December 22, 2009 2:50:00 PM
Josh Poe had something to prove at West Oktibbeha High School.
At 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Poe knew he wasn''t going to have anything given to him and was going to have to earn his spot as linebacker.
West Oktibbeha coach Adam Lowrey was reluctant at first to give Poe the chance, but once he saw him in action, the reservations vanished.
"Once I knew he could maneuver with all the big linemen coming at him, I wasn''t worried about it," Lowrey said. "My defensive linemen were a necessity. Then we started taking guys who had enough grit and heart about them (and put them at linebacker). Once we got the defensive line right, it made (Poe''s) and the other linebackers'' job a lot easier."
Poe thrived in his junior season with the Timberwolves, finishing with 106 tackles (73 solo), six sacks, and 11 forced fumbles.
For his accomplishments, Poe is The Commercial Dispatch Small High School Defensive Player of the Year.
Poe knew playing football was going to be part of his future.
In the eighth grade, he recalled intercepting his first pass and scoring his first touchdown. Each year, his play improved, which helped him make more tackles.
Poe was determined to show Lowrey he could be a good linebacker.
"It was the first game of the season and he saw the hitting I did and that I was able to run from sideline to sideline if I have to," Poe said. "When I showed him, I guess he was shocked I did it."
The forced fumbles were enough to let Lowrey know he''d made a good decision on where to play Poe.
Lowrey calls Poe "a boy with heart," and said even as a junior, he had a presence on the field.
Poe is modest when it comes to compliments and being chosen defensive player of the year. He questioned his traits as a leader, but as the season progressed, Lowrey said his team had a hard time staying focused without Poe the field.
"He was talking whether he thought he was a leader or not, but he would always do his job," Lowrey said. "I never have to tell him twice because he''s going to do it.
"He makes a world of difference. When we didn''t have him for one or two games, you could really tell."
Poe broke his left wrist in the seventh grade, then broke the other wrist last season. He also has had bruised ribs.
The injuries didn''t hurt Poe as much as missing the playoffs did. West Oktibbeha finished 5-6 this season, one game out of the postseason fun.
"When you miss the playoffs and watch everyone else playing, you wish you were out there," Poe said. "The year before we won only one game and this year we won five, so that''s a big step."
Football has been an important part of life for Poe and his family. His older brother, Gabe, played at East Mississippi Community College and has signed a scholarship to play football at the University of West Alabama.
Gabe is proud of Josh and what he''s accomplished.
"He''s not following in my footsteps, but making a name for himself," Gabe said. "He''s no longer Gabe Poe''s little brother, he''s Josh Poe now. He''s doing things I never did. I never made defensive player of the year."
Gabe and Josh said education comes first with the family. With Josh''s history with injuries, he doesn''t want to take for granted he''ll always have football to lean on.
"You might blow your knee out in football and you need something to fall back on," Poe said.
Poe would like to play for Georgia or Georgia Tech after his senior season. He hasn''t ruled out staying home and attending Mississippi State if he receives an offer.
Lowrey believes Poe can do anything he puts his mind to because of his desire to be great.
"He takes pride in that," Lowrey said. "Most players don''t really realize you are not only just great on the field, but you want to be great in everything you do.
"That''s the one thing about (Poe). He wants to be great in the weight room and he wants to be great in the classroom. He''s a good role model for anyone who wants to know how to work hard. He''s the epitome of hard work."