Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SPORTS>>Tailback taking next step

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Jacksonville senior Justin Akins is currently putting the finishing touches on an outstanding high school career in football and track. After helping the 2006 Red Devils football team to their second-straight playoff appearance in the fall, Akins is fresh off a pair of meets at Beebe and Jacksonville’s own Red Devil Relays, where he took first place in the 200m dash.

With many seniors across the state already signed to their colleges of choice, Akins has yet to ink for the next four years. He was initially set on Grambling State in Louisiana, but sudden interest from Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., after he had already sent out highlight tapes to several schools forced him to re evaluate things.

“They just came to me out the blue,” Akins said of Lane. “I couldn’t send them a tape because I had already sent them all out, so I would have to try out, but I am leaning towards them. They have a good program for my major, psychology, so I’m looking forward to going there and looking at the campus.”

Akins’ career began further up the interstate in Woodruff County, as a Red Devil of a different sort. He played his freshman year at Augusta, where he started out on the ninth-grade team before being moved to varsity after a breakout performance against North Pulaski. That game at Falcon Stadium resulted in a three-touchdown, 270-yard game that gave Augusta the win, and made the name Akins a buzzword for area pigskin fans. The buzz has only grown over his high school years.

His move to Jacksonville the following summer is actually an interesting study in fate. The original plan was to enroll at North Pulaski in order to start at tailback for the Falcons, but zoning requirements insisted that the young sophomore attend Jacksonville instead. The Falcons, who have struggled through three seasons of tough football, were on the verge of receiving one of the fastest runners in the state, but instead watched the young talent go across town to Jacksonville, who enjoyed a share of the 6A-East Conference title last year. Either way, Akins is glad things ended up working out the way they did.
“I already had friends at North Pulaski, but I had to work my way up at Jacksonville,” Akins said. “I did get some recognition from when I played here with Augusta. People were saying, ‘Aw, that’s that kid that beat North Pulaski by himself.’” When all was said and done, Akins ended up as an All-Conference player for two years at Jacksonville, with All-State honors his senior year.

Now that his playing days are over at Jacksonville, he says he’s hoping for a shot at the big time in the future, as a running back in the NFL. Upon graduation from college, his dream is to reside in Florida and play for the Buccaneers of Tampa Bay. He lists the beach and attractive women as the two major factors regarding his desire to live in the sunshine state. If the glory of professional football escapes him, Akins says he will be content as a high-school teacher. When asked if coaching was an option for him, he was quick to dismiss the possibility.

“I’m not really good at explaining plays to people,” Akins said. “If I did anything like that, it would be as a special teams coach, or a little league football team or something like that. But a high school coach? No. You got people coming up and screaming at you, telling you what all you’re doing wrong, and I just couldn’t take all that.”