Alcorn State University Braves quarterback Lenorris Footman and Tollette “Tonka” George formed a bond that went beyond the football field. The two went from being partners striving toward winning championships to being best friends.
“Tonka was more than a friend,” said Lenorris. “He was like a brother. He was a cool person to be around; always laughing and smiling. He loved to hang around his teammates. I can’t name one person on or off the field that didn’t love Tonka.”
Lenorris is one of many Alcornites who are mourning the loss of Tonka, who was killed in New Orleans Friday, June 24. Former teammates, family and friends all took to social media to express their feelings for their beloved friend.
Former Braves quarterback John Gibbs Jr. shared his feelings for Tonka via a series of post on his Instagram page.
“Life is way to short; my brother is gone,” said Gibbs. “It feels unreal. Love you 5 (5 was Tonka’s jersey number). Watch over the ones that are left. Lord all we want is to run out the tunnel with him one more time. Woke up this morning and it still don’t feel real.”
Tavares Johnson Jr., a junior wide receiver, also expressed his grief via Instagram.
“Rest on big bro,” said Tavares. I’ll remember everything you taught me.”
Marcus Ward, vice president for Institutional Advancement and executive director for the ASU Foundation Inc., got to know Tonka after employing him as student worker. He reflects on how talented he was.
“Tonka was a very smart, extremely talented and focused student worker,” said Ward. “I remember the day he came with his computer in his book bag. He pulled it out and it was just amazing. He had a full portfolio of all of his past jobs he did for people back in New Orleans and here on campus; everything from restaurants to lawyers to college party fliers. When I saw how strong his skills were in that area, I knew he was the man we were looking for and put him to work on some projects we had.”
Ward said that he was so impressed with Tonka’s work ethic that he wanted to make him a permanent member of his staff after he graduated in May.
“Tonka was a gentleman who always looked you directly in the eye when he spoke to you. He always completed his work on time and exactly as we wanted it. We spoke at the spring game in April about the possibility of him coming back to work for us. I told him we could possibly make something happen, but only if he promised to go to graduate school.”
Alcorn President Alfred Rankins Jr. said death is always difficult, especially when it is unexpected.
“Tonka was loved by many and his life was cut far too short. First and foremost, our thoughts and heartfelt prayers are with his family and friends, who are deeply affected by his sudden death,” Rankins said.
The Alcorn community will always remember Tonka for his welcoming attitude, positive outlook on life and exceptional skills on the field and in the classroom.