By Brandon Speck
For various reasons, not every high school football player good enough to play above the prep level can immediately sign with a four-year school.
In the rich junior college state of Mississippi, that’s not a curse.
“No. 1, the Jucos here have great coaches,” Booneville coach Mike Mattox said. “Kids graduate so early, they get kids just starting to reach the peak of their maturity when they get to junior college.”
Mattox had two players sign junior college scholarships, offensive lineman Tyler Floyd with Itawamba CC and tight end Zane Lott with Northeast.
Floyd drew attention this senior season as a Division I prospect.
“Tyler can play Division I football somewhere,” Mattox said. “If he improves like he has from the ninth grade to the twelfth grade here, he’s got the skills that he can play beyond junior college. Same way with Zane. That’s two examples of kids junior college will be good for.”
Aberdeen safety Sammie Burroughs and Itawamba AHS offensive lineman Ethan Orr are two more examples. Both signed with East Mississippi, the reigning NJCAA national champions.
Of the eight seniors on the Journal’s 2013 all-area first team, three signed with ICC, two signed Division I and one had already signed a baseball scholarship at Northeast.
Mississippi junior colleges have produced lists of college and NFL talent – Pernell McPhee, Joe Horn, Leon Lett, Duce Staley, Tommy Kelly and LeGarrette Blount. And that’s not even a scratch.
Former ICC WR Desmond Jennings is now a starting outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played junior college in California, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in Texas.
“Most kids who are able to play at that next level in high school don’t face that same type of competition every day,” Mattox said. “I think it’s a combination of things. We don’t have as many position coaches. They have them on campus. They make them eat. They have a lot more time to spend with them in the weight room.”