Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rick Cleveland: Cam is The Man

Don't know how many times I've been asked this lately but it's a lot: Where does Clinton's Cam Akers rank among the high school football players you've seen play in Mississippi?


I saw Walter Payton, Marcus Dupree, Steve McNair, Deuce McAllister, Jarious Norwood, Dontae Walker and so many more.

Until last Friday night's State Class 6A Championship game, I've contended simply that Akers is as good as any I've ever seen. That he belongs in the first sentence of any discussion about the best player in the history of Mississippi high school football.

After Akers accounted for all seven touchdowns in the Arrows' 49-35 victory, he changed my mind. He's the best these eyes have seen. Nobody else could do what Akers did against a fast, well-coached Pearl defense that had given up 22 points in three previous playoff victories.

Akers ran for 217 yards and passed for 228. He also was outstanding at cornerback on defense. Don't know what was more impressive: his sheer speed or his power. Probably, it was the combination of the two.

Invariably, people will counter: “But what about Marcus Dupree? He was fast and he was powerful, and he was a lot bigger than Akers. Willie Morris even wrote a book about him!”

And that's all true, but with Akers, you also have his arm, his passing ability. On the last play of the first half, Akers, while running to his right, flicked a perfectly thrown 45-yard strike to hit a receiver on the run for a touchdown. It was simply an astonishing display. And although it seems set that Akers will play running back in college, but don't ever think he couldn't play quarterback, especially for someone running a spread offense. He definitely could.

But what about Steve McNair, you say? Steve could run with power and speed and he could throw, as well. Yes, he surely could, but at Mount Olive High, Steve played against small school competition. Akers has done what he does against the best of the best. His statistics for his senior season read like something out a superhero comic book: 3,128 passing yards and 31 touchdowns with 2,105 rushing yards and 34 rushing touchdowns. He also had an interception return for a touchdown. That's 66 touchdowns in one season if you are keeping score, and that's what we do in football.

We can only imagine what Akers will do next.

Important to remember: Nothing is assured. Dupree, supremely talented, went off track and then fell victim to a horrible knee injury. Norwood and Walker never became the NFL superstars most would have predicted. Much will depend on Akers' persistence, his work ethic and, then, just plain luck.

Every indication is that Akers has all the intangibles necessary to become truly elite at the next levels. Also important to remember: At similar stages of their careers, Walter Payton and Jerry Rice were virtually unknown. They weren't the biggest, the fastest or most gifted coming out of high school. Payton chose Jackson State over Kansas State. Rice chose Mississippi Valley over the other SWAC schools. Both those Mississippi legends became NFL all-time greats as much because of their will and work ethic as much as anything else. Will Akers possess all that?

His coaches marvel at Akers' will, as much as anything else.

“When Cam makes up his mind to do something, he's just going to do it,” Clinton coach Jud Boswell said. “Nobody is gonna stop him.”

Next? He'll play for the good guys in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game Saturday at Montgomery.

Beyond that? He's got a huge decision to make and he can choose from among any school in the country.

Don't know about you, but I can't wait to watch...

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org

Kingfish note: Akers should convert to tight end in college.  .

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

L.S.U.

Anonymous said...

Too bad we can't seem to keep guys like this in state very often

someoneinnorthms said...

I'm an Ole Miss guy, so it pains me to say it, but if Cam can somehow convince Dan Mullen to a) stay at State for five more years, and b) let him play quarterback, then State would be a great choice for him. Mullen took an unheralded quarterback with similar size and almost as much talent as Cam possess and turned that guy into the NFL MVP.

Anonymous said...

Akers is very talented. I would not rank him in my top three players that I have seen. 6A football in Mississippi has been in a talent lull the past few years. It the late 1990's, Mississippi football had a lot of great talent. Not so much now.

Akers will be a good SEC player, but no star. I have my doubts that he will play in the NFL.

Anonymous said...

Has Miss State even been recruiting him ? Per the Clarion Ledger article today, State is not on either his long list or short list of schools he's considering.

Anonymous said...

He's 5'11-6'0, and you want him to convert to tight end? I don't understand the logic, especially when you consider his game breaking ability with the ball handed or snapped to him, and most tight ends are 6'3 plus.

65 touchdowns is 65 touchdowns. He's already heavier now than Norwood was in the pros, so durability won't be near the issue.

Anonymous said...

I have also seen some great high school football players perform in Mississippi. There is no need to publish the list. I will simply say that the two best I have ever seen, considering all of the facts and circumstances, are Marcus Dupree and Cam Akers. Anyone, in my opinion, who things Cam will not be a star in D-1 football probably has his or her head in the sand. Aside from his physical attributes, Cam has the intangibles that great players have. He is smart, well behaved, driven and understands where he is in life. Stated simply, Cam would be a star at Alabama or anywhere else. He is top shelf. By the way, I live in Ridgeland, not Clinton.

Anonymous said...

I must agree with Rick's analysis and make the same argument that Cam is one of the very few players in the country who can be an elite (5 star) type at several positions. This year and last he was the best player in this state at quarterback while being projected as one of the nation's very best running back prospects. He did all this taking a somewhat ordinary Clinton team without a defense to the State championship. If he continues as a quarterback, he will be one of the most dangerous players in the country, but his pro prospects might be limited. It's easy to talk about Walter, Jerry Rice, Archie, Bret and all the rest after illustrious pro careers but at this state none had so dominated top competition like Cam.

Anonymous said...

The TE reference went right over @2:57's head.

Anonymous said...

This year and last he was the best player in this state at quarterback ...

No he wasn't. The best multi-threat athlete? Probably. The best QB? Nope.

Kingfish said...

He is best suited to be a tight end.

Anonymous said...

I see 20 high school games a year. Cam Akers is very good. But he ain't in the same league as Dupre, et al. He might be solid in the SEC, maybe not. Ms football has not been very good the past few years. Look at how little our recent Dandy Dozen have accomplished.

The SEC is the real world fellas, Ms high school is not.

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