Miss-Lou players adapt to college ball

Published 12:02 am Friday, July 4, 2014

NATCHEZ — The realization they were no longer in high school set in quickly for Ishmael Blackmon and Allenzae Staggers after arriving at East Mississippi Community College.

Blackmon, a Cathedral High School graduate, signed to East Mississippi as a slot receiver for the football team. He reported to campus just two days after graduating high school.

Blackmon said he realized quickly the transformation from high school to college.

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“In the classroom, the professors don’t really tell you you have to do the homework, its upon you whether you do it,” Blackmon said. “Football practice is a lot faster paced, and we do a lot more running.

“You either make your time or we start over. If you miss your time by one second, everybody has to start back over.”

Blackmon said he came out of Cathedral well conditioned, but being punished for someone else’s faults was frustrating.

With more than a month under his belt, he said practice is becoming easier because he knows what to expect.

“At first it took me a while because I didn’t expect the linebackers to be so fast,” Blackmon said. “I was catching my balls, but I had to find the holes in the defense more, it wasn’t just about outrunning someone.

“But as time has gone on, I’ve gotten a lot better, and I’ve gotten a little faster.”

Blackmon said his main focus now is showing the coaches he deserves to be on the field come game day.

“We do 7-on-7 Mondays and Wednesdays, and that’s really where the coaches notice you and how much effort you put out,” he said. “The (7-on-7) is a lot harder and faster paced than high school. You have to run your routes really well and find hole in the defense.”

Staggers said he had to transition to a faster paced practice as well. And as an outside receiver, it was about giving 100 percent every day because he wasn’t the top dog anymore like he was at Wilkinson County High School.

“I wasn’t satisfied with how I started off here,” Staggers said. “My routes weren’t perfect, and I knew I had to keep working, but I’m starting to get better.”

Staggers and Blackmon admit they spend a lot of time helping each other develop as players. After all, Miss-Lou players must stick together.

“We decided to room together because we knew each other, and it’s easier that way,” Blackmon said. “We give each other tips on the football field and what works well. We work on our craft a lot outside of practice. We compete on who will have more catches in practice, but we want each other to do well. We’ve all gotten really close and bond together.”

Staggers said they often reminisce about their high school days, and they are pumping each other up in anticipation for East Mississippi’s first game.

But Staggers has an extra incentive to be excited about that game.

“It’s going to be really fun because I’ll be playing against one of my old friends,” Staggers said, speaking of former WCHS running back LaDarion Peterson at Southwest Mississippi Community College. “We talk trash to each other about who’s going to win almost everyday.”

With a competitive season ahead of them, Staggers and Blackmon vowed to stick together at East Mississippi in hopes to represent the Miss-Lou on the football field when they battle against Southwest Aug. 28.