December 16, 2010 8:05:00 AM
Good things happen when you take care of your business on and off the field.
That''s the message East Mississippi Community College assistant football coach Clifton Collins was happy to relate Wednesday after seeing two more of his players move on to play football at a four-year school.
Former Columbus High standout Johnny Cockrell and former Noxubee County High standout Fred Tate realized those goals when they signed National Letters of Intent to play with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Northwestern State (La.), respectively.
"Both of them are great kids," said Collins, a former player at the University of Mississippi. "They took care of their business in the classroom, and both of them took care of business on the field. I couldn''t ask for two better kids who are great athletes and do what they are supposed to do. They did everything we asked them to do on and off the field. That is one of the main reasons they got scholarship offers."
Cockrell, who couldn''t be reached for comment, started at cornerback and played in all 10 games this season for the Lions (5-5). He was 13th on the team in total tackles (46). He also had a sack, an interception, and six pass breakups.
The 6-foot, 200-pounder will join former EMCC teammates Pat Shed (Starkville High), Billy Autrey (Columbus), Quartney Cox (West Point), and T.J. Ballou (Northeast Lauderdale) at UAB.
Cockrell had a season-high eight tackles against Northwest Mississippi and Pearl River. He returned a 56-yard interception for a touchdown at Itawamba, and ranked second on the team in pass breakups.
Tate led the team in pass breakups (15, 14) in both of his seasons at EMCC. He was 10th on the team in total tackles with 50. He also had a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
As a freshman, Tate was 11th on the team with 41 total tackles. Tate and Cockrell played integral roles in 2009 in helping EMCC go 11-1, win the MACJC state championship, the MACJC North Division title, the Mississippi Bowl, and finish No. 4 in the final NJCAA/JC Football.com national poll.
For Tate, the title came on the heels of a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A state crown in his senior season at Noxubee County.
Tate, who also received offers from Tennessee-Martin, North Alabama, Mississippi Valley State, Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Indiana State, said he "felt like part of the family" when he visited Northwestern State earlier this month. He said it helps that he feels he has the potential to earn playing time as a junior.
"My time at East Mississippi has helped me tremendously," Tate said. "From head coach Buddy Stephens, to the position coaches, to coach Collins, the defensive backs coach, they all helped me in a great way. If it wasn''t for them I don''t know where I would be right now."
Tate said Collins and the other coaches saw in him something others didn''t. He said that belief fueled his desire to improve so he would be able to keep his football career alive after playing two years at Scooba.
Tate enjoyed making history as a senior at Noxubee County and as a freshman at EMCC. He said he used his two years at junior college to grown into a young man and to become more patient. He said he is ready to take the next step and be an impact player for Northwestern State.
"They know I work super hard," Tate said. "I work for everything I get. I am the kind of player who wants to be a part of great things."
Collins believes Cockrell and Tate will be right in the middle of big things. He said both are hard workers and solid players on the field.
"I could trust them," Collins said. "I could trust they were going to be there and they were going to be able to make the play. I just think they will be guys (at their four-year schools) who will do what they''re supposed to do, and they should play a lot."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.