No. 12 Austin Blevins
Schools recruiting: MTSU, UTC, Missouri, Memphis, Southern Miss, Arkansas State, Jacksonville State
It's supposed to be an unlucky number, but I asked for it because I wanted to make it a lucky number for me and my team. It has been on the field so far.
STEVENSON, Ala. - Before he had even begun his freshman year, in the spring of 2009, and while the rest of his classmates stood on the sideline, Austin Blevins was on the field as a starter on one of the area's top high school football programs.
It is rare that a freshman earns a starting role at North Jackson, but coaches knew enough about Blevins' athletic ability and how quickly he adjusted to the faster pace to put him in at cornerback and see how he responded. On the third play of the Chiefs' spring game that year, a sweep came Blevins' way, but the nervous eighth-grader missed the tackle.
When North Jackson opened the following season against cross-county rival Scottsboro, the first play of the game came Blevins' way, but this time he stood his ground and made the tackle for no gain.
"After that the nerves were gone and I just started to believe that I belonged on the field with those older guys," Blevins said. "I just kept learning more from the coaches and my teammates and let my ability take over."
He has started all 33 games of his varsity career, helping the Chiefs average 11 wins a season during that time and claim two region championships. Last season the 6-foot, 190-pound free safety earned all-state honors with eight interceptions, two fumble recoveries, 39 tackles and nine pass break-ups.
He is the area's No. 12-rated prospect on this year's Times Free Press Dynamite Dozen and is being recruited by Missouri, Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee State, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Memphis, Arkansas State and Jacksonville State.
"He's a ballhawk," North Jackson coach Shawn Peek said. "He's just one of those guys that is always around the ball making a play. Whether it's a big hit, an interception or there to pick up a fumble, you know he's going to be one of the guys in on a play.
"He's getting recruited as a safety, but for us he's pretty important on offense too. We'll use him all over the field."
Blevins is the Chiefs' leading returning rusher, with nearly 500 yards and three touchdowns last year, and he has 11 career interceptions. He scored the winning TD against Fairview last year and also had an interception and a fumble recovery in that game.
Coaches were so impressed with his football IQ that he was moved to safety before his sophomore season and allowed to call the defensive alignments, basically becoming the quarterback of one of the area's top-rated defenses. Last month, at MTSU's defensive backs camp, he was singled out for his ability to pick up on assignments and dissect offensive tendencies faster than other athletes.
"I can tell by the way the receivers line up or what formation a team is in which play they're going to run," Blevins said. "I'm pretty good at making adjustments on the fly and getting our guys lined up before the snap, where they can make a play.
"I like being the leader and setting the example."