Ole Brook seniors eyeing the next level

Published 6:40 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Not every high school football player has the chance to play college football, let alone at the Division I level.

For Ole Brook seniors Jemaurian Jones, Jeffery Johnson and Trace Clopton, that dream may very well become a reality.

With almost 50 Division I scholarship offers between the three players, the dreams of playing college football every Saturday in the fall is soon on the horizon.

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“You know in the end, you’re only going to choose one school,” Jones said. “I want to pick the right school at the right moment.”

“Everybody wants to know what school you’re going to and everybody asks me all the time,” Johnson said. “If you narrow your choices down, it gets a whole lot better.”

With so many schools knocking at the door of the three Panther seniors, all three admitted that the recruiting process has been stressful at times, but the experience has been one they’ll never forget.

For Clopton, it wasn’t an easy road to get to the point where he is now. Considered by many as an undersized offensive lineman, Clopton knew he needed to outwork and out-hustle everyone to become a better player.

That dedication to his craft has earned him multiple Division I offers.

“I realized that I’ll never be the biggest or fastest so I always just try to set myself apart by being the meanest,” Clopton said. “I’ve definitely got to keep working in the weight room.”

It’s safe to say the three seniors have broken through many walls and exceeded expectations that were previously set.

What’s more important for the trio isn’t the opportunity to play Saturdays, but to win a state championship by playing on Friday nights.

“We’ve got a lot of starters coming back so maturity and experience are both a big deal,” Clopton said. “We just have to continue to work and pull closer as a team.”

“We just have to be better on both sides of the ball,” Jones said. “If we just learn how to finish better, we’ll go deeper in the playoffs.”

Jones wasn’t always a highly recruited player out of high school. He had to work for everything.

Back in the summer of 2015, Jones attended a scouting combine in Biloxi hosted by the University of Memphis. Going in as a wide receiver, the coaches at the combine told Jones to make the move to defensive back.

Ever since then, his career took off.

“I was just a regular student in high school. I wasn’t very well known as a football player,” Jones said. “That switch really helped me get recruited by bigger schools and I got bigger in size and strength to get better. I felt like I could be great in college because of that.”

The recruiting process came slow for Johnson as well.

With having the size and speed to play defensive line, Johnson was named as a starter on defense as a sophomore for Brookhaven.

Being trusted to play at such a young age helped Johnson grow as a football player and he now has a total of 18 Division I scholarship offers.

The hard work has paid off.

“My sophomore year, I had to step up and play a little bit,” Johnson said. “I got the size, speed and it still felt like I wasn’t getting noticed. I was praying for an offer, but I wanted to stay grounded, humble and see what happens.”

Back in February, Johnson received his first Division I offer from Florida State University.

With his senior year right around the corner, Johnson narrowed his decision to two schools.

“I got my eyes set on two schools as of right now. I’m mainly looking at Ole Miss and Florida State,” Johnson said.

The three seniors have broken down many walls to make it this far on and off the field.

The goal this year is to win the 5A state championship, but beyond that, anything is possible.

“We can always find something to get better at and improve on,” Johnson said. “The seniors this year, we’ve been working hard to improve and win a state championship. Since my class has been in high school, we’ve been through a lot. We’ll be ready.”