Studdard A Star At Lee High, Ole Miss
BY JEFF CLARK
A former Columbus resident has been arrested in Monroe County for allegedly committing crimes of a sexual nature.
According to Monroe County Sheriff Cecil Cantrell, Vernon Studdard Jr., 65, of Amory, was arrested July 11 and charged with two counts of sexual battery.
“I can’t comment on this arrest right now,” Cantrell said. “I don’t want to jeopardize the case.”
Although Cantrell wouldn’t confirm any details surrounding the arrest, Studdard’s victim is alleged to be under the age of 15. Sources close to the investigation said more charges may be pending against Studdard.
The Mississippi Code of 1972 defines sexual battery as the following: 1) A person is guilty of sexual battery if he or she engages in sexual penetration with:
(a) Another person without his or her consent;
(b) A mentally defective, mentally incapacitated or physically helpless person; or
(c) A child under the age of fourteen (14) years, and (2) A person is guilty of sexual battery if he or she engages in sexual penetration with a child of fourteen (14) but less than eighteen (18) years if the person is in a position of trust or authority over the child including without limitation the child’s teacher, counselor, physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, minister, priest, physical therapist, chiropractor, legal guardian, parent, stepparent, aunt, uncle, scout leader or coach. If convicted of the charges Studdard could face 20 years in prison per count to be served on a year-for-year basis.
Studdard attended Lee High School in Columbus where he excelled in football under coach Billy Brewer. Studdard later received a scholarship to Ole Miss to play for legendary coach Johnny Vaught. Although Studdard was highly sought by the Rebels, he spent his first few year of college seeking other schools.
According to an Associated Press article that appeared in the Dec. 20, 1970 edition of the Florence Times Daily, Studdard visited several other schools, including UCLA, the University of Washington and the University of Miami, while under scholarship at Ole Miss. Studdard said in the interview that he had problems with the strict, disciplinary nature of his coach, although he did not clarify if the coach in question was an assistant or Vaught, who would not release Studdard from Ole Miss.
Studdard returned to Ole Miss (1968-1970) where he was a receiver and a “favorite target” of Heisman candidate Archie Manning. In one of his most storied games, Studdard returned a kickoff 101 yards to help the Rebels defeat a Bear Bryant-coached Alabama 48-23 in Jackson. Alabama Hall of Fame running back Johnny Musso, who married Tanner Imes of Columbus, placed the Rebels in field goal position before Studdard’s touchdown return. The game, which was played during Vaught’s last season as the Rebel’s head coach, is considered to be one of the “best SEC football games of all time” and was the subject of numerous articles including one in Oct. 12, 1970 edition of “Sports Illustrated,” which included a quote from Studdard.
Studdard was an eleventh-round draft pick to the New York Jets in 1971. The 1971 draft also saw Studdard’s teammate Manning go to the New Orleans Saints in the first round, behind number one pick Jim Plunkett. Studdard played one season with the Jets under former Crimson Tide quarterback, “Broadway” Joe Namath.
Studdard is not the only member of his family to be facing legal troubles. His daughter, Summer, was arrested in October 2012 with former West Point Municipal Judge David Lambert and Wanda Nell Harris at Shelaine Motel in Aberdeen. A two-year old child, believed to have been Summer Studdard’s, was found in the room, along with meth, crack cocaine and marijuana. Summer Studdard and Harris were both charged with possession of a controlled substance and one count each of child endangerment. Lambert was charged with possession of methamphetamine and child endangerment.
Summer Studdard, who was living in an antebellum home on Commerce Street, the old Prillhart place, in Aberdeen when it burned to the ground due to an alleged meth lab explosion, was also arrested in Henry County, Ga. on March 23 of this year.
Vernon Studdard was released from the Monroe County Adult Detention Center on a $25,000 bond.