Prep football: Jefferson’s Havard in recruiting limbo after leg injury

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2005

Just like any other carry before, Ernest Havard knew he had to see the field, keep his feet moving and never, ever give up until the whistle blew.

That attitude and ability was what attracted college coaches to the running back at Jefferson County. The 6-1, 205-pound running back with compact size, strength, quickness and the tools necessary to possibly play at the next level had dreams of doing just that.

The letters kept trickling in &045; Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Vanderbilt, Southern Miss, USC, South Carolina, Tennessee and Auburn.

Email newsletter signup

Havard took a handoff on a busted play in Week 3 against Velma Jackson, but he didn’t give up. He broke through a couple of tackles and had about 10 yards before carrying two would-be tacklers for a couple more yards.

Then a defensive lineman came in, got under his feet and all Havard felt was pain &045; a fracture in his right leg.

The interest from the colleges, as a result, all but stopped.

Havard spent the next seven weeks on crutches, never played another down of high school football again but still held on to his goal. With National Signing Day coming Wednesday, the senior has some interest &045; Alcorn State and Co-Lin &045; and wants to just prove he can still do it.

&uot;It just slowed down real fast &045; everything came to a pause,&uot; Havard said. &uot;They probably believe I still can, but they probably don’t want to take a chance. It’s still a goal. I have dreams of playing beyond the college level, too. I think I know what it takes to get there.&uot;

Havard is one of a handful of prep football stars in the Miss-Lou hoping to sign someone’s dotted line either Wednesday or a short time thereafter. The Jefferson County star could be the only Division I signee this season after the area had five sign with Division I clubs last year.

Havard just hopes to not fall through the cracks.

&uot;I feel like he could go as far as his mind tells him to go,&uot; Jefferson County head coach Jeffrey Harness said. &uot; He’s the best I’ve seen. Those schools who didn’t give him a chance, they’re missing out on something special.

&uot;When they were able to come down and visit with him in the spring, they were interested. They contacted us during the beginning of the season. After he got injured, all of it stopped. It just ceased.&uot;

Everyone backed off &045; including State, Havard’s favorite at the time &045; but Alcorn and Co-Lin. Coaches at Co-Lin put him on their protected list along with teammates Anthony Chambliss and Steven King.

Havard hopes that could be a springboard to get to that Division I-A level &045; but Havard is quick to point out he may be equally happy playing at Alcorn.

Right now it’s a matter of getting back full strength to do his best wherever he goes. He was at 4.5 seconds in the 40 before the injury.

&uot;I recovered from it pretty quick,&uot; Havard said. &uot;I’m almost 100 percent. I’ve just got to work a little harder. I’m in the weight room, lifting about every day, jogging and doing a whole lot of stretching. My speed hasn’t dropped any. I still have the same ability.&uot;

He’s worked hard to get back and still has a little ways to go, Harness said. Here was a guy who racked up 1,300 yards as a junior and had his sights on at least 1,500 as a senior before the injury.

Now it’s a matter of not losing focus despite the injury. Havard said he’s not holding any grudges toward schools who lost interest, but it sure is motivation to get back.

&uot;Since the doctors cleared him, he’s been in the weight room lifting weights every day,&uot; Harness said. &uot;He can run full speed, but we’re taking him slow. He understands that’s how things go. Of course, he wanted to play at that level and may still be able to play at that level. He wants to show he can play at the next level, and I believe he’s going to do that.&uot;

Natchez High

The Bulldogs are awaiting word if they’ll have any players sign Wednesday. The team had just six seniors this season, and Co-Lin has only seldom-used linebacker Jeremy Williams on its protected list.

Williams, the son of former North Natchez and NFL standout James Williams, played in three games at middle linebacker for the Bulldogs as a senior after starting for the Bulldogs the season prior.

The 6-4, 215-pound Williams left the team for academic reasons, head coach Lance Reed said.

&uot;He played a little bit,&uot; Reed said. &uot;He started with us around the fourth or fifth game of the year. He had played a bunch for the team from last year. He decided to finally come out and play. Talent-wise, he’s a talented kid with good size.&uot;

Outside of Williams, the Bulldogs had just six seniors this season and may not have anyone sign with a college Wednesday. Quarterback Riley Trask, receiver Charles Cothern and running back Travis Washington have garnered some interest from Co-Lin and other junior colleges.

Trask and Washington have also drawn interest from Co-Lin.

&uot;Those guys only have a certain amount of scholarships, and they try to be creative in getting kids in school over there,&uot; Reed said. &uot;If we can’t get those guys by signing day, we’ll do our best to get them in school. We’re just kind of waiting to see how things turn out.&uot;

Franklin County

All-Metro Player of the Year Jasper O’Quinn has committed to Delta State and will make it official at 10 a.m. Wednesday, head coach Anthony Hart said.

Three other Bulldogs are set to sign with Co-Lin &045; running back Deandre Davis, defensive back Jonathan Brooks and offensive lineman Kyle Tutor. Davis and Brooks were on the Wolves’ protected list, but Tutor was not.

O’Quinn (5-10, 180), who moved from running back to quarterback his senior season at the Meadville school, will likely play defensive back at DSU.

&uot;They said he was one of their top five guys,&uot; Hart said.

Centreville Academy

Running back Blake Devall was poised to be another Division I signee as he was on the radar of coaches at Southeastern Louisiana, but his status now is up in the air.

Devall, who played both running back and linebacker, caught the eye of former head coach Hal Mumme and his staff during summer camp there. Mumme left last month for New Mexico State.

&uot;I talked to Southeastern this morning, and we sent them some more tapes to look at,&uot; Centreville head coach Bill Hurst said. &uot;I talked to (assistant) coach (Steve) Highsmith. Blake wanted to play at Southeastern. When they changed coaches, they said they didn’t have films anymore. He just got caught up in a coaching change.&uot;

Two other players are trying to get on at Southwest Mississippi Community College, Hurst said. Cody Shipley and Blake Crawford attended tryouts but were not on the school’s protected list.

Also, quarterback Jennings Field is scheduled to visit Mississippi College, Hurst said.


The Rams hope to have someone signing with a college this week. Defensive lineman Lavalle Johnson and offensive linemen Derek Tubbs and Clay Bryant have received some attention from Southwest and Delta State, but the jury’s out as to how things will fall this week.

The Rams had Dustin Dor sign with Southwest last season.

&uot;With Derek, you’ve got a kid who can move a whole house but doesn’t fit the stereotype,&uot; WCCA head coach Paul Hayles said. &uot;He’s not 6-5. All three of those guys will make somebody really good athletes. It’s just a matter of who’s willing to give them an shot.&uot;