Robinson’s Autry had an inner giant
Last in a four-part series looking at some of the student-athletes who are graduating.
At 5-foot-4 and 120 pounds, Deliah Autry didn’t necessarily strike fear into the hearts of opponents during her years as a two-sport athlete at Robinson High.
The combination of her soft voice and studious appearance portrayed a student more familiar with the ins and outs of a library than a locker room.
But after completing a high school career in which she delivered district titles in two sports, she will be remembered as was one of the most accomplished, and unassuming, student-athletes in school history.
Autry, who graduated on Tuesday, threw 92 career touchdowns as the quarterback and captain of Robinson’s flag football team, which she led to back-to-back appearances in the state quarterfinals. The team’s 2012 state quarterfinal appearance was the first in program history. This past season, she accounted for 57 touchdowns and more than 2,100 yards to guide the Knights to a 15-2 record.
Autry played a similar role on the basketball court as the team’s starting point guard and team captain, where she was the leading scorer and assist leader for the second straight season. Robinson won the district championship, the program’s first in more than a decade.
Autry, who finished her basketball career with 823 points and 144 assists, was selected to the 2012-2013 All-Western Conference girls basketball second-team and was named Hillsborough County’s top flag football player by The Tampa Tribune and Florida Athletic Coaches Association. She also was the recipient of the Larmon Furniture Outstanding Flag Football Player of the Year Award, which she accepted during a special ceremony inside the Hillsborough County School District auditorium.
While some would speculate being a flag football quarterback is simple, it wasn’t the case for Autry. Robinson’s coach challenged Autry to call the plays based on her observation of the defense, and she did it without the help of a play wristband.
Her ability to memorize the team’s playbook offers a glimpse into her academic prowess.
Autry was enrolled in Robinson’s International Baccalaureate program and earned a 5.86 grade point average. Also a member of the National Honor Society, she will attend the University of South Florida in the fall to study to be a nurse practitioner.
In order to excel in the classroom and in sports, her routine consisted of team practice after school, going home to complete her homework, and then returning to a gym for an individual workout. During study hall, she would study her team’s playbook.
“A lot of late nights,” said her mother, Lashawn Autry. “It’s challenging. But she’s a trooper.”
“It’s all about being organized and I didn’t let myself get stressed,” Deliah Autry said. “A lot of people have anxiety and I tried to keep myself calm and always motivated myself.”
On the football field and basketball court, Autry showed a different side to herself.
“It’s intense,” said Josh Saunders, Robinson’s flag football coach. “But the voice is still soft and squeaky. When she’s in the huddle, there are times when we try to draw people offside and it doesn’t work so I have to yell at her that it has to be loud. The voice never changes but the competitiveness and intensity and the desire to win has been unmatched for anybody who ever played quarterback for us.”
Autry was also the creative director of the school spirit organization and organized a service project to raise awareness of diabetes, a cause that hit close to home.
“My younger brother, he’s a sophomore at Robinson and he’s a diabetic,” she said. “He was diagnosed about three years ago. My grandma and great-grandma are both diabetics so it meant a lot to me. That’s the first thing I thought of when we had to do a class project for IB. I just wanted to help my brother and help everyone else.”
Being overlooked, Autry said, worked to her advantage.
“I used that as motivation,” she said. “When people underestimate me, it just makes me work twice as hard and I look at it as a good thing.”