During the next 10 weeks, The Telegraph will select its choices for the best high school athlete in Middle Georgia history at each jersey number 99-0. This week, the 90s kick off the project.
The Numbers Game
Devarick Scandrett, Mary Persons, football
Bio: Scandrett earned team defensive player of the year honors during his senior season at Mary Persons before heading to Middle Tennessee State. He led the Blue Raiders in sacks two different times, and he remains sixth in school history in sacks. He spent time in training camps with the Houston Texans and the Green Bay Packers.
Why we picked him: Scandrett led Mary Persons to back-to-back playoff appearances during his junior and senior seasons.
Ron Simmons, Warner Robins, football
Bio: Simmons earned all-state honors and the AP defensive player of the year award as a senior in 1976. He led a defense that allowed 6.6 points per game and pitched eight shutouts, including a 34-0 win over Griffin in the championship game. Simmons went on to an All-America career at Florida State, where he finished in the top 10 in Heisman voting in 1979. Florida State retired his jersey, and he was inducted into the Florida State Hall of Fame and the Orange Bowl Hall of Fame. He later earned induction into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. Simmons went on to a successful pro wrestling career, and he became the heavyweight champion in 1992.
Why we picked him: Alongside Takeo Spikes, Simmons may be the most dominant defensive player in Middle Georgia history. He led Warner Robins to its first state championship and, in turn, earning a mythical national title. Simmons probably would be the pick no matter what number he wore.
What they said about him: "We tried everythingdouble-teaming, running away from him, axing, holding, you name it. Nothing worked. (Simmons), he just plain ate our lunch. He may be the best noseguard I've ever seen." Arizona State head coach Frank Kush said to the media after a loss to Florida State in 1979 (Sports Illustrated, Sept. 1, 1980)
Anthony Abrams, Warner Robins, football
Bio: Abrams was the stalwart on the Demons defense that won the 1988 state championship. He was The Telegraphs All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year as well as the APs Defensive Player of the Year in 1988. Abrams signed with Auburn and lettered a year before transferring to Clark-Atlanta. He eventually was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and spent time with the Washington Redskins.
Why we picked him: The Abrams-led defense held opponents to 5.6 points per game, and Abrams had 141 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups and seven sacks.
Justin Kitchens, Houston County, football
Bio: A late bloomer in high school, Kitchens emerged as a senior to earn all-region recognition after making 55 tackles and five sacks. He actually wore No. 93 for two years at Houston County but later switched and wore No. 90 as a senior. He earned a scholarship offer later than most players, and he pulled the trigger to commit to Purdue in January 2009. Kitchens played in eight games as a freshman defender, before moving to offensive tackle as a sophomore.
Why we picked him: Through nominations and recommendations from coaches and hours spent researching microfilm and archives, The Telegraph couldnt find a truly great No. 93. Kitchens, who was certainly deserving of consideration at No. 90, gave us our out.
Josh Chester, Northside, football
Bio: A classic overachiever, Chester overcame the wrap of being too short to become one of the most productive defensive lineman in Middle Georgia the past two years. Chester finished his career 120 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. He signed with Middle Tennessee State in February.
Why we picked him: Chester was one of the most reliable players around the past few years. But he blossomed into an all-state player as a senior, and he earned All-Middle Georgia honors and was named to The Telegraphs 12 to Treasure team.
Adrian Hollingshed, Peach County, football
Bio: After missing much of his junior year to injury, Hollingshed jumped onto the radar of college coaches with an All-Middle Georgia-caliber senior season. He went from unknown to deciding between Georgia and Auburn. He picked the Bulldogs and became a valuable player during his time in Athens.
Why we picked him: Hollingsheds hard work during between his junior and senior years helped turn him into one of the best linebackers in Middle Georgia during the 1990s.
Kyle Moore, Houston County, football
Bio: Moore is one of the most ballyhooed players from Middle Georgia the past decade. He had 93 tackles, 22 sacks and eight forced fumbles as a senior and collected 15 sacks as a junior. He earned all-state, All-Middle Georgia, Parade All-American and USA Today All-USA first-team honors. He started for two seasons at Southern California before getting drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He now plays for the Bills.
Why we picked him: Moores on-field production at Houston County met the incredible hype he received. He is one of the few, if not only, players to earn a scholarship offer from USC.
Others to consider Chris Johnson, Northside, football: Johnson never played his final two years while he battled and ultimately succumb to leukemia. But every Northside player and coach would tell you Johnson played a huge role in the Eagles back-to-back undefeated seasons, and his inspiration was evident in the No. 96 embroidered on their jerseys and on the placards carried by fans during the 2007 championship game victory over Ware County.
Abry Jones, Northside, football
Bio: Jones led a defense that helped Northside win two consecutive state championships and 35 consecutive games. He finished with 28 career sacks and earned a spot in the UnderArmour All-American game. He was named all-state twice and earned AP Class AAAA Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior. Jones was named to The Telegraphs All-Decade team. He is currently a senior at Georgia, where he started all 14 games as a junior.
Why we picked him: Jones was the stalwart on one of the best defenses in Middle Georgia history. He was downright dominant during his junior season, particularly against Tucker in the Georgia Dome during Northsides memorable comeback. He also stood out on national television as a senior against Lowndes.
What they said about him: "If Im the opposing coach, Im making sure I mention to the P.A. announcer to get his name right," Warner Robins head coach Bryan Way said when told that Jones gets mad when his name is pronounced Arby instead of Abry. "The last thing I want is to see him angry on the field."
Greg Clark, Northside, football
Bio: The massive defensive lineman towered over most offensive lineman during his career. He finished his senior season with 55 tackles and nine tackles for loss. Clark was one of the top defenders on a defense that helped lead Northside to the state championship game, where the Eagles lost to Camden County. Clark is currently a sophomore defensive tackle at Tennessee.
Why we picked him: Clark was a steady presence on some great Northside squads. The Eagles won the 2007 state championship with Clark getting some important playing time. He learned from his time playing with Jones and later was a more important cog on the 2009 state runner-up team.
Will Thompson, Northside, football
Bio: Thompson helped lead a Northside defense that didnt allow more than 14 points in a game until the Eagles lost to Lowndes in the Georgia Dome. Thompsons defense had six shutouts and went 25-2 during his final two seasons with the Eagles. Thompson went to Georgia and finished with 14.5 career sacks in 36 career starts. Standing across the defensive line from All-American David Pollock, Thompson made his share of plays for the Bulldogs. He overcame injuries that forced him to miss the 2003 season.
Why we picked him: Thompson was one of the big names during Northsides growth into a state power. Alongside Dantonio Burnette and Anthony Sessions, Thompson helped turn the Northside defense into one of the most powerful ones in the state.
Others to consider Eric McLendon, Vidalia, football: McLendon was one of the top recruits in the Southeast as a senior at Vidalia, and his play earned him all-state honors.
Not all of Middle Georgias greatest athletes had numbers
Here are just a few of the greats who didnt have jersey numbers
- Arnold Blum, Lanier, golf: Blum won five Georgia Amateur Championships, three SEC championship and played on two Walker Cup teams.
- Nate Carr, Jones County, wrestling: Carr won three state titles at Jones County, won a national junior college championship and competed at Iowa State.
- Brenda Cliette, Northeast, track: Cliette won four NCAA championships at Florida State and also won gold medals at the Pan-American Games, World University Games and the Goodwill Games. She was a four-time All-American and was an alternate in the 1984 Olympics.
- Watts Gunn, Lanier, golf: Gunn played against Georgia Tech teammate Bobby Jones in a legendary match at the 1925 U.S. Amateur and later played in two Walker Cups.
- Russell Henley, Stratford, golf: Henley won two Georgia Amateur Championships, the Haskins Award as the nations top golfer and a professional event on the Nationwide Tour as an amateur. He played in two U.S. Opens and one Walker Cup.
- Kelly Hester, Stratford, golf: Heter was a four-year letterwinner for Georgia from 1993-96 and earned All-SEC recognition in 1993, 1994 and 1995 as the former Kelley Richardson and later became Georgia's head coach.
- Sarah Howard, Trinity Christian, track and field: Howard continuously has broken her own state records in the shot put, and she leaves Trinity Christian as the best thrower in Georgia, GISA or GHSA. Shes headed to North Carolina, and if she stays healthy and progresses, she could be in the mix for the 2016 or 2020 Olympics.
- Martha Hudson, Twin City, track: Hudson starred at Tennessee State before winning a gold medal in the 4x100 relay at the 1960 Olympics.
- Jaime Kaplan, Stratford, tennis: Kaplan won three individual state titles and went 156-0 in high school. She played in 14 Grand Slam tennis events.
- Roger Kingdom, Vienna, track: As a standout football player, Kingdom won gold medals in the 110 hurdles at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.
- Trelle Kite, Central, golf: Kite starred at Central and then at Georgia State. She later became the golf coach at Augusta State, Tulsa and then Texas A&M.
- Angel Martino, Americus, swimming: Martino won three gold medals and three bronze medals during her Olympics career.
- Pookie Middlebrooks, Mount de Sales, track: Middlebrooks sped to the 1983 GISA 100 meters championship, breaking the state record which still stands 30 years later.
- Chip Minton, Southwest, bobsleding: Minton competed in two Winter Olympics, finishing fifth in 1998. He was part of the bronze-medal winning team at the 1997 World Championships.
- Laura Nelson, Mount de Sales, tennis: Nelson was the top ranked tennis player in the South in 1983 while at Mount de Sales before heading to Ole Miss.
- Peter Persons, Stratford, golf: Persons was the SEC Golfer of the Year in 1986 and later won the PGA Tours Chattanooga Classic in 1990.
- Antonio Pettigrew, Southwest, track: Pettigrew won five U.S. 400-meter championships and took home the gold medal in the 400 at the 1991 World Championships.
- Young Stribling, Lanier, boxing: A great high school basketball player, Stribling went 256-16-14 as a professional boxer before he died in a motorcycle crash as a 28-year-old.
- Duck Swann, Lanier, golf: Swann was a standout at Lanier before heading to Georgia Tech, and he later became a standout senior amateur, becoming the first American to win the British Senior Open.
- Grace Tinkey, FPD, cross country: The greatest cross country runner in Middle Georgia history already, Tinkey hasnt lost a high school race on her way to four straight state titles. She is the Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year for Georgia, and she still has another year to go.
- Sonny Wilcher, Lanier, track: Wilcher went undefeated in the 440 meters his first two years at South Carolina. He previously led Lanier to a state championship and won state titles in the 440 meters twice in high school