By Tabor (Kan.) Communications Department
HILLSBORO, Kan. – Retired NFL All-Pro Rolland “Bay” Lawrence attended the Tabor College (Kan.) football game Saturday Nov. 9 against Bethel College (Kan.) in Hillsboro, congratulating current senior James Monroe Jr. Monroe surpassed the all-time rushing record Lawrence set 40 years ago. A ceremony was held during half-time to recognize the accomplishments of both men.
On the afternoon of Oct. 19 against Friends University, Monroe gained 197 rushing yards and one touchdown on 34 carries, establishing a new career rushing record with 3,198 yards. The 40-year old record had been set in 1972 by Lawrence who finished his career with 3,008 yards. With one game remaining in the regular season, Monroe’s rushing total now stands at 3,389 yards.
In the fall of 1969, Lawrence journeyed to Tabor from his home in Franklin, Pa., to play football for the Bluejays. The second leading rusher on the team his freshman year, Lawrence showed no stopping his sophomore year when he was selected First Team All-KCAC. During his junior year, he first broke the record for most rushing yards. During his senior year at Tabor, he was selected First Team All-District 10 and Honorable Mention NAIA All-American. Lawrence was eventually inducted into the Tabor College and NAIA Hall of Fame.
Lawrence left Tabor College after graduating in 1973 to play for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. He had a distinguished career with the Falcons from 1973-1981 and was named All-Pro in 1976 and 1977. Lawrence still holds the Falcons record for most interceptions in a career with 39.
Monroe’s journey from the East Coast to Midwest Kansas is quite similar. An outstanding athlete and student from Brown Mills, N.J., Monroe exudes a quiet strength.
Monroe had not heard about Tabor until the Bluejays began recruiting him.
“I was excited to receive Tabor’s offer and was impressed by their professionalism and care for my goals, both on and off the field,” Monroe said.
During his freshman year at Tabor, Monroe was aware of the record that Lawrence had set.
“After my first year at Tabor, I had slightly over 400 yards and I thought there is no way I could break the record,” Monroe said. “So I stopped thinking about it and played ball.”
Monroe reflected on the game in which his new record was set. “I did not know I had broken the record, I wasn’t thinking about it,” he said. “We won the game, and that’s the most important part. It was a team effort. While this was a great accomplishment, I am most blessed to be playing with such a great team.”
Monroe values his teammates. “The players on this team consist of great men,” he said. “We work hard and we play for a purpose.”
Lawrence agrees that teamwork is a necessity.
“A good team and a strong line attribute to successful players and these types of records,” Lawrence said. “I congratulate Mr. Monroe for the hard work and accomplishments he has made on the field. He is clearly a talented and humble young man with a supportive cast in front of him.”
Lawrence is thankful for the reminder of good times.
“The Lord is good, and I thank James for accomplishing these goals allowing me to reflect on the years I was blessed to be at Tabor,” Said Lawrence.
Monroe also notes the encouragement Tabor has brought to his life.
“I have become a new person thanks to the coaches, professors and staff at Tabor,” he said. “It is by God’s grace that I am here and have had the privilege to play alongside these wonderful men. God is continually working in my heart and I am thankful for that.”
Monroe has been invited and is registered to play in the 2013 NCAA D2 vs NAIA Senior Bowl Game Dec. 21 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Tabor currently holds one of the top rushing attacks in the country averaging 438 yards per game. Monroe finds himself in the center of this explosive ground game and ranks seventh in the country averaging 142 rushing yards per game.
Since retiring from the NFL, Lawrence has had a successful and meaningful professional career as a teacher, coach, vice principal and principal for Vision Quest, a youth placement facility in Franklin, Pa.