By Bill Renje
LOVEJOY, Ga. — Of the many hats worn by Lovejoy assistant coach Derrick Smith, one is maintaining the equipment for over 100 Wildcat football players.
When Smith gave instruction to the players after practice last week on the need to properly make sure their face masks were tightened, the helmet he used as an example belonged to starting left tackle, senior Tre’mond Shorts.
From the contact during spring practice and the first couple of weeks in full pads, through to the Wildcats scrimmage against Woodland, the helmet worn by the 6-foot-4, 315 pounder has given out quite a beating and was the perfect example to be used by Smith.
That example illuminates the time and work put in by Shorts, considering that helmet saw no action towards the end of the 2015 season, as Shorts struggled and was benched for the last four games. While some players would’ve sulked, quit or transferred, Shorts committed himself mentally, physically and spiritually to get to the point where he’s looked upon as a team leader on the field, in the classroom and in the hallways of Lovejoy High School.
“He’s a great kid who we’ve never had any issues with,” head coach Ed Carson said. “I think a light switch went off, and he saw the light. He struggled last year. He struggled a lot. But he came back and worked extremely hard.
“Once last season ended, from January until now, he’s been a hard worker, very consistent. So we’re looking for great things from him.”
Smith also praised his senior tackle’s well roundedness beyond football.
“Not only is he a leader on the field, he’s a leader off the field,” Carson said. “He’s in ROTC. He’ll stand up kids in the school. So I’m excited to see him continue to lead, and I’m excited to see him play.”
For his offseason efforts, Shorts was named to the pre-season All-South Metro first team by the Southern Crescent Buzz. The thought of quitting never entered his mind even as his junior season ended in disappointment.
Raised by his mother, stepfather and grandmother, he draws on lessons learned from his grandfather who passed away when Shorts was only seven-years-old.
“I love football and wasn’t going to give up, no matter what happens,” Shorts said. “My grandfather instilled in me right before he died to never give up and to keep fighting. I learned not to get relaxed, to keep going hard and not give up, because at any moment you could be on the bench. I’m not going to stop (with being named All-South Metro). I want to make the All-State team.”
Shorts has grown spiritually as well.
He’s always on time, and a faithful attendee to the weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meetings at the school. He took part in a weekly leadership group over the summer, and was named to the Lovejoy FCA leadership team for the 2016-17 school year.
He’ll also be looked up to as a leader on the field while protecting the blindside of his young sophomore quarterback Jordan Huntington.
“I want to keep him uplifted,” Shorts said. “If he makes a bad play or throws an interception, I want to let him now its ok. That we’ve got to get ready for the next play. We can always go back later and try to correct our mistakes. But when we’re out there, we’ve got to stay positive and get ready for what comes next.”
Offensive coordinator Brandon Byram agreed that with a young quarterback, he needs Shorts to keep the unit level and protect their blindside physically as well as mentally.
“We’re looking for Shorts to give the offense a voice — a rather large physical voice and Tremond is the perfect candidate to do that,” Byram said. “His task as a senior is to give this offense that voice. Without him, we’re kind of mute and we don’t have as much direction. But he has great direction as far as where he wants to go.”
Shorts eventually wants his football career to go to college where he can show his ability to play at the next level. Right now, he has a scholarship offer from East Tennessee State.
“His best football is ahead of him,” added Carson. “I think the sky is the limit for him.”