Feb. 24, 2010
Rome, Ga. - The Shorter College football team reflected on its success during the 2009 season at the annual team banquet held at the Winthrop-King Centre last Sunday evening.
The Hawks, their coaching staff, families and friends all came together to officially close the book on the fifth season of football on the Hill, all the while recognizing All-Conference performers, All-Academic achievements and every member of the team that helped secure the program's fourth straight winning season.
Shorter said farewell to only the second senior class in program history, a class that included two players who depart Shorter having left their names throughout the Hawks' record books - running back A.J. Cooley and linebacker Logan Lollis.
Both helped Shorter become a respected threat in both the Mid-South Conference and the nation and each repeated the rare feat of being named the respective Mid-South West Division Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year while also garnering NAIA All-American honors.
Yet as the banquet drew to a close, Shorter head coach Phil Jones demonstrated that he is already turning his attention to the future.
"See you at 3:15 on the field tomorrow, shorts and helmets," Jones said in his final remarks.
The Hawks returned to Brady Field to begin spring drills on Monday and for the next three weeks, the team will begin to establish a new foundation for a new season, using the 15 days set aside for practices - 10 of those in full pads - to find out what players are ready to step up this fall.
The spring session ends on March 13 and culminates with the Hawks' spring game.
"We're excited to be back on the field, especially our field," said Jones, who along with his staff is also staying on the recruiting trail and adding to the list of signees who will join the team. "We've had a really good off-season. We've worked hard to really increase our strength and focus on bulking up. We're also emphasizing being a better player mentally."
Shorter's coaches are excited to see which players will answer the call to maintain the team's on-field success, whether it be those who return as veterans or those eager to carve a new niche for themselves in the lineup.
"This is a time when everybody gets a shot and gets the reps," said Jones, pointing out that there is no scout team on the field in the spring. "All of the positions are open. The guys who played last year realize that they just can't walk back into the position. Everybody's got a shot. We're pushing all of them to leave the field better in the spring than they did at the end of the season last fall."
While Shorter's coaching staff will certainly have their eyes on their current players, they are also maintaining a sharp focus on the recruiting process, one that has continued since the first week of February when Shorter welcomed 30 newcomers that will join the program for preseason workouts in August.
"[Recruiting] has gone really well, with particular emphasis on the positions we needed," said Jones, who hopes to have 50 new players ready to report in the summer.
The Hawks got a serious jump on that number on National Signing Day on Feb. 3, landing a solid group of first-year players.
Two of those signees helped address one of the immediate needs in the defensive backfield, as Shorter landed Jonathan Watters of Pepperell High and Darien Lane out of Dacula High.
The defensive line also got some help with the signing of Jamal Aquil of Jackson High, who originally committed to Valdosta State, and Cartersville High standout Nate Newborn, the brother of Shorter All-Conference offensive lineman, Nick Newborn.
Since then, however, Shorter has added to its ranks on both sides of the pigskin.
With the departure of all-time leading rusher Cooley from a Shorter offense that led the NAIA in rushing last fall, the effort to find replacements has been a success.
Shorter signed fullbacks Kenny Foster of Cherokee County (Ga.), Carlos Davis of Woodstock and Bruce Boyston of East Limestone (Ala.) to help plug the hole in the backfield. According to Jones, Boyston also has the ability play in the defensive secondary.
Quarterback Darius Finley out of Handley, Ala., is set to join the Hawks as well, while defensive back Bryce Sellers of South Paulding and linebacker Josh White of Calhoun have also cast their lot with Shorter.
"We didn't talk to anybody who doesn't know about our program," Jones said. "They are aware of it and that means there's validity to Shorter College football."