devils scored 86, 77 and 63. Mostly because teams had a hard time matching up..

"That was the first time they had seen that. We didn't have any film on that."

The Gunslinger's offense created mismatches all over the field. Especially when they put four wide receivers on one side and a single wide receiver at the bottom.That single wide receiver at the bottom was a guy that was all world, but you may know him as:

"Jerry the World Rice. They felt that I could catch anything in the world. It was really nice."

"Once we connected, it started snowballing from there."

Mississippi Valley's exposure was growing slightly, but on October 13, 1984, knowledge of the Delta Devils and satellite express would be taken to new heights. On that evening, Totten led his his squad into action against the Grambling State Tigers and their legendary head coach Eddie Robinson in the Innagural Circle City in  Indianapolis..

"When we stepped on that field, we didn't look at Grambling as being Grambling State University, we looked at them like they were the next opponent.

Totten eclipsed the 500 yard mark again while tossing 4 touchdowns in a 48-36 victory over Grambling. His favorite target that night was none other than Jerry Rice. He caught two of those t-d passes.

"Jerry Rice, 62 yards touchdown!"

"That's when we started getting the national attention from around the country and made them say evidently they have something special going on down there, so let's go see what they're doing.

"People from all over the world were coming to see this in action."

And by the time he left Mississippi Valley, Willie Totten had set 50 Division 1-AA passing records, some of them still stand today.

"What those guys did at Mississippi Valley was innovative enough that it is changing college football today."

By the mid-1980's Willie Totten and the Satellite Express had pulled into the train station for the final time. The record setting quarterback walked away from the game of college football as an all-time great and wanted to experience the same success on the pro level.

Totten got his first taste of pro ball in the CFL which was an experience. But after a few years, he made his way back to the U-S and finally got a shot in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills; however, things didn't go well..

"It seems that everywhere that I ended up in the pros, I played in cold weather and that was real tough."
 
So "The Satellite" was at a crossroads and decided to transform himself into  Coach Willie Totten.

"I really did know what I wanted to do at the time. Going back to work on my masters gave me an opportunity to find myself."

During the 1990s, Willie Totten built up his coaching resume and by the the end of the decade, Mississippi Valley State decided to honor Willie Totten and his teammate Jerry Rice, The school renamed to Magnolia Stadium to Rice-Totten stadium  in the Spring of 1999.

"I can speak for Jerry as well. That was a great honor for us."

Soon after, Mississippi Valley State would turn to their greatest quarterback of all-time and ask him to bring some pride back to the football program by naming him the head coach in 2002.

Totten hopped on the recruiting trail and brought in guys like, Dietrick Smart,a defensive lineman who was too young to watch him as a player, but never stop hearing family members talk about the Legendary Willie Totten.

"It was hard for family members not to spread the word of the legend throughout the town," says Dietrick Smart. "I played football in the early 2000s. Still today, you still hear stories of the local legends."

Coach Totten did bring pride back to Mississippi Valley State, as he led the Delta Devils to back-to-back winning seasons in 2005 and 2006.

"We bought into the system and had a great recruiting class those few years. And We turned around the program."

After his stint at Mississippi valley, Coach Totten took some time off from the game, but it wasn't long before a Coach James Spady and the Alabama A&M Bulldogs requested his services.

"I identified Willie to be a potential candidate on out staff because of his experience in the SWAC," said James Spady. "He's a former head coach in the SWAC. You can't run into someone who doesn't know who satellite Totten is, especially in the state of Mississippi."

Today Coach Totten continues to mentor young men and mold young minds at both the quarterback and running back position on "The Hill." The amazing thing is how most of these guys like Aqeel Glass have no idea who Willie Totten was as a player.

"We just know him as Coach Totten but if you think about it," says Aqeel Glass. "He's pivotal person in HBCU sports and all of college football."

I always say this in a joking way, just go Google me. Guys get a kick out of that when I say that.

"It's pretty interesting and funny to see that, especially seeing coach with the Middle part down his head. "

 


More Stories

Don't Miss

Trending Stories

Latest News