December 10, 2009 10:02:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- East Mississippi Community College football coach Buddy Stephens couldn''t help sneaking a peak at the Starkville High School highlight video Wednesday night before sitting down for his meal.
Stephens, who was the guest speaker at Starkville High football banquet at the Templeton Academic Center, might recruit some of the players in the video.
"Hopefully, we''ll get some of those guys on our campus soon," Stephens said.
Former Yellow Jackets like Pat Shed, Brad Henderson, Odie Rush, Anthony Hines, Jeremiah McDonald, and John Rice have contributed to EMCC''s rise in the past two years under Stephens.
Those players helped the Lions (11-1) claim their first state championship and win the Mississippi Bowl on Sunday in Biloxi. EMCC is ranked fifth in the nation by the NJCAA/JCFootball.com poll.
"It''s been exciting and fulfilling," Stephens said. "It''s been a dream come true for me and the people who have associated themselves with our program.
"When we came to East Mississippi two years ago, there weren''t a lot of kids excited about coming there to play football, but now we''ve kind of changed that."
The ability of Stephens and his assistant coaches to recruit local talent has helped that transition. Community colleges in Mississippi rely on players from their district schools, and Stephens is happy to be able to be able to recruit this district.
"When you talk about West Point, Starkville, and Columbus, then there''s Noxubee (County) and Meridian, there''s a lot of talent and all you have to do is cultivate it," Stephens said. "It''s very important we keep home talent right here in our district. Why would they go anywhere else after what we''ve shown? If you go anywhere else, you are just going for a flash and show because we''re putting things together."
Stephens said education is the selling point for athletes to attend EMCC. The added bonus is the players will use football to pay for it. Once in junior college, some players use it as a stepping stone o reach the next level.
Stephens spoke to the Yellow Jackets about doing what they need to do to control their destiny.
"The kids that didn''t have scholarships when they left high school, now they''ve got Division I scholarships," Stephens said. "Pat Shed is the perfect example. Pat didn''t have a scholarship when he left (high school) and now he has several Division I offers."
Starkville High running back and defensive back Billy D. Shed, Pat''s brother, would like to carry on the family tradition at EMCC.
"I''ll pick it up if I can," Shed said. "It''s fun to see (Pat) continue his career. I''m proud of him going there and help change the program. They were successful as a team and he was successful as a player."
Starkville High coach Bill Lee believes wide receiver Chuck Tillery and linebacker Craig Armstead could be the next Yellow Jackets to go to EMCC.
Pat Shed, wide receiver Mitchell McCurry, of East Webster High, and linebacker Gabe Poe, of West Oktibbeha, are the most likely Lions to sign Dec. 15 with four-year schools. Offensive lineman Quartney Cox, of West Point, plans to sign a Division I scholarship in February.
n Board accepts Lee''s retirement: Earlier in the day, the Starkville School Board accepted Lee''s retirement at their annual meeting.
Starkville School Superintendent Judy Couey said the next step in filling the head football coaching job coach will be to advertise the position and to list the job description. She said the school board will vote on that in January.
With Lee''s retirement not taking effect until the end of the school year, Couey said there''s plenty of time to get the word out.
"We just want everyone to know about the job so we can get interesting inquiries before they get tied up in another contract," Couey said. "We''ve had some pretty good contacts and some interest, but the application isn''t out yet."
Couey indicated current Starkville High assistants will be considered for head coach if they submit an application.