Henry, Nero named All-State

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

ECHS defensive lineman Tyler Nero was named first team All-State.|Photo by Chandler Myers

It was an impressive football season in the Atmore area with the Escambia County Blue Devils pulling off one of their best seasons ever and the Escambia Academy Cougars boasting one of the best rushing offenses in the AISA.

Individually, both teams had players that represented them to the best oftheir abilities everytime they touched the field, which has earned them the distinction of being named first team All-State by the Alabama Sports Writers Association (ASWA).

For the Blue Devils, junior defensive lineman Tyler Nero made his presence known for 13 consecutive weeks as he repeatedly caused havoc for opposing backfields and made the Class 4A team.

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Just down the road at Escambia Academy, junior running back Jaylen Henry was making noise each week by putting up gaudy numbers and accounting for a huge number of touchdowns, which earned him a spot on the AISA team.

For both of these players being named to All-State for the first time is something special that they worked hard to earn.

Nero said it was a great feeling one he had spoken to his father about prior to finding out.

“I was talking to my dad about being named the Atmore Advance’s Defensive Player of the Year and he was telling me how great that was, but that if I were named to the All-State team I would have an even greater sense of accomplishment, so this feels really good.”

For Henry the excitement is just as big because he was not sure whether he would be selected or not.

He said knowing he made it is something he will always be proud of.

“Getting selected to All-State is really a great feeling,” Henry said. “I wasn’t sure if I would make it or not, but knowing that I have is incredible.”

Being his first selection to the All-State team, Henry knows he improved a lot from his sophomore season to his junior year.

He said he thinks the work he put in along with his stats helped him make the team.

“I’ve improved everything about my game,” Henry said. “I run better between the tackles and have gotten better at using my speed to get past defenders. That along with my statistics is what helped me achieve this.”

Earning a selection on the All-State team was a little bit harder for Nero because he did not have the touchdowns to show off like Henry did.

Nero’s work was put in every down by battling offensive linemen week in and week out.

He said he had to improve his strength and techniques to ensure he could make big plays to help his team and his statsheet.

“I felt like I played well enough to make the All-State team, but it took a lot of work,” Nero said. “I wanted to make every rep I could during our workout sessions and go hard every down on the field. I always wanted to do things the right way when I played, so if I messed up on a play I would do it again the same way to get it right.”

The selections of Henry and Nero not only excited them, but their coaches as well.

Cougars head coach Heath Gibson said Henry was deserving of the spot for the season he had.

“Jaylen had an exceptional season for us,” he said. “He grew up a lot this year in terms of running the football especially when it came to running through his offensive line. Last year, he would try to bounce outside and get hemmed up sometimes, but this year he would drop his shoulder and plow right through. He blew up people when he had to and that put a whole new dimension on his running game.”

In Blue Devils head coach Mark Heaton’s eyes, Nero’s mentality is one of things that shows he is a smart choice for the All-State team.

“Tyler’s a well-deserved selection,” Heaton said. “On the field, what he did this year solidifies that. Also his attitude and work ethic are what sets him a part from other people. He has a bright future ahead of him.”

With senior seasons still ahead of them, Atmore’s two All-State players are looking forward to getting back on the field in 2011 to show what improvements they make in the offseason.

Nero said he’d like to improve his strength and become a better teammate for the Blue Devils.

“I’d like to make every rep I can and get stronger and faster,” he said. “I also want to become a better leader for my team.”

Henry’s goals are simple to name, but will be hard to achieve.

He said he wants to make a state playoff run with his team, while gaining more yards and scores.

“I’d like to rush for 3,000 yards and score 40 touchdowns,” he said. “I also want to help EA win a state championship.”

EA Cougars running back Jaylen Henry was named first team All-State.|Photo by Adam Prestridge