“As a coach you don’t have a player with such great natural ability come along very often,” Bear head football coach Damon Floyd said recently about senior James Stovall. “He is a great kid, very unselfish and actually doesn’t like being in the spotlight.”
Similar praise comes from BCHS basketball coach Kent Smith, as well as track and field coach Larry Cotton about the three-sport athlete.
However, it wasn’t just what Stovall can do on the field or the hardwood that drew some special attention recently as he was named a Tennessee state finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award.
“Of the 48,000 seniors who applied nationwide, 1,236 applicants came from Tennessee and have been narrowed down to the state’s 20 finalists. These finalists embody the Heisman spirit of hard work and dedication through their outstanding achievements in athletics, academics and community/school leadership,” related a news release from Wendy’s International Inc.
Created in 1994 by Wendy’s and the Heisman Memorial Trust, the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award recognizes outstanding high school seniors nationwide who excel in athletics, academics and community leadership.
“It means a lot to me to have been named a state finalist,” commented Stovall, who under the suggestion and help of BCHS Assistant Principal Martha Frazier, had applied online for the scholarship.
One of 10 state male finalists, Stovall learned last week that the award for a male athlete went to Jacob Tucker, of Perry County High School. Marjorie Butler, from Knoxville Webb, was named the female recipient. “Its a privilege just to have been nominated,” he stated. “To have made the list of the 10 finalists is a great honor.”
“James is a straight-A student and is a tremendous person outside of school and athletics,” declared Floyd. “He spends two to three hours or more every Saturday helping his family clean their church (they attend) to get it ready for Sunday services.”
“He is very mature for a 16-year-old. He doesn’t complain. He just sees what needs to be done and does it,” the coach continued.
Stovall said he likes the “brotherhood” aspect of playing sports. “You aren’t just playing for yourself. You leave it all on the line for your ‘brothers,’ especially in football. It’s such a team game. In basketball one player can take over a game. In track, you compete individually. But, in football you have to rely on your teammates on every play.”
Coming from a very athletic family, Stovall has stood out in his four years at Bradley, including being named to The Associated Press All-State football team last fall.
After gaining 918 yards on 58 receptions, eight of which went for touchdowns, in 2010, the 6-foot-3 Stovall came back to lead the area with 681 yards on just 47 catches, including nine scores.
With a 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash and a 38-inch vertical leap, he impressed coaches at summer football camps at Tennessee, Vanderbilt, MTSU, Duke, Memphis and UT-Chattanooga.
“The coaches loved the way he went to the ball, his hands and his ability to leap out of the gym,” Floyd remarked. “Although his time in the 40 wasn’t as fast as they’d like, that will improve when he is concentrating on one sport and in the weight room more.”
“Right now I’m leaning toward UTC, because it’s close to home and my family can come watch me play,” the soft-spoken young man related.
Along with a sixth-place finish as part of Bradley’s 4x200 relay team at the TSSAA State Track Meet in May, Stovall also had top 10 finishes in the high jump, triple-jump and decathlon at the Spring Fling.
With the football season just closing out, Stovall will turn his attention to the hardwood to prepare for the upcoming basketball season.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here (at Bradley) and being a part of what we’ve done (in the football program, with back-to-back playoff berths),” Stovall proclaimed. “Hopefully we can do good in basketball and track this year as well.”
The basketball Bears went 20-9 last season without a senior on the team. Basketball season opens Tuesday when Siegel comes to town for a TSSAA Hall of Champions game.