Friday, February 03, 2012

SPORTS >> All Stars speak to students

Leader sports editor

LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson and Arkansas Razorback safety Tramain Thomas highlighted a group of college football players that spoke at three Jacksonville schools on Friday. The five college seniors are playing in today’s All-Star Classic, North-South football game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, and spent Friday touring the area speaking at several local schools.

Jefferson and Thomas were joined by Ole Miss running back Brandon Bolden, Arkansas State defensive end Brandon Joiner and Henderson State defensive end Antonio Leak.

Jefferson, who led LSU to a perfect regular-season record and a spot in the 2012 National Championship game, was a late addition to the All-Star game, deciding to play in today’s game late last week.

“It was just another opportunity to get in front of the scouts and show what I can do,” Jefferson told The Leader.

Despite being joined front and center with a former Razorback, Jefferson was the most popular attraction at Jacksonville Middle School, the first stop of the tour that also included North Pulaski High School and Jacksonville High School.

“It’s very shocking to know that I have these fans in other cities,” Jefferson said. “They make me feel very appreciated. I had a great time throughout the whole week and am ready to have an even better time (in the game).”

Tickets to the game are $15, but middle school student athletes who arrive at the game wearing their youth football jerseys will get in for free.

Thomas was also very popular among the students and was the most interactive with the kids clamoring for his attention.

“It feels good to be here,” Thomas said. “I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the country right now. To be out here with all these kids, to try to give them a little bit of encouragement, it puts a smile on my face also.”

Thomas, who led the Razorbacks in interceptions last season with five, also took to heart his role in the promotional tour. Most of Jefferson’s speech to the students was about promoting the game. Thomas and the others talked about things like grades, work ethic and proper attitude.

“Anytime you can have a role model, or someone that kids look up to come in and talk to them, I want to do it,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have that when I was kid so anything I can do to give back I want to try to do while I can.”

Joiner was an all Sun Belt Conference selection at Arkansas State. Bolden finished his career at Ole Miss ranked second in school history in both total touchdowns scored (33) and rushing touchdowns (27). He is third all-time at Ole Miss in all-purpose yards (3,681) and fourth in rushing yards (2,604).

Leak, who played high-school football at Palestine-Wheatley and already has his master’s degree in secondary education, commanded the student’s attention when he spoke.

“How many of you want a college degree,” Leak asked the students. “Now how many of you want to be out on the streets? See, none of you want to be out on the streets. I didn’t see a single hand go up. So you have to start making right decisions now. Nobody wants to be on the streets, but they don’t think they have to start taking stuff seriously at your age. That’s not the case. You have to start making right decisions now.”

Players took a few minutes after their speeches for photographs with students and faculty. Afterward Jefferson took a final chance to promote the game. “I’ve had a lot of fun this week,” Jefferson said. “Coming out to the schools and talking to kids has taught me a lot. Now I hope they can come out and support us. It’s going to be a great game.