September 3, 2014 10:57:24 PM
Anthony Sharp has done a little bit of everything in his career at Victory Christian Academy.
From football, to basketball, to baseball, Sharp has played key roles in the Eagles' success from season to season. Earlier this season, his efforts helped drive the school's baseball team to the Alabama Christian Education Athletic Association championship. The title was believed to have been the first in the history of the baseball program.
While coach Brent Harris' baseball team broke through in May, coach Chris Hamm's football program has been the school's most successful team. The Eagles won the Christian Football Association title in 2006 and then won back-to-back crowns in 2008-09 before losing the Tuscaloosa Christian in 2010.
Since then, though, Victory Christian has watched as Tabernacle and Tuscaloosa Christian have won the past three CFA titles. This year, Sharp hopes to change that. Already charged with shouldering the role of go-to player on both sides of the ball, Sharp has matured and is working to be a more vocal leader to drive the Eagles back to the championship stage.
"Over the past couple of years, especially this year, I needed to be more of a vocal leader, not only telling people what to do, but going out there and doing it and leading by example," Sharp said. "It has been hard because some of our coaches joke about it. We're not a very vocal team, but we need vocal leaders on the field. You can't go out there and not communicate."
Last week, Sharp showed again he is ready to do that this season by rushing for 210 yards and scoring four touchdowns in a 49-20 victory against Ezekiel Academy in Montgomery, Alabama. The victory helped Victory Christian improve to 2-0 entering its matchup at 7 p.m. Friday against Evangel Christian. Last season, Evangel Christian beat Victory Christian 48-8.
In the grand scheme of things, the game won't affect the Eagles' postseason destiny. Victory Christian will have to wait until the following week when it plays host to Tabernacle to open CFA play. But that doesn't mean Sharp won't use another week to hone his leadership skills. He said he has watched and learned from former Victory Christian standout Landon Ellis, who helped the football team with conditioning and weight training in the offseason.
Ellis was one of many weapons on Victory Christian's most successful teams in recent memory. Hamm said Ellis and Sharp are similar in that both worked extremely hard to get stronger and faster to position themselves for opportunities to play sports at the next level.
"He has always been in a leadership role through his play, but this offseason, especially during the summer, I have noticed his commitment and being here working in the weight room, not just him, but the other seniors," Hamm said. "I have noticed on the practice field he's taking charge and not only leading by example, but in word."
Hamm joked the only thing Sharp has to learn is "how to do everything." He said Chase Austin is kicking off now, but Sharp remains on the kickoff team. Aside from not kicking off, expect Sharp to do nearly everything for the Eagles. Hamm said Sharp continues to juggle all of responsibilities with the football team extremely well.
"I am proud of him and the position he has put himself in," Hamm said. "A lot of kids just get by on natural ability, and that runs out eventually. But Anthony has really worked to improve himself -- to get stronger, to get faster. He will be one we can hold up and say, 'This is how you do it if you aspire to that.'
"Everybody would do it if it was easy, but he has done a good job with that, too."
Sharp hasn't determined which sport might give him the best chance to play in college. He said his work with Ellis in the past two years has shown him how much harder he has to work because the nature of the games will change in college.
Sharp also hopes to put those lessons to use this season. After playing a key role at the plate and on the mound for the baseball team in its state championship run, Sharp would like nothing better than to begin his senior year by helping lead the football team back to the top of the CFA. To do that, Sharp knows he will have to perform in a variety of roles, but that is nothing new to him. In fact, he relishes being counted on to do so much.
"Every year, I have tried to work harder and get better," Sharp said. "I think when I was younger I was always scared of letting everybody down. I let some stuff get to my head. As I have gotten older, it has become the next-play mentality."
Sharp said Hamm has stressed having a "next-play attitude" to help everyone see the big picture and realize the importance of putting mistakes behind them.
As for the big picture for his athletic career, Sharp said he wants to continue to get bigger, stronger, and faster to increase his chances at earning a shot to play a sport after he graduates from Victory Christian. Seeing and talking to Ellis, who went to East Mississippi Community College in Scooba after graduating from Victory Christian, has helped Sharp put everything into perspective and has helped him realize the importance of being a vocal and a lead-by-example senior.
"He really brings it into reality that if you go to college it is going to be this way. You're not going to breeze through everything. You're going to have obstacles you're going to have to overcome," Sharp said. "It just made me want to work harder. I saw the stuff that was going to be need to be done to be successful at the next level and, obviously, senior year. You want to take it on and try to do your best.
"I have made mistakes (this season), but I have always tried to play my hardest and have the next-play mentality that coach Hamm preaches. I have tried to give my all each play and not get down on anybody else if they miss a block because I might miss the cut on the next play."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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