E.A. Sports Today

Day of recognition

Oxford recognizes 11 athletes and academic standouts in mass signing ceremonies at the Sports Arena 

Oxford football coach Ryan Herring hangs with his three college signees (from left) Asante Ferrell (Birmingham Southern), Tyetus Smith-Lindsey (UAB) and Kendall McCallum (LSU). (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD – Athletics director Larry Davidson called it a “day of recognition and celebration.”
A record 10 athletes from six sports and a National Merit Scholarship finalist all gathered before the student body in the Oxford Sports Arena Wednesday to celebrate their college choices.
The athletes represented football, basketball, softball, soccer, track and tennis. Some, like LSU football signee Kendall McCallum, had already signed their scholarship papers and Wednesday was the opportunity to recognize the feat.  Others, like javelin champion Haley Dempsey, were signing that day; she’s going to the College of Charleston.
“This is a pretty impressive group,” basketball coach Joel VanMeter said as he looked out over the two long tables of honorees.
“I can feel the talent radiating off these guys,” tennis coach Riley Jones said.
There were stories of heart, sacrifice and personal achievement throughout the room.

Heart was the word linking at least the Jackets’ two Division I football signees. Linebacker McCallum overcame a heart ailment late in this past season to earn a spot in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game and his scholarship at LSU. Running back Tyetus Smith-Lindsey played with an incredible amount of heart that belied his size to become the Yellow Jackets’ second all-time leading rusher, earn a spot in the North-South All-Star Game and an opportunity at UAB.
McCallum says “everything’s been good” since the initial concerns and he is back to 100 percent eager to get to Baton Rouge.
“I’m very happy (to have that behind him),” he said. “Everything could change in an instant, but that just lets you know you can’t take anything for granted so I’m real happy everything’s good.”
Smith-Lindsey only recently decided to take UAB’s offer as a preferred walkon/redshirt over several other Division I opportunities including Auburn and Memphis. In the end, it came down academics; he wants to be a dentist. In choosing UAB, he’ll be attending the school his father went for his Masters after playing basketball at Jacksonville State.
He is the only running back in this UAB class and the Blazers may be getting the sleeper of the class. He’s been a 1,000-yard rusher each of the last three years despite everyone knowing he was getting the ball, a three-time All-State pick and three-time All-Region.
“He’s got a lot of the same traits Kendall’s got except he’s not a giant, but he’s got a giant heart in him,” Jackets head coach Ryan Herring said. “That’s what separates him from most everybody else.”
“I worked so hard,” Smith-Lindsey said. “My coaches gave me the opportunity to be great on the field and I just really appreciate that.”
He called his selection to the all-star game in July a “blessing.”
“I get to play one last game and I’m just really thankful for it,” he said.
The track program at College of Charleston is getting a natural in Dempsey. She tried 14 of the 18 events before concentrating on the jav and the first time she ever threw it in competition, as a sophomore, she set the Calhoun County record at 110-6, and has sights on breaking it this spring.
Last spring, she finished fourth in the state and placed in the top 25 in the heptathlon.
“That’s really cool,” she said of her progression. “I love being able to start at something and being good at it and getting better at it. I’m really excited to continue in college and to keep getting better.”

Here is the list of the athletes recognized Wednesday, their sport and college of choice.
Haley Dempsey, track, College of Charleston
Andrew Edwards, National Merit Scholarship finalist
Asante Ferrell, football, Birmingham Southern
Deinnah Isaac, soccer, Faulkner
Eugene Leonard, basketball, Wallace-Hanceville
Kendall McCallum, football, LSU
Landon McCoy, tennis, Gadsden State
Tyetus Smith-Lindsey, football, UAB
Eilee Sparks, softball, Coastal Alabama
Seth Turner, tennis, Gadsden State
Chase White, tennis, Gadsden State
“We’re proud of all of our students, both academically and those who have excelled athletically,” Davidson said. “It’s one big family here. We like to say we’re a 6A school with a 1A mentality, a community and a family.”

Track athlete Haley Dempsey and her family listen to the presentations during Oxford’s spring signing celebration Wednesday. Dempsey signed with College of Charleston. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

To see a gallery of photos from the event visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

You must be logged in to post a comment Login