Former stars still shining

By JOSHUA CAMPBELL,

Marion County has been a budding breeding ground for athletic talent to reach the next level in several sports, and football is no different.

Two NFL players lead the way with Columbia Academy’s Logan Cooke entering his second season as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ punter and first-round rookie Jonathan Abram from East Marion providing a physical presence as a strong safety for the Oakland Raiders.

Cooke boomed the second longest kick in pro football last year at 72 yards, and Abram has the distinction as the first player from Marion County to be selected in the first round since Walter Payton in 1975.

At the Division I level, three Marion Countians are showcasing their talents on the big stage. Former Columbia High School star Fred Peters is replacing Abram as a safety at Mississippi State. Jarveon Howard created some big highlights as a freshman running back for Syracuse last year, and the East Marion alum is looking to take on a bigger role in 2019. As a 6-foot-1, 309-pound defensive tackle, DeShondrick Foxworth from East Marion is entering his senior season as a starter for MAC powerhouse Buffalo.

Division I FCS school McNeese State features former Columbia High School offensive tackle Zack Jones, and Alcorn State has Columbia's Mikail Webb.

Division II is littered with former Marion County studs, especially Mississippi College. The private Clinton college has two past West Marion stars in safety Josh Miller and defensive end Didravious Henry. West Alabama has two players from the county as well with former Columbia Academy tight end Owen Harper and West Marion defensive back Lavorciay “Money” Gaddis. Finally Caleb Batie, a West Marion alum who spent last season at Missouri Southern State, transferred to Arkansas Tech for his senior year as a running back.

At the junior college level, two freshmen from Columbia High School will be making their collegiate debuts this season. Outside linebacker Kevon Cloyd will be suiting up for Jones College, and offensive lineman Reagan Davis will play at Pearl River Community College.