By Thomas Sellers Jr.
A clear sign that a high school football team has had a good season is National Signing Day.
Usually a winning season translates into multiple players signing scholarships to the next level. And the Munford Cougars under the guidance of first-year Head Coach JR Kirby experienced that last Wednesday on the campus with four signings. The trio of Xavier Throckmorton, McKenzie Russell and Trae Doty inked national letters of intent to play for Bethel University. Also part of the festivities was Brytain Peddy signing to play for The University of Memphis.
“Personally I’m really happy for these guys,” Kirby said. “It shows they put in the work to get to the next level. It’s been some of their goals and aspirations to do that.
“We’ve talked about it personally,” he added. “Didn’t know if it would happen but for us to get four guys signed today I think says a lot about not just me or the coaching staff, but to these kids buying in and taking it to another level.”
On hand for the signing ceremony were several Munford administrators, the Cougar coaching staff and the players’ teammates. One person in the audience was happy as an alumnus of Munford High School and coach for the Bethel Wildcats.
Paul Frazier played for Munford about a decade ago. He’s been on the coaching staff at Bethel for several years, three seasons under Head Coach Chris Elliot. He noted Bethel was happy to get three players who could address three different areas from one school.
Kirby said Russell, Throckmorton and Doty might play different positions on the field but they all have the mindset of winners.
“They’re going to bring work ethic and something different leadershipwise,” he said. “They’re all three good leaders. Athleticwise they’re all special.
“Doty can be a special team player or linebacker right off the bat,” Kirby noted. “McKenzie is definitely going to bring a threat on the defensive side of the ball. Throckmorton, I think they want him to play some defense especially at corner and maybe possibly in the return game. They’re definitely got three special kids who can play for them and that’s really going to help them. Not just down the line but right now.”
The players said their family, teammates and teachers helped them reached National Signing Day and have a chance to play for the Wildcats. But the trio agreed the day was made possible by the trust Kirby put into them to be leaders in the turnaround of Munford.
The trio of Doty, Russell and Throckmorton were a huge part of the Cougars finishing as runner-ups in District 13-3A in 2014 and reaching the Class 5A playoffs.
Doty was a leader on defense as a linebacker. Russell was an explosive defensive end and linebacker distributing plays. And Throckmorton provided speed and athleticism in the secondary.
“Bethel definitely got three quality guys,” Kirby said.
Russell said National Signing Day was always a dream of his. Doty and Throckmorton acknowledge the lean years at Munford made them doubt they would reach the achievement. But a season under Kirby and the staff change all that.
“Nobody really expected a lot from us because what has happened in the past,” Kirby said. “We just erased the past and went forward. They just went to work and said, ‘We want to be good.’
“Winning is a great testimony to these kids and they’re going to be hard to replace,” he concluded. “I’m happy for them and excited for them representing Munford Football the way its supposed to be.”