Kecia Fells pleaded with her son to not attend the protests last summer. She had watched similar demonstrations across the country and worried about her African American son with so much promise. Myles was about to enter his senior year as a slot back for the Navy football team on track to graduate with a political science degree.
The world was already in the midst of a global pandemic and Kecia worried for his health as he left to attend the mass gatherings. Some of them had turned violent as news outlets showed heavy-handed responses from police coast-to-coast. The protests had broken out in the first place in response to police brutality that ended in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. There was talk on social media of militia groups getting involved.
“I was scared,” Kecia Fells said. “I was scared. So I didn’t want him [to go]
“He couldn’t sleep. He was very restless. He could not think about schoolwork. He was like, ‘I just can’t sit here and do nothing. I have to be a part of a movement that I know is in the best interest of people who look like me and of the world at large.’ So it was like, this is another civil rights-type movement and I want to be a part of it.”
The thing is, 2020 was a tumultuous one for Myles Fells and millions of others trying to deal with the pandemic. He had high hopes entering his senior season, but spring and summer workouts were canceled and players were stuck at home. The Midshipmen had their last two games postponed due to covid-19 outbreaks before Memphis was rescheduled to play at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday and Tulsa on Dec. 5.
Navy will host Memphis and Tulsa to make up games postponed by coronavirus issues
Fells is from Little Rock, Ark., but the family moved to the small town of Bigelow 38 miles away when he was 5-years-old. He grew up riding four-wheelers, shooting bow and arrows and fishing, but remained connected to Little Rock. His dad owned a couple duplexes in the city that Myles helped maintain and attended high school in the city.
Fells lost four friends from Little Rock — named the No. 8 most dangerous city in the country by USA Today in 2019 — to gun violence in a two-week span over the summer. One of those shooting involved police and a fifth friend died of an opioid overdose. Moments like those are why Fells was so insistent in participating in the protests and why he has political aspirations in Washington D.C. one day.
“He’s very proud of where he’s from and the experiences that he’s had in life,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “I think that pride in where he’s at, he embraces where he’s from. He wants to use those life experiences for others. Things don’t get him down because he recognizes, things are hard here [in Annapolis], but he’s dealt with a lot of things where he’s from.”
Niumatalolo recalled a summer video conference call with the team where plenty of players expressed their frustrations. They were forced to be away from teammates and friends, workout options were limited and life had been paused for a group of young men in a formative stage of their lives and careers. Then Fells spoke.
“He kind of mentioned that some of his friends were getting shot and it just brought a totally different [perspective],” Niumatalolo said. “Guys are complaining about not being able to go out and he’s talking on these things, some real life, tough experiences.
“He’s so beloved on our team. Everybody loves Myles. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever met. Just a really good person. He is who he is. Wears his emotions on his sleeve. Know where he stands with things. He’s just got a pure heart. Just a great human being.”
Diego Fagot, a do-it-yourself-linebacker, tries to make something out of Navy’s defense
Fells spent election night in Cameron Kinley’s room as the two political science majors watched with a keen eye. The two are teammates, but have also bonded over their interest in the political process and neither has shied from speaking about their grand plans. Both openly talk about their White House aspirations and envision a Kinley-Fells presidential ticket down the road. Kinley is the senior class president.
Fells wants to start locally in his home state of Arkansas and focus on education as Kecia has been an educator since 1988. Kecia marvels considering she basically forced Myles to attend Arkansas Boys State as a high school junior — a week-long program in civics education. Despite not wanting to attend, Fells was elected governor of his class. Alumni of the program include former president Bill Clinton, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.).
“It’s crazy because like the more and more we think about it, we’ve put ourselves in a position to where it’s possible,” Kinley said of their White House dreams. “We’re not going to force anything, but just the way that we talk about our different paths and what we plan on doing when we graduate, it wouldn’t make sense for us not to work together. It’s almost like we can build this force to be reckoned with. So it’s nothing that we’re forcing, but it’s definitely something that we keep in our minds. Like, ‘Hey, you go about your path and I’ll go about mine and when you’re ready and I’m ready, let’s go make a run at this thing,’ type of deal.
“I can definitely see us down the road getting up back together to make a run at the White House. I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all. And I would definitely love that. That’d be an amazing story, especially considering the backgrounds that we have.”
All of that growth led Fells to the streets in the summer. He was asked to speak at one demonstration at the state capitol in Little Rock and went completely off the top of his head, a trait that drives Kecia a bit crazy.
In the meantime, Fells and the seniors are relishing the opportunity to get a final home game when it looked like there would be no Senior Day due to the postponements.
“It was just an honor,” Fells said, “because I felt like it was one of those moments in my personal history where I was making a difference that I could go back and look at. I did something good. I spoke up for people. And that’s all I ever really want to do, speak up for people that feel like their voices can’t be heard.
“I’m not a sit-on-the-sidelines type of guy. I don’t want to look back and say that I was playing it safe by staying at home or anything like that. How can I sit here and tell people to stand up for what they believe if I don’t do the same?”
Note: Navy reopened the quarterback competition during the hiatus after senior Dalen Morris continued to struggle in losses to Houston and SMU. Junior Tyger Goslin finished the SMU game and Niumatalolo said freshman Xavier Arline was also in the mix as of Monday. Morris has started five games while both Goslin and Arline have started one. The Mids lost their last two games by a combined 30 points.