Linemen unfazed by lack of publicity

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

They have funny nicknames like “Hogmolly” and “Big Uglies.” They wallow around in the muck and mire with one desire — to hit the man across from them.

Rarely do they seek out publicity, knowing from the start of their football careers that being an offensive lineman is kind of like being a car’s transmission — when it’s working, no one notices, but once it breaks down, the car ceases to move.

Being an offensive lineman is a thankless job, but one most of them wouldn’t give up for anything.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“I’ve been playing offensive and defensive lines since I was 9, so it is nothing new to me,” said hulking St. Aloysius lineman Cole Whitney. “The other players know that it begins with us and when they score it’s because we did our job.”

But now, for the first time in at least two decades, the thankless men in the thankless position got their due. This is the year of the offensive linemen in The Vicksburg Post and lineman adorn the cover for the first time in history.

“It’s about time and long overdue,” said first-year St. Aloysius head coach B.J. Smithhart, a former standout lineman at Warren Central.

Linemen have been called names since announcers began calling games. Keith Jackson, the pre-eminent college football announcer, referred to them as Big Uglies, always wearing the filthiest uniforms caked in mud and blood. On the professional level, announcer John Madden hands out turkey legs on Thanksgiving to the most valuable players. More than once the legs have been awarded to the offensive line.

The nicknames don’t bother any of the six linemen on the cover of this section. The more anonymous the better.

“We don’t have any nicknames for ourselves,” Warren Central’s Jonathan Chaney said. “It’s all good out here.”

Anonymous, maybe, but important?


Michael Fields, coach of Hinds AHS, played running back at Mississippi College then spent some time in the Canadian Football League. He said for a running back, nothing is more important than the linemen.

“The bottom line is running backs, receivers and quarterbacks get all the glory, but offensive linemen win the game,” Fields said.

Usually Fields’ sentiments are echoed by running backs on every level. Skill players routinely thank the offensive linemen after games, at least getting a mention in the morning’s newspaper.

“We get plenty of credit over at Porters Chapel,” Caze Brewer said. “Our running backs always give us credit so we will keep blocking for them.”

This year’s cover crew is no exception.

• Jimmie White, a junior at Hinds AHS, is the War Dawgs’ most seasoned lineman on a team searching for an identity. By hulking lineman standards, he is small, but uses his quickness and power to foul up many an offensive play.

“We work together really well as a team,” White said. “It’s fun coming off the ball, attacking the defense.”

• Whitney is the largest of St. Al’s linemen and will be a key cog in the Flashes’ season. With dual-threat quarterback Chris Lewis, fullback Justin Hosemann and running back Ryno Martin-Nez, Whitney will be called on to clear the way.

“It’s good to get some recognition,” Whitney said. “It’s a first.”

• The largest of the crew, by far, is Vicksburg’s Jarvis Holmes. The 6-foot, 5-inch 300-pounder is soft-spoken off the field, but far from timid on it. He is one of four Vicksburg High offensive linemen returning from last year’s playoff team.

“All we have to do is go out and do our jobs,” Holmes said. “That’s what we do.”

• Chaney is one of Warren Central’s most experienced linemen and will help clear the way for 2,000-yard rusher Joel Forbes.

“We may not get our names in the newspaper, but everyone knows that we are out there doing what we have to do,” Chaney said.

• Porters Chapel’s Brewer has a friendly smile and a swath of red hair, but on the field he transforms into a hitting machine, seeking out anyone in a different colored jersey to knock around.

“You have to have a lot of technique to play well on the line,” Brewer said. “It’s a lot more complicated than it looks.”

• Darren Lott of Tallulah Academy is the smallest of the cover linemen and doesn’t speak much. He prefers the country life and lighting up opponents to running his mouth.

“We work just as hard as the running backs, but we don’t get the glory they do,” Lott said. “I think it’s good to get the offensive linemen in there to get some recognition.”

Porters Chapel and Tallulah have already played one game this year and the rest will begin play on Friday. And whether one refers to them as a big ugly or a hogmolly, they’ll go out with the same goal, the same intensity as ever.

“Without them, you don’t have a chance,” Fields said.