Tag: Gardendale

JefCoEd seniors earn more than $62 million in scholarships

By Gary Lloyd

Educators in Jefferson County, Alabama, have more than sixty-two million reasons to smile.

The graduating seniors from the Class of 2018 from the fourteen Jefferson County Schools high schools earned a total of $62,257,917.50 in scholarships.

That’s enough money to buy sixty-two Manhattan apartments. Or pay LeBron James’ salary for two NBA seasons. But most importantly, it’s enough to impact dozens of lifetimes for these students.

The Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School accounted for more than $13 million in scholarships. Minor High School’s seniors earned more than $8 million, while McAdory earned more than $6 million. Gardendale High finished with a touch more than $4 million in scholarships. Finishing with more than $3 million in scholarship money each were Center Point, Clay-Chalkville, Fultondale, Pinson Valley, and Shades Valley high schools. Corner, Hueytown, Mortimer Jordan, Oak Grove, and Pleasant Grove high schools all earned more than $2 million each in scholarships.

See the exact numbers here.

A video tribute to these schools and students is posted on the district’s website, and it ends with writer Henry David Thoreau’s quote: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

Those words are right on the money.

My top 10 moments from 2017 high school football season

Postseason lists seem to be popular, so, on a whim, I decided to make my own. 

These are the top 10 moments I experienced from the 2017 high school football season. Please know that these are only stories I wrote from games I attended. I can’t legitimately comment on a game I didn’t attend. 

So here we go.

10. The question mark about Briarwood Christian coming into 2017 was the quarterback position. Replacing William Gray was going to be tough. Michael “Magic Mike” Hiers stepped up to the challenge. Look for a feature on Hiers on http://www.280Living.com soon.

9. Mountain Brook’s Harold Joiner shows how great of a running back he is in the season opener, rushing for 195 yards and four touchdowns against Gulf Shores. One of his scores, a 19-yard touchdown run, included juking a defender and diving for the pylon from four yards out. 

8. Carson Eddy leaves a strong legacy at Briarwood Christian, including a pretty funny nickname. One of his teammates, Carson Donnelly, will beat you at ping pong.

7. The trilogy matchup between Briarwood Christian and Wenonah was supposed to be epic. Instead, the Lions roared.

6. Chelsea fell to 0-6 after a 41-28 loss at Gardendale, but that record meant absolutely nothing. The Hornets fought hard.

5. Mountain Brook scores 25 unanswered points against Huffman in a game the Spartans could have quit on. 

4. It was the only time I saw Hoover in 2017, but the 59-7 win over Oak Mountain showed you everything you needed to know about the Bucs, who went on to win the Class 7A state title.

3. The Spartans fall at Thompson in Class 7A second round, where Taulia Tagovailoa showed how great of a quarterback he is.

2. David Robertson gets hot in the freezing cold to lead Homewood to a thrilling comeback over Fort Payne in the Class 6A playoffs.

1. Pinson Valley and Clay-Chalkville battle in the Class 6A semifinals, a game that meant so much more than a trip to the state championship

That’s my list. What are your favorite moments from the 2017 season?

Being a champion

It was quite ironic, the note resting on the corner of his desk. 

I had come to interview the head football coach, to talk about his experiences as a coach in Texas and Alabama. I found out that Matt had made quite a few stops in his career. He was a walk-on wide receiver at the University of North Alabama before becoming a student assistant at the University of Alabama for two years. From there, he headed to Pittsburg State in Kansas as a graduate assistant. He moved to Tennessee to take a job at Carson-Newman University, where he learned to really get to know the hearts of his players. He left from there to head west again, this time to Missouri Southern State University as a wide receivers coach. After two years, he was promoted to offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. That is when his love for high school football was rekindled.

He was assigned to recruit central Texas, a hotbed for star football players. Missouri Southern State’s head coach handed him a huge three-ring binder, full of schools and names. He was instructed to just start calling around, asking high school coaches if they had players worthy of being recruited. The list of schools was arranged alphabetically. Matt closed his eyes, slid his index finger down the first page and landed on a school. He called the head coach, who told Matt that he had a wide receiver that no one was recruiting. He had been one of the most prolific wideouts in the state’s history, but he was short. Matt traveled to Texas a few weeks later on a recruiting trip and met with the coach. There were pictures all over his office. The two had an hourlong conversation, just about life. Matt says it was likely the most genuine conversation he has ever had. Football, in terms of Xs and Os, did not come up.

“There was a heart about it,” he says.

After the visit, Matt, who was single at the time, called his mother to tell her about this coach and how impressive he was. He returned routinely to recruit the area and visit. He went to games with this coach. He stayed at his house instead of a hotel. He learned how important relationships were.

“That relationship just stuck,” he says.

That coach’s son was hired at a Houston-area high school. His choice for offensive coordinator? Matt, who took the job. He spent three seasons there, the first of which included meeting his future wife. They now have two daughters. As his third season as the offensive coordinator came to an end, an opportunity to move back to his home state of Alabama arose. He chose to take it. On his final day in Texas, as he was clearing things from his desk, a piece of paper caught his attention. It was a note from a player.

Matt tells the story from the beginning. He was teaching a weight training class for non-athletes, students who wanted to work out but did not play a school-sponsored sport. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students in his class went outside and ran. One of his students was five feet, eight inches, maybe one hundred forty pounds. 

“He doesn’t look like a high school football player, especially in the state of Texas,” Matt says.

On one of those running days, the boy ran a forty-yard dash in a very quick 4.5 seconds. Matt asked him if he had ever thought about playing football. He told him that he could run down the field on kickoff coverage, maybe be the team’s twelfth man. The boy had never thought of playing. Matt took him to meet the head coach. The boy’s schedule was changed, and he became a member of the football team. He was never a starter. He practiced mostly on the scout team and played on kickoff coverage, though he did score a touchdown once.

“He was on the team, and it meant a lot to him,” Matt says.

Fast forward to Matt’s last day on the job. He finds the handwritten note on his desk. It reads, with just a couple typos corrected, “Hey coach, you probably weren’t expecting this but I’ve been wanting to tell you for a while. I hope you know you changed my life. Remember when you first recruited me, in weight training? That changed everything. You might not have known but before that happened I was in a lot of trouble, already been in (juvenile detention) and involved with a lot of bad stuff. You changed that you made me feel needed, needed on a football team. I think it was the best decision I have ever made. And you gave me the option, if you didn’t I wouldn’t know where I would be right now.” 

Matt keeps that note to remind him of the relationship side of football. It was on his desk recently because he had shared it with his Alabama team a few weeks prior. He told his players that they could talk to him that way, through a note, if they were not comfortable talking out loud. 

Sometimes, of course, he has to be firm with his players. Recently, he was working on a manifesto, of sorts. It would essentially serve as the football program’s Bible, a set of regulations and expectations every player was required to meet. There were rules for practices, conditioning, weight training, games, playing time, game days, spring training, offseasons, fundraising and, of course, academics. Everything is identified and clearly stated. If the players follow it, then everything else will take care of itself. 

“I used to think that I could motivate a fence post,” he says. “I used to think that. And I have learned that I don’t have all the answers.”

One answer he does have, however, is the message he shares with his team every Friday before games. He tells his players, “Men daily represent qualities associated with courage and strength. Boys make mistakes that men have to fix. So what are you?” It is an attention-grabber. What tough football player wants to be called a boy? On Fridays, this is solely applicable to football. But during the week, this is applicable to life. He wants his players to have courage to do the right things on a daily basis, to have discipline, to put in the work that greatness requires. 

“That’s being a champion,” he says.

As a head football coach, he does not get to spend as much one-on-one time with players as he would as an assistant. He has more administrative responsibilities. This also keeps him away from his wife and two daughters more than he would like. But they make it work. On occasion, his daughters spend time in his office just beyond one of the football stadium’s end zones. They go to practice with him. He wants his daughters to see that he is not missing time at home just for jet sweeps and all-out blitzes. He wants them to see that he is investing in other people’s lives.

“I’m hoping that I can be a good example that not just it’s important to work hard at whatever you do, but let’s make sure that the job we’re doing is investing in other people’s lives,” he says. “My hope and prayer is that my daughters see the investment that I put in other people’s lives, that it teaches them one day to do the same thing.”