By Steve Williams
Jimmy Fowler has had the perfect attitude for this football season at South-Doyle High School, a season that could see the Cherokees finish 0-10 after going 10-0 in 2014.
Fowler was a junior last fall when the going was good. As a senior he has maintained a positive mindset in a much different kind of year and still sees plenty to gain from it.
I certainly came away impressed with the young man after interviewing him following South-Doyle’s 30-7 loss to Halls on Sept. 18.
“Whether you win every game or lose every game, the goal is to be as good as we can be and see how much better we can be at the end of the season than we were at the beginning,” said Fowler, a 6-3, 220-pound defensive end and offensive right tackle.
Fowler has only two home games remaining in his high school career – a battle against West this coming Friday night and a Thursday night TV game against Farragut on Oct. 22.
Seeing the West Rebels is sure to stir some memories of last season for Fowler as it was West which ended South-Doyle’s playoff run in the Class 5A state quarterfinals, handing the Cherokees their only loss after 12 straight wins.
What a memorable season that was.
“I’d have to say my best memory of last year was beating Sevier County to win the IMAC championship and go 10-0,” recalled Fowler with a smile.
Clark Duncan, South-Doyle head coach, met with seniors about providing leadership for this year’s youthful team, which has included a dozen sophomores and a freshman playing regularly.
Four seniors have emerged as leaders – Fowler, Braden Anderson, Keegan Nichols and John Doster – according to Duncan.
Filling this role wasn’t easy at first, said Fowler, because none of the seniors were really used to being leaders.
“Everyone did their jobs so well in the past, we didn’t have to have one or two guys getting everybody going,” said Fowler. “We never had to have that before. Now we’re starting to get the hang of it.”
South-Doyle’s top players last season were experienced and self-motivated. Guys like Brody Rollins, Joc Bruce, Malik Lundy, Shoan Labeoux, Harley Wheeler, Mason McNutt and others.
Fowler said he thinks he’ll be able to look back on this season too with pride in a different way.
“I do,” he said. “It might not show (record-wise) but all of us have grown so much from a maturity standpoint, and that’s team members from all the classes. I think that’s one of the biggest things all of us are going to get out of this year – really growing to become better men and walking through the fire with our heads held high.”
Fowler admitted that last season he could foresee a young, inexperienced team on the horizon for South-Doyle.
“It was in the back of my mind the whole time, but I was just trying to focus on my junior year because I knew it was going to be one of the best years of my life … I was looking forward to this year and I’m still looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Fowler was a team captain each game the first half of this season and that’s not likely to change.
“Jimmy has great leadership skills and work ethic,” said Coach Duncan. “He works hard in the off season and in the weight room. He comes to work in the classroom and is a leader in the hallways. He’s the ultimate student-athlete that exemplifies what you want in your athletes.
“Jimmy is just well-rounded and has great family support. He’s just a great young man.”
Fowler entered the 2015 season as an all-state candidate. He said he is undecided about playing football in college but has spoken with a gentleman from VMI and recently received a text message from the defensive line coach at Maryville College and plans to go to one of the Scots’ games.
For now, his focus is on finishing this season at South-Doyle and helping the Cherokees be the best they can be. Like the captain said, that’s one goal that hasn’t changed.