By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
BALDWYN – Humphrey Upshaw’s not exactly sure why he was given the nickname “Duke” as a child.
“It probably had something to do with the Dukes of Hazzard (TV show),” said Upshaw, an eighth grader in the Baldwyn school system. “I just know I’ve been called ‘Duke’ since I was little.”
Baldwyn High School football fans, who’ve seen him play this season for the Bearcats, will likely tell you Upshaw has the moves and speed of the Duke boys’ 1969 Dodge Charger, the General Lee.
Through five games this season, Upshaw has returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and returned a blocked field goal attempt 97 yards for a score.
The 97-yarder came in the Bearcats’ game against Saltillo. When the blocked kick bounced to Upshaw, he grabbed it and just stood there.
“I didn’t know I could run with it, not on a field goal,” he said, then smiled. “My teammates were yelling, ‘Go, go, go.”’
He returned the kickoff 87 yards to paydirt in last week’s first win of the season, a 44-19 decision against Nettleton. In that game he returned three kickoffs for 187 yards and three punts for 64.
“They timed him at 4.6 this summer at Mississippi State’s camp,” Baldwyn head coach Michael Gray said. “We don’t base our speed on times. If you don’t get caught from behind in a game … you’re pretty fast.”
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound 14-year-old has also rushed for 135 yards on 28 carries, caught two passes for 29 yards and recorded 17 tackles from his cornerback spot.
“He still has to get some more game experience, but we’re getting there,” Gray said. “He’s kind of settled in early on defense. We’re already locking him up on the other team’s best receiver. That’s shows you that we trust him.”
Upshaw has also taken some snaps at quarterback.
“He played fullback last year in the seventh grade,” Gray said. “He’s just a good all-around athlete. I thought it would take more time, but he catches on quick.
“He’s got football smarts.”
Upshaw’s excited about his play, but hasn’t been pleased with the Bearcats’ 1-4 start.
“I’m trying to do the best I can,” he said. “That win the other night helped. I think we’re going to start winning.”
Baldwyn plays its final non-division game Friday at South Pontotoc. The Bearcats open 1-2A play Sept. 30 with a home game against Calhoun City.