2009 All-Metro: Trinity’s Fleming, King take top honors in 2009

Published 5:34 pm Thursday, December 24, 2009

NATCHEZ — The 2009 Trinity Episcoal Saints state championship football season can be boiled down into two things — hard work and leadership.

The hard work came courtesy of head coach David King and the leadership was exhibited by standout senior running back R.J. Fleming.

And it’s for those two reasons, along with some extraordinary talent, that King and Fleming have been named the 2009 All-Metro Coach and Player of the year.

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Fleming followed in the mold of former Trinity stars Chad and Stevan Ridley, rushing for 1,765 yards and 29 touchdowns and also throwing for 507 yards and five touchdowns.

But more importantly than his gaudy statistics, Fleming was similar to the Ridleys in his leadership ability.

“We challenged him, told him nobody can question his talent,” King said. “The key was, is he going to be like Chad Ridely and Stevan Ridley before him, and lead his team to a state championship run. There’s no question he was going to be as good as anybody on the field any night. But I think after that Centreville game, (a 27-6 loss) he realized he was going to have to be the one that kept us together on that field. And he did a great job with that.”

Fleming said taking leadership of the team was one of the things he really worked on this year with the coaches help.

“I have a lot of memories but most important one was just the practices and days before practices when coaches would challenge me telling me I was a leader on the team I had to do certain things,” Fleming said. “When I get out there the speeches I’d make to my teammates to get them motivated for practice for that week of the game are some of the best memories I ever had. There were times, when the coaches would sit me down in (the coaches office). They had to make me realize the things I didn’t realize before. They really brought out the real inside of me.”

And Fleming had some good teachers in some former Trinity greats to learn from.

“Stevan Ridley and Parker Brumfield, I used to ride home with them everyday after practice,” Fleming said. “They’d sit there and tell me why they yelled at me in practice, why they did this to me in the game. And now it’s finally hitting me, and I tell those players under me, that’s why I did it to them.”

In addition to bring a new leadership quality to this year’s Trinity team, Fleming was motivated to perform at another level after a knee injury hampered him greatly in the latter stages of his junior season.

“I felt like last year it got down to the nitty gritty and my knee wouldn’t let me do certain things I’m capable of doing,” Fleming said. “This year bouncing back from it I felt like whenever it got to that point in time, it was something I had to do, step up and take over this team. They’ve always told me whenever it got down to nitty gritty I’d have something to do with it, but this year it really hit me, with it being my senior year and everything. It was something I had to do because it was my senior year and everyone relying on me.”

While Fleming brought the leadership to the 2009 Saints, the work ethic was brought by a coach who demands the same effort and intensity from his team that he does himself.

King has won three state championships at Trinity — in 2001, 2006 and 2009 — but he is still haunted by the one in 2003 that the Saints lost, and that feeling continues to drive him.

“The unfortunate circumstance of being a high demanding coach is that I don’t think about the ones I’ve one, think about the ones I’ve lost,” King said. “That’s a sad way to go through your way but how I push myself. As soon as we walked off that field (after winning the 2009 state title last month), someone said you just got your third and I immediately said it should have been our fourth. I think about that 2003 team and it motivates me every time I go out there. The wins are great for the kids, but what motivates me is we lost in 2003 and I never want to have that feeling again.”

And one of the ways that King tries to assure he won’t have that feeling again is to outwork his opponents, something he has been very successful at.

“First off, I know I’ve been lucky with the players I‘ve had,” King said. “God has blessed me with some good players and good kids. But I’ve also worked extremely hard. Nobody outworks us. I’m not a special coach by any stretch, but we’re up here every day except for Christmas and my wife’s birthday or something like that.