The Numbers Game
Julian Burnett, Westside, football
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Bio: Burnett made two all-state teams at Westside and was named The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year and the AP Class AAAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. Burnett led Westside to an undefeated regular season, the first in Bibb County since integration. The Seminoles defense didn’t allow more than seven points in their first 11 games, and they only allowed an average of six points per game for the season. Burnett helped Georgia Tech win an ACC Championship in 2009. He led the Yellow Jackets in tackles in both his sophomore and junior seasons before suffering a serious injury in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31. Burnett was a team captain as a junior, and he earned second-team All-ACC honors. He has 250 career tackles.
Why we picked him: Burnett had one of the most dominant careers for a Bibb County player since integration. He led a defense that had one of the best seasons in county history. The Seminoles lost to eventual champion Tucker in the quarterfinals, but the loss didn’t slow down the postseason accolades.
Others to consider
Sammy Brown, Warner Robins, football: Brown was a junior on Warner Robins’ mythical national championship team in 1976. He later started two seasons at Georgia Tech before spending time in the USFL.
Joe DeFore, Lanier, football: DeFore made the all-state team in 1951 and was an All-Southern team honorable mention. He lettered two years at South Carolina.
John Mathews, Crawford County, basketball
Bio: The first prominent prep athlete in Crawford County history led the Eagles to deep runs in the state playoffs in 1959 and 1960. They advanced to the semifinals in 1959 and then went one step further a year later, losing by one point in overtime to Edison in the championship game at the Macon City Auditorium. Mathews lettered three seasons at Georgia.
Why we picked him: Mathews served as the leader on the floor for legendary Crawford County head coach J.B. Hawkins. Those Mathews teams helped Hawkins carve out his own respected legacy alongside the powerful programs at Fort Valley and Perry. The early success helped pave the way for Crawford County’s first state title in 1969.
Others to consider
Jimmy Intorcia, Tattnall Square, football: Intorica rolled to an impressive senior season to help the Trojans win a GISA title. He broke the school records for single-game (326 yards) and single-season (2,186 yards) rushing. He finished with 3,804 career rushing yards.
Roger Jackson, Central, football: Jackson helped lead the Chargers’ no-name defense to the 1975 state championship. He played at Bethune-Cookman before playing 53 games in five seasons for the Denver Broncos beginning in 1982.
Camille Lowe, Stratford, basketball : Lowe earned all-state honors at Stratford before heading to Georgia. Lowe started four years for the Lady Bulldogs, making the All-SEC first-team in 1991 and the All-SEC second team in 1993. Lowe finished her career ninth in all-time scoring, and she was named a SEC Legend in 2012.
Catherine Rader, FPD, basketball: Rader scored 1,455 career points and remains the school record holder in blocked shots. She led the Vikings to the 1991 GISA title being heading off to play at Wofford.
Charles Johnson, Hawkinsville, football
Bio: Johnson was named AP Class A Defensive Player of the Year after leading Hawkinsville to an undefeated state championship season in 2003. He finished with 16 sacks as a senior. Johnson played in 35 games at Georgia, starting 13. He finished his college career with 14.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss, earning second-team All-SEC honors from the AP in 2006. Johnson was a third-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2007. He has played his entire pro career with the Panthers, picking up 30.5 career sacks. He led the Panthers in sacks in 2010 and 2011. Johnson signed a six-year contract with the Panthers prior to the 2011 season.
Why we picked him: It would be tough to find a bigger mismatch on a Class A team than Johnson. He towered over almost all of his opponents and displayed an athleticism that allowed him to play wide receiver. Johnson started only one of his three seasons at Georgia, but he’s making up for that by becoming one of the best pass rushers in the NFC South.
Others to consider
Tommy Hart, Ballard-Hudson, football: Hart followed a standout college career at Morris Brown by playing 13 years (1968-80) in the NFL. He played his first 10 seasons for the San Francisco 49ers, earning a Pro Bowl selection in 1976 after collecting 16 sacks. Hart served as an assistant coach on three 49ers Super Bowl champion teams.
Corico Wright, Baldwin, football: Wright, formerly known as Corico Hawkins, made consecutive all-state and All-Middle Georgia teams in 2007 and 2008. He now plays at Clemson, where he made 141 tackles in 2011. He has 229 career tackles for the Tigers heading into his senior season.
Chimere Jordan, Jones County, basketball: The Telegraph’s two-time All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year helped lead the Lady Hounds to back-to-back state semifinals appearances in 2005 and 2006. She later played at Gulf Coast Community College and Georgia College, where she broke the single-season scoring record in her first season on campus.
Greg Minor, Washington County, basketball: Minor averaged 12.6 points per game in three seasons at Louisville. The Los Angeles Clippers selected Minor with the 25th overall pick of the first round during the 1994 NBA Draft. Minor was traded to the Boston Celtics before ever playing a game for the Clippers, and he spent his entire five-year NBA career with the Celtics.
Malcolm Thomas, Baldwin, basketball: Thomas helped lead Baldwin to the state championship in 1981 before heading to Moberly Junior College, where he was named Outstanding Player of the National JUCO tournament in 1983. Thomas then went to Missouri, where he lettered two seasons and finished his Missouri career averaging 17 points per game. He led the Tigers in scoring both seasons and earned All Big-8 Conference honors in 1985. The Los Angeles Clippers selected Thomas in the 1985 NBA Draft.
Herschel Walker, Johnson County, football
Bio: Walker led Johnson County to a 14-1 record and a state championship in 1979. He was named The Telegraph’s Player of the Year in 1979 and its athlete of the year in 1980. He rushed for 3,167 yards and 45 touchdowns in 1979. The single-season yardage total remained a state record for 21 years, while his touchdown record held up for 24 years. He rushed for 6,137 yards and 86 touchdowns in his prep career. He won the Dial Award as the nation’s top high school athlete. Walker headed to Georgia, where he led the Bulldogs to a national championship as a freshman in 1980. He became the only player in NFL history to finish in the top three of Heisman voting in all of his college seasons. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1983 and made three All-America teams. He rushed for 5,259 yards and 49 touchdowns at Georgia. He won two rushing titles in three years in the USFL, rushing for 2,411 yards and 21 touchdown for the New Jersey Generals in 1985. Walker played in the NFL for 12 seasons, making two Pro Bowl teams. He led the NFL in all-purpose yards in 1987 and 1990. He rushed for 1,000 yards twice, with a career-best 1,514 yards with the Dallas Cowboys in 1988.
Why we picked him: Walker is the most highly regarded football player (and perhaps athlete) in Middle Georgia history. Even though two-time gold medalist Roger Kingdom wore No. 43, this was a no-brainer.
Others to consider
Roger Kingdom, Vienna, football: Kingdom earned all-state honors at running back in 1980 before being named The Telegraph Athlete of the Year in 1981. Kingdom, of course, was known his track career where he won gold medals in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics. He also won a NCAA hurdles championship at Pittsburgh. He held the 110-hurdles world record for four years, and he is one of only two athletes to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 110-meter hurdles.
Ben Snipes, Dublin, football: Snipes was named lineman of the year for Class A in 1960 after helping lead the Irish to the state title.
Elmore Smith, Ballard-Hudson, basketball: Smith really hit his stride at Kentucky State, allowing the seven-footer to be picked third overall in the 1971 NBA Draft. He played eight seasons in the NBA (Buffalo, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Cleveland). Smith finished his career averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. Smith is in the Macon Sports Hall of Fame.
Mike Wilson, FPD, football: Wilson scored 33 career touchdowns to go along with 19 career interceptions during an all-state prep career that ended in 1980. Wilson then played at Georgia.
Alvin Toles, Mary Persons, football
Bio: Toles rushed for 1,663 yards to lead Mary Persons to an undefeated season in 1980 and the school’s only state championship. Toles earned all-state honors and was named The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year. He earned four letters at Tennessee, becoming a full-time starter at inside linebacker in 1983 and playing on the same defense with future NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White. The New Orleans Saints selected Toles with the 24th pick of the first round in the 1985 NFL Draft. He played 55 games for the Saints during his four-year NFL career, starting 17.
Why we picked him: Toles may be the most prominent player in Mary Persons history. He was the only all-state pick off the Bulldogs’ lone state championship team. On top of that already impressive legacy, he became a productive college player and an eventual first-round draft pick.
Others to consider
Steve Boswell, Warner Robins, football: Boswell capped a remarkable high school career by leading Warner Robins to a state championship and mythical national title in 1981. He was named Lineman of the Year following the season. Boswell started at linebacker for two seasons at Georgia in 1985 and 1986.
Antonio Cochran, Macon County, football: Cochran made all-state teams as a junior and senior in 1992 and 1993 before heading to Georgia, where he earned two letters.
Harvey Grant, Hancock Central, basketball: Grant played at Clemson, then Oklahoma before embarking on an 11-year NBA career playing for Washington, Portland and Philadelphia. He averaged 18 points or more for three straight seasons beginning in 1990-91.
Ivano Newbill, Southwest, basketball: Newbill was named Mr. Basketball in Georgia as a senior in 1987. He was a standout at Georgia Tech before playing for the Detroit Pistons, Vancouver Grizzlies and Atlanta Hawks.
Kourtny Thomas, Houston County, softball: Thomas helped lead Houston County to 102 wins during her prep career. She was The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year in 2009, and she made three all-state teams. Thomas played at Tennessee and now Georgia Southern.
Melvin Borum, Hawkinsville, football
Bio: Borum led the Red Devils to back-to-back undefeated seasons and state championships in 1953 and 1954. He rushed for 23 touchdowns as a junior as the Red Devils beat Calhoun 27-6 to win the championship. Borum topped himself with 29 touchdowns as a senior, eventually leading the Red Devils to a 20-6 win over Buford in the title game. Borum was named the Class C Back of the Year in 1954.
Why we picked him: Borum was probably the greatest Hawkinsville player of the Bobby Gentry era. Few players in Middle Georgia history can equal his scoring proficiency, scoring 52 touchdowns in two seasons.
Others to consider
Tennyson Coleman, Dublin, football: Coleman was the key offensive standout on the Dublin state championship teams of 1959 and 1960.
Ron Rogers, Dublin, football: Rogers only played his senior year at Dublin, but he made it count. He finished with 189 tackles and all-state honors. Rogers teamed with Keith Brooking to form a potent 1-2 punch at Georgia Tech.
Dontarrious Thomas, Perry, football: Thomas made the all-state team as a senior in 1998. He went to Auburn, where he would make an All-SEC team in 2003. The Minnesota Vikings selected Thomas in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He played for three teams in six NFL seasons.
Greg Tremble, Warner Robins, football: Tremble helped the Demons win the 1988 state championship as a junior. He later made the all-state team as a senior. Tremble started for two seasons at Georgia, earning All-SEC honors in 1992. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys.
Juaquin Feazell, Peach County, football
Bio: Feazell earned all-state honors as a high school senior in 1993, earning Class AAA Defensive Player of the Year honors after helping the Trojans to an 11-2 record. He was an honorable mention all-state pick as a junior after the Trojans lost to Thomas County Central in the state championship game. Feazell signed with Michigan, where he would letter for four years. He played on Michigan’s 1997 national championship team before serving as a co-captain for the Wolverines a year later. He finished his career with 129 tackles and 10 sacks, according to ESPN.com. Feazell played briefly in the arena league before earning a law degree.
Why we picked him: Feazell was one of the top recruits in the Southeast as a senior at Peach County. He spurned offers from Florida, Georgia and Notre Dame to go to Michigan, and he delivered on his recruiting hype with a solid college career.
Others to consider
Durwood Sauls, Willingham, football: Sauls translated a standout career for Willingham to earning two letters at Auburn.
Mel Blount, Lyons Industrial, football
Bio: Blount played multiple sports at both the segregated high school Lyons Industrial and at Southern University. Blount’s play at Southern helped him stand out to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who selected him in the third round of the 1970 NFL Draft. An aggressive and physical defensive back who dominated when pass interference rules were less stringent, Blount intercepted 57 passes in his 14-year NFL career – all with the Steelers. He started on all four Steelers’ Super Bowl championship teams in the 1970s. He made five Pro Bowl teams, four All-Pro teams and was the AP’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1975. Blount was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989, making him one of two Middle Georgians enshrined in Canton, Ohio. He also is in the Louisiana and Georgia Sports Halls of Fame.
Why we picked him: Blount is almost certainly one of the best cornerbacks who ever lived. The Sporting News ranked Blount as the 37th best player in NFL history in 1999. Blount’s aggressive play led to the NFL adopting stricter pass interference rules. Few players, if any, with Middle Georgia roots can claim the level of championship success at the pro level Blount experienced.
Others to consider
Deshay McKever, Jeff Davis, football: McKever made consecutive all-state teams in 1989 and 1990 before heading to Georgia where he earned four letters.
Jesse Miller, Washington County, football: Miller had one of the more incredible seasons in Georgia prep football history when he rushed for 42 touchdowns as a senior in 1997. He was an even better defensive player, earning two all-state honors on defense. The Golden Hawks went 30-0 during Miller’s junior and senior seasons. Miller signed with Georgia.
Kevin Porter, Warner Robins, football: Porter made the AP all-state team in 1983 before heading to Auburn, where he earned four letters. Porter played six seasons in the NFL, with the first five coming with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1988-92. Porter later coached the Macon Knights from 2001-03 and currently serves as head football coach at Point University.
Leroy Hill, Baldwin, football
Bio: Hill made an all-state team as a senior in 2000 before heading to Clemson. He led the Tigers’ defense in 2003 and 2004, making consecutive All-ACC first teams. The Seattle Seahawks selected Hill in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Hill started at outside linebacker as a rookie in the Seahawks loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL. Hill has played his entire career with the Seahawks, starting 77 of 84 career games.
Why we picked him: Baldwin has produced plenty of standout defensive players since 2000, but Hill probably stands on top of that list. He has excelled at every level of football thus far, and he appears to continues to be a mainstay on the Seattle defense after resigning with the team in April.
Others to consider
Mario Harvey, Mary Persons, football: Harvey’s aggressive play at Marshall helped him make All-Conference USA teams as a junior and senior in 2010. The Pittsburgh Steelers signed the linebacker as an undrafted free agent. He currently plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
Henry Sheffield, Dublin, football: Sheffield made back-to-back all-state teams in 1957 and 1958.
Michael Lemon, Stratford, football
Bio: Lemon made two GISA all-state football teams at Stratford, helping the Eagles win the 2004 championship. Lemon went on to play at Georgia, where he played in seven games. He then attended Georgia Military College before heading to N.C. State in 2009. He played in all 12 games for the Wolfpack in 2009, playing a crucial role with late tackles in a win over Maryland, before becoming a starting defensive end as a senior in 2010.
Why we picked him: Lemon was a difference maker for the Eagles in football as well as basketball. Lemon showed tremendous adversity following the tragic murder of his mother and his dismissal at Georgia to finish a productive two seasons at N.C. State. He was nominated for the Rudy Award in 2010 for his “character, courage, contribution and commitment.”
Others to consider
Maurice Harrell, Dodge County, football: The former Dodge County standout earned four letters at Georgia. He signed with the San Diego Chargers following college.