Alphonso “Biggie” Townsend smiled when he was reminded on Thursday afternoon that 21 years ago he appeared in a Photoshopped picture on the cover of The Lima News high school football preview that made it look like he towered over the skyline of downtown Lima.
It was a day for many more smiles, hand shakes and hugs for Townsend on Thursday when he was named Lima Senior’s head football coach.
Townsend, an assistant coach at Lima Senior since 2014, replaces Andre Griffin, whose coaching contract was not renewed after the Spartans went 15-25 in his four seasons, including 3-7 last fall.
Townsend was a 6-foot, 6-inch, 285-pound offensive and defensive lineman who was rated among the top high school linemen in the country during his playing days at Lima Senior.
He signed with Ohio State during his senior year of high school but never suited up for the Buckeyes after enrolling at Fork Union Military Academy when his ACT score didn’t meet the NCAA standard in place at that time.
During his year at Fork Union, he signed with Michigan State, where he played for three years. He finished his career by playing one year at the University of North Alabama.
“This is a very important day for me. I played here, I live here, I just got inducted into the (Lima Senior) Hall of Fame. With the support of the community and the staff and the students at Lima Senior I think we’ll have a very successful season in the upcoming year and in the future,” Townsend said.
“Ever since I was a kid my dream job was to be the coach at Lima Senior. It’s just a blessing. I’m grateful for the opportunity,” he said.
Townsend, who works as a campus protection officer at Lima Senior, joined the Spartans football staff in 2014 when then-head coach Mike Fell called him and asked him if he was interested in coaching the defensive line.
He said discipline and trying to get more athletes into the football program will be two of the foundations of his teams.
Townsend was also a starter on the basketball team during his best seasons on the football field, played baseball until he got to high school and even played a year of lacrosse at Fork Union.
“I feel like we have some athletes here in the halls at Lima Senior and some who also play other sports who can help us on the football field. I think with my personality and my relationship with some of these players and students here at Lima Senior I can achieve that goal to get them back out on the football field,” he said.
“To me basketball and football go hand in hand. The stuff you do in basketball will help you in football and stuff in football will help you with your basketball.”
Lima Senior athletic director John Zell said Townsend’s loyalty to Lima Senior and his connection to the Lima community were two of the things that helped him win the job.
“The No. 1 thing is he’s a very loyal person. He was loyal to Coach Fell, he was loyal to Coach G (Griffin), he has been loyal to the athletic department. Anything we ask him to do, he does it. He coached freshman baseball for us, he has coached lacrosse, he coached freshman basketball.
“One of his main goals was to be the head coach football coach at Lima Senior. He finally has that opportunity and I know he’s going to make the most of it,” Zell said.
Griffin was notified on Nov. 22 that his coaching contract would not be renewed. Zell said there was no timetable for replacing Griffin.
In early January one of the other candidates for the job, former Bellefontaine coach Toby Smith, told a member of the electronic media he expected to be hired as Lima Senior’s coach, pending approval by the board of education. But that did not happen.
“Well, that was just kind of a miscommunication. I’ll just leave it at that,” Zell said.