Football coaches and athletic directors from the five local county schools gathered in the Jasmine Room at the Board of Education Annex West on Dec. 2 to decide this year’s recipient of the annual Howard Thompson Award.
The Howard Thompson Award is given to a local senior after every football season who is in good academic standing, shows a superior athletic performance, possesses outstanding leadership ability, and has a good moral character.
This year’s nominees included Alexander wide receiver Isaac Zico, Chapel Hill center Witt Napier, Douglas County receiver Donavon Richardson, Lithia Springs factor back Deandre Gullatt, and New Manchester running back Omahri Jarrett.
As voted on by the coaches, athletic directors and media in attendance, this year’s winner of the Howard Thompson Award is Omahri Jarrett.
“It is a great honor to win the Howard Thompson Award,” said Jarrett at his team’s banquet on Wednesday when he learned he had won. “Being the first New Manchester player to ever win it makes it even more special.”
Jarrett won by a very slim margin over Zico. The running back joins a long list of winners dating back to 1985 that includes inaugural winner Stacey Danley (Douglas County), current NFL fullback Mike Tolbert (Douglas County), former Lithia Springs head coach Scott Dean, and last year’s winner, Brian Dansereau (Alexander).
Jarrett is coming off a very successful 2014 season. After committing verbally to Georgia Tech over the summer, the running back rushed 98 times for 525 yards and three touchdowns. He has had 15 receptions for 150 yards and two TD’s, and four punt returns for scores. He finished the year with over 1,000 all-purpose yards.
Throughout his career, Jarrett had 321 carries for 2,078 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had 34 catches for 550 yards and six TD’s. Jarrett also recorded seven punt returns and one kickoff return for a score. He has a 2.875 GPA and is a member of Project Manhood and the Beta Club. Jarrett was also the team captain, receiving 70 votes from his peers from a team of around 90.
“I have been coaching 27 years and he is absolutely one of the best football players I have ever coached,” said NMHS coach Rob Cleveland. “He has very high character and I don’t think he missed a day of practice in four years. He comes to practice with a good attitude and had no problem giving up carries to our other running back, Brian Herrien.”
Georgia Tech made a commitment to Tech after Cleveland put in a good word and the running back came out for a workout. Jarrett will be expected to fill in at A-Back and return punts for the NCAA D-I school.
“Omahri is the total package,” Cleveland said. “He can run, he can catch, he can return kicks, he can defend on defense, he can block and he can tackle. This kid definitely deserves to win this award.”
Zico gave Jarrett a run for the trophy but fell just a few points short. The AHS receiver put up the best stats of the five nominees with 1,562 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 62 passes for 1,000 yards and 12 TD’s. He also had 17 kick returns for 522 yards and two scores, and six carries for 40 yards and two scores. Zico is a basketball kid that moved to football two and a half years ago. He played the last five games this season with a sprained MCL. He is a member of the basketball team, a state placer on the track team, and maintains a 2.4 GPA.
“Isaac is a tremendous athlete with a high ceiling,” said AHS coach Matt Combs. “He is an explosive player that plays much bigger than his frame (6-foot-2, 190-pounds). Isaac has grown to not only a great player, but a great young man. He became a leader in practice, in the locker room, on the sidelines, and in the game. He loves the competition and thrives on the pressure… His smile is infectious and his cheer fills the room.”
Napier was the top academic achiever of the five players vying for the trophy. The center posted a 3.54 GPA, the highest on the Chapel Hill squad. He is a two year starter and this past season recorded 14 pancake blocks and an 81-percent film grade out. He is a member of FBLA, and was involved in the Elementary Reading Program and the 2014 Job Shadow Day. He will attend Georgia Southern next fall.
“Witt is a tremendous student athlete who I have had the privilege of coaching this season,” said first year CHHS coach Justin DeShon. “His leadership, courage and heart was unmatched on our football team.”
Douglas County was represented by Richardson. The senior receiver had an outstanding year with 16 total touchdowns and 830 all-purpose yards. He averaged 13.5 yards per catch for a total of 654 yards. He was elected team captain and was named the 2014 Most Valuable Offensive Player and Most Outstanding Wide Receiver by his coaches and peers. He maintained a GPA in the low two’s and is looking to play at an NAIA school. The 2014 season was Richardson’s first time playing wide receiver.
“Had we not had a guy like Donavon, first of all we would not have kept things together this past fall, and second, been competitive enough to be a playoff team for the first time since 2007,” said DC coach Jason Respert. “He is a young man who everybody we played had to have a plan for, and if they didn’t, that is when he was most effective.”
“When you lose a kid like we did, I praise God for young men like Donavon and our other seniors to keep it together through extremely difficult time and an extremely difficult year,” Respert added. “His character to lead his teammates through a tough time is what I am going to remember about him.”
The final nominee for the Howard Thompson Award was Gullatt. The running back was not a speedster like must of the nominees before him, but was a grinder, who showed brute force on the gridiron. He could bench press over 330 pounds. This season Gullatt rushed 165 times for 785 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught 32 passes for 425 yards and five TD’s. He is a three year starter with a 2.7 GPA. Gullatt is being recruited by Reinhardt, Union, Maryville, Methodist, and LaGrange College.
“Deandre is a great player that has a superior work ethic,” said first year LSHS coach Craig Chatman. “He is a total team guy. He never missed a summer workout and was an above average linebacker and the back-up quarterback.”
The Howard Thompson trophy is named after the man who brought football to Douglas County High School in 1924 after persuading the late principal, H.R. Adams to start a program at the young age of 15. Thompson played on the first team as the quarterback, and was also the coach and team captain. He was the only member of the squad who had any football experience.
After high school, Thompson attended Georgia Tech and in 1931, after the DCHS decided to drop football during the depression, he came back and coached the team at no charge, and with only the desire to keep the program going through tough times.
In 1936, Thompson came forward as chief engineer of the Florence Construction Company to help build a a football field for the school. The field was built at a minimum of cost to DCHS. The only thing the school was responsible to pay for was gas and oil for the machinery.
After returning from World War II, Thompson became heavily involved in youth activities. He coached, managed and organized the first little league baseball team in Douglas County. He worked on building the park and organizing the DC park system, and later the Sweet Water Park Association.