By the end of next month, South Pittsburg's Jake Stone and Silverdale Baptist's Spencer Mossburg will have accumulated 12 varsity sports letters.
Quarterbacks for successful football teams and point guards in basketball, the two enter baseball's postseason as a middle infielder (Stone) and a pitcher/center fielder (Mossburg). Each also has maintained a 3.5 grade point average, paying the extra-hours price and severely curtailing the "me time" most teenagers enjoy.
They're in smaller schools, where logic would dictate numerous such athletes with similar accomplishments, yet Stone is the only three-sport senior at South Pittsburg and Mossburg is one of just two such athletes for the Seahawks.
"It's a lot harder than most people think," Stone said.
His dad, Wes Stone, who's also his baseball coach, nodded when asked if the age of specialization had hurt.
"Absolutely," he said. "It's like kids playing baseball. They play in high school, they play fall ball and then they play select ball in the summer."
If it isn't specialization with an eye on a college scholarship, then it's the variety of other activity options.
"Kids have so many more things to do nowadays," Coach Stone said. "To play any high school sport now requires a lot of dedication, and a lot of kids aren't willing to put in the time."
Former Red Bank football coach Tom Weathers was among those who encouraged his players to participate in other sports, which in turn helped the basketball, wrestling, baseball and track teams. If his Lions weren't interested in other sports, he demanded that they be in the weight room.
It's the same at South Pittsburg, which has 11 state football finals appearances with six championships. Players get three weeks off after the final game, and then it's the weight room, then spring practice, more weight room, the two-week no-contact period and then shorts and helmets and weight room before fall practice begins.
"Football here is 10 to 10 1/2 months," the elder Stone said.
The three-sport guys, though, avoid much of that.
"I definitely don't have any regrets about playing three sports," said the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Mossburg. "A lot of people say you would be better if you had focused on one or two, but I have gained experience through all three sports. Some things I learned in football have helped in basketball, and some workouts in football can help in baseball. I have no regrets at all."
Said Jake Stone: "I've always wondered what I would've done if I had played just one sport, but I don't have an answer because I've played three sports all my life. I think I would've been better at the one sport if I'd just played one, but I don't regret my decisions."
Each has long been considered a team player and each was an extension of the coaching staff, especially in football and basketball as quarterbacks and point guards.
Mossburg led the area in strikeouts a year ago, but when asked what he relied on as a pitcher, he didn't respond with a story about his best pitch.
"I got a lot of innings last year, and a lot of the credit goes to the coaches and the pitches they called," he said. "A lot of guys want to get up on that mound and strike everybody out. When I'm out there I trust in the ability that God gave me, but I have a lot of trust in the guys around me."
Stone is one of only four Pirates to make all-state in two sports, but when fans at South Pittsburg and Silverdale look back, both Stone and Mossburg will be remembered as well-rounded students and as gifted and versatile, almost one-of-a-kind athletes.
Contact Ward Gossett at email@example.com or 423-886-4765.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...