At La­mar, de­fen­sive backs take pride in long legacy of suc­cess at po­si­tion

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Adam Cole­man adam.cole­man@chron.com twitter.com/chron­cole­man

At La­mar, “DB High” is in the mid­dle of its golden age, and play­ers take pride in it.

ATues­day morn­ing prac­tice is min­utes old, and La­mar’s de­fen­sive backs are al­ready on the field do­ing what they do best. lit­tle boast­ing turns into ac­tion. Some­one said he was faster than ev­ery­one. That’s all it took.

Se­niors Quan­tis Gal­loway, Zion Bur­rell and a few other play­ers im­me­di­ately meet at the other end of the field. They get on the line and point to a coach, hop­ing to get an ob­jec­tive of­fi­cial.

“All of them said they were faster than me, which I am the fastest on the team,” cor­ner­back Gal­loway said. “They thought they were faster than me.”

The im­promptu foot race is bro­ken up by coaches be­fore it even starts, but it won’t be long be­fore the com­pet­i­tive spirit finds this group of de­fen­sive backs again.

Af­ter all, this is the essence of “DB High,” which is in the mid­dle of its golden age.

Se­niors An­thony Cook and D’Shawn Jami­son are two of the most cov­eted re­cruits in the coun­try. Re­cruit­ing an­a­lysts call Cook the em­bod­i­ment of an elite cover cor­ner. Jami­son brings his nick­name “Shark” to life at safety and nick­el­back in var­i­ous de­fen­sive pack­ages.

The cur­rent play­ers rat­tle off the names be­fore them with rev­er­ence for each one.

Be­fore Holton Hill was at Texas, he led the state with 11 in­ter­cep­tions as a se­nior in 2014.

They talk about John Bon­ney, who is at Texas and had four district cham­pi­onships, 45 wins and six in­ter­cep­tions to his name.

They watched Trevon Lewis’s 2016 sea­son that cul­mi­nated in a Touch­down Club of Hous­ton De­fen­sive Player of the Year honor and Bay­lor schol­ar­ship.

Lo­gan Latin and Jor­dan Stevens’s lead­er­ship in the se­condary is re­mem­bered fondly. Latin nabbed four picks and re­turned one for a score as a se­nior in 2015.

Trey Dun­can — now at Ten­nessee State — re­turned three in­ter­cep­tions for touch­downs in 2014.

‘DB High’

There is a pride in play­ing de­fen­sive back at La­mar that could be mis­taken for cock­i­ness. La­mar de­fen­sive backs coach Theadis Rea­gins had red shirts made with the phrase “DB High” across the front. He wants the play­ers to em­brace the tra­di­tion.

“It was known,” Cook said. “It was known as soon as we stepped in prac­tice that DBs, they go to col­lege here.”

The im­promptu race that never was tells more about play­ing the po­si­tion at this school than any game film could. Bur­rell said if the de­fen­sive backs take it light on each other, they’ll take it light on game day.

Many of La­mar’s best ath­letes are in­tro­duced to play­ing de­fense when they first ar­rive, and Rea­gins be­lieves it helps the po­si­tion thrive.

Then there’s the talk­ing. Rea­gins points to one-on-

one drills with the re­ceivers in prac­tice. His play­ers love go­ing against Texas pledge Al’vonte Woodard. They hate to lose. They want brag­ging rights against the re­ceivers. They may want brag­ging rights against each other even more.

It trans­lates to the game and has for years at La­mar.

“When it comes to prac­tice, those guys talk be­fore prac­tice and talk af­ter prac­tice,” Rea­gins said. “A lot of times af­ter prac­tice, they can’t wait to get back out there the next day if they lose.”

Seek­ing best com­pe­ti­tion

When told about the im­promptu af­ter-prac­tice race, Rod Babers laughed.

It re­minded him of the days he and Gerome Sapp roamed the La­mar se­condary in the late 1990s.

In the early days of 7-on7 foot­ball, Babers and Sapp would drive to North Shore just to test them­selves against re­ceivers. They wanted the best.

Coaches might warn play­ers of pay­ing at­ten­tion to press clip­pings these days. Not Babers and Sapp. They looked at ev­ery­thing from Dave Camp­bell’s Texas Foot­ball mag­a­zine to the lo­cal news­pa­per. They wanted to know who the best re­ceiver was, hop­ing they’d run across him.

They didn’t like see­ing even one name above theirs in player rank­ings, ei­ther.

“‘Oh there’s a DB they think is bet­ter than me?’” Babers would say.

They wanted the at­ten­tion, too. They wanted their foot­ball rep­u­ta­tion to fol­low them to track meets, and then they wanted to dust ev­ery­one in the 200-me­ter race.

They wanted to beat each other — badly. Babers would take it per­son­ally when Sapp had a faster time than he, and he’d let him know he didn’t like it.

This at­ti­tude shaped La­mar’s legacy at de­fen­sive back, and it trans­lated to game day then like it does to­day. Babers rode that at­ti­tude to Texas, while Sapp went to Notre Dame. Both ended up in the NFL.

“I think guys have an al­ter ego when they go out there, man. I did,” Babers said. “I’m sure An­thony Cook has one, too. I was Black Cae­sar, man. I would change into a dif­fer­ent per­son.”

Rea­gins said that style may clash with long­time head coach Tom Nolen’s old-school ap­proach, which is more about sub­stance than swag­ger. But the head coach is ac­cept­ing, and ev­ery­one likes the re­sults.

Babers said it was the same way with Nolen dur­ing his hey­day.

Pass­ing the torch

Cook and Jami­son speak about the un­der­class­men con­tin­u­ing the tra­di­tion. The con­stant pass­ing of the torch is a key com­po­nent for foot­ball fac­to­ries.

Ju­nior Alex Ho­gan will be the vet­eran next year. Sopho­more Joseph Wil­son and fresh­man Jalen Emery will hold that re­spon­si­bil­ity one day.

Emery is well aware of what it takes to stick at de­fen­sive back at La­mar and notes that any foot­ball player there should be ex­cited to be in the se­condary. Wil­son agrees.

“Noth­ing is given here,” Wil­son said. “You have to earn ev­ery­thing. You take it se­ri­ous and learn from the up­per­class­men.”

Alex Ho­gan, from left, D’Shawn Jami­son, Quan­tis Gal­loway, Zion Bur­rell and An­thony Cook are the cur­rent stars of La­mar’s “DB High,” the nick­name given to the school known for

pro­duc­ing qual­ity de­fen­sive backs. “It was known as soon as we stepped in prac­tice that DBBs, they go to col­lege here,” Cook says.

Tim Warner

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