More hardware for Athens football
Golden Eagles' Ezell, McCullough win top 5A back, lineman honors
By Brooke Milam
BIRMINGHAM — Athens High's football team has enjoyed a whirlwind of celebrations following the Class 5A state championship win over Eufaula last Friday.
Team members will be fitted for state championship rings Monday, and the Golden Eagles also will have a formal presentation of the 5A state championship trophy in the coming weeks.
But on Thursday, Athens standouts Alfred McCullough and Rob Ezell received a pair of individual honors. At the Alabama Sports Writers Association's Mr. Football banquet at the Norton Campus Center on the campus of Birmingham-Southern College, McCullough won the 5A Lineman of the Year award, while Ezell took the 5A Back of the Year honor.
Prattville senior quarterback Larry Smith won the 6A Back of the Year and Mr. Football awards. Addison's Blake Turner was a finalist for the 1A Back of the Year award, which Wadley's Terrance Wilkes won.
Standing in a room full of the state's best high school talent and holding their plaques, McCullough and Ezell agreed afterward that the individual honors couldn't top the Golden Eagles' state championship win. However, they added that sharing such an award with a teammate made the occasion even more of an honor.
"Even though Rob claims he beats me in everything ...," McCullough said, smiling.
Athens High scored a double win Thursday. The only other school to claim two winners at the banquet was Bessemer Academy of the AISA.
The last Golden Eagles player up for the Mr. Football award was current San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who won the award in 1999 as an Athens High senior.
Athens coach Allen Creasy said he wasn't surprised that his players were honored, but added that the overwhelming prep football talent in the room Thursday gave perspective to the magnitude of the awards.
“The people they were up there with were quite impressive,” Creasy said. “When the accomplishments of these guys were read, they stood on their own.”
Ezell won the 5A Back of the Year award over UMS-Wright running back Terrell Edwards and Pleasant Grove running back Frank Warren.
He quarterbacked the Golden Eagles to the state title and became the state’s all-time total offense leader as a senior.
McCullough, an Alabama recruit, was chosen the 5A Lineman of the Year over Russellville’s Taz Tillery and Williamson’s Nick Fairley.
“(McCullough and Ezell) do so much more for our team than can be read on a piece of paper,” Creasy said. “I’m thrilled they can be recognized on an individual level for what they’ve done in a team sport.”
McCullough and Ezell said that being honored among the state’s best was a perfect way to cap their senior seasons.
“To have this is something special,” Ezell said. “It says a lot about our team and our program.”
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