Jessie aids Hawks on defensive side
SEFFNER - The way Sean Callahan saw it, senior Sherman Jessie had a legitimate beef. So Armwood's football coach aimed to find an amicable solution. Jessie, who was a steady performer for the Hawks offense as a sophomore and junior, entered the 2009 season with ambitions of playing a bigger role. The emergence of sophomore Matt Jones, however, meant that wasn't going to happen. Jessie, who had bided his time behind upperclassmen the previous two seasons, would still be counted on as a role-player, but wouldn't be the every-down back. Jessie understood the decision. After all, he hadn't made good decisions in the classroom, which led to a suspension from team activities during the summer while he got his academics in order. That, in part, opened the door for Jones, he believes. Still, his desire to play more never dissipated. A few weeks into the season, Jessie took his concerns to Callahan, asking his coach how he could get on the field more. Callahan offered what he could."I couldn't promise him any more (touches on offense)," Callahan said, "so the compromise was, 'Why don't you play corner, because we're struggling (there).' " It turned into a blessing in disguise. Jessie not only has helped shore up the Hawks' secondary, but he has evolved into one of the unit's best, according to Callahan. And he's also continued to provide big plays for the offense as well. Case in point was last Friday's playoff win against Largo. Jessie scored a pair of touchdowns - one on offense and one on defense - in the 49-3 romp of the Packers, helping the Hawks advance to Friday's Class 4A regional final at Punta Gorda Charlotte. Callahan didn't have any large expectations when he decided to give Jessie a shot at cornerback. After all, Callahan wasn't even sure if Jessie could make a tackle. "I wasn't sure about tackling, either," Jessie said. It didn't take long, however, for Jessie to make his coach a believer. "I'm not going to let anybody on the field unless I feel that is the best person and I have a chance to win with that guy," Callahan said. "Sherman showed that he wasn't just an offensive guy, that he would stick his face in there and strike you." Jessie, who made his first start at cornerback against Hillsborough, now finds himself in somewhat of an elite group. Armwood hasn't used two-way players very often. Callahan can remember just three this past decade - Chris Murray and Carl Jones in 2000, and Matt Patchan in 2007. However, none of the three played as much on both sides as Jessie, said Callahan, who added Jessie rarely comes off the field now. And that's all Jessie really wanted. "I just wanted to do anything I could do to help the team," Jessie said.
Reporter Adam Adkins can be reached at (813) 259-7616.