Hargrove joins ECSU Hall

Published 3:04 pm Monday, November 3, 2014

Suffolk native Frederick Hargrove was welcomed into the Elizabeth City State University Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 24 largely because of his success as a two-sport athlete with the school in the 1970s.

But to sum up the induction ceremony as simply the affirmation of a successful college athletic career would fall far short of what the night meant to Hargrove.

Frederick Hargrove, originally from Suffolk, stands with his plaque that he received during his recent induction into the Elizabeth City State University Sports Hall of Fame. (Photo submitted by Claudie J. Mackey

Frederick Hargrove, originally from Suffolk, stands with his plaque that he received during his recent induction into the Elizabeth City State University Sports Hall of Fame. (Photo submitted by Claudie J. Mackey

As his younger brother introduced him to those in attendance, Hargrove was able to reflect on his progression through a happy, but difficult childhood to a happy and fulfilling adulthood. It allowed him to enjoy the night as, in many ways, the affirmation of a successful life.

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He said the event was probably “the most heart-filling thing that I’ve ever experienced.”

Hargrove was a four-year letterman in basketball and football at Elizabeth City State. He became one of the best tight ends in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and later signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent.

But many years before that, he was a boy growing up on Seventh Street in downtown Suffolk.

“My dad was a warehouse worker in one of the peanut mills, and he raised four boys,” Hargrove said.

He said his family always had food and somewhere to live, though they did not have much money.

Hargrove also faced other difficulties early in his life.

“My mother died when I was in the eighth grade,” he said, and then his oldest brother went into the U.S. Army, leaving him to take care of his two younger brothers while his dad worked.

“My mind was (on) surviving, making sure that my brothers had food to eat and clothes to wear,” he said.

Their lives stood in stark contrast to those of other youths they would see driving cars and dressing nice. But the trio had a plan.

“My brothers and I always made a pledge that we were going to make something of ourselves,” Hargrove said.

Life back then could be discouraging at times, but “there was always hope, and there was always football and basketball, and there was always positive people around me,” he said.

Hargrove remembered the important role played in his life by football coach Charles Brown, now the vice mayor of Suffolk. Brown was the one who switched him from lineman to receiver.

“I really didn’t understand why he did,” Hargrove said. “I don’t know what happened, but I just started catching that ball, and I went out for the varsity, and I made that, and I played tight end, and it just worked out.”

He was a wide receiver at Elizabeth City State for two years, and then was moved back to tight end, where he earned All-CIAA honors and did more than just receiving.

“I was a really good blocker,” he said. “That’s what I took pride in — just getting in the trenches and blocking.”

The Eagles were also interested in his abilities at wide-out and tight end.

Hargrove also expressed gratitude to his basketball coach at John F. Kennedy High School, Spencer Mayfield, who guided a team with Hargrove and his younger brother, Lee, to a state title in 1974.

“If it wasn’t for (Mayfield), I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” Hargrove said. “I finally finished high school, and Coach Mayfield made sure that I received a scholarship. I played basketball, but he convinced me to go play football in college,” steering him to a small school.

Hargrove met his wife at ECSU and some lifelong friends.

Tragically, just before the start of his junior year, his 18-year-old brother Lee died of an aneurysm, leaving just Frederick Hargrove and his little brother Ricky from the trio that grew up in Suffolk.

Frederick Hargrove returned to Suffolk after his time with the Eagles and began coaching basketball with Mayfield, also starting work with Concerned Athletes in Action.

Feeling like he had a gift of making a difference in the lives of at-risk youths, Hargrove has continued this work in one form or another for the last 30 years, currently doing so in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system.

He made a life for himself after a humble beginning, and his family has reaped the benefits. His oldest daughter just received her master’s degree, and he just put his youngest in college at Winston-Salem University in August.

And his brother Ricky Hargrove used the introduction during the Oct. 24 ceremony to share how his big brother mentored him, helping him make something of himself, too.