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From Raiders to Panthers

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Hawkes and Jones hit the college gridiron

By The Staff

By LARRY SULLIVAN, JR.

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Special to The Trimble Banner

Former Trimble County High School football stars Justin Hawkes and Corey Jones are shinning bright outside their hometown.

Since graduating last year, Hawkes has taken his Raider experience across the river to play safety for Hanover College in Indiana. And Jones now holds his own as a defensive tackle for Kentucky Wesleyan.

At TCHS, both players received all-state honorable mention and made first team all-district and conference in their senior year. Now, as college student athletes, the young men have proven they can excel anywhere.

The history of Hawkes

Justin Hawkes was born in Amarillo, Texas. As a first-grader, he moved to Trimble County with his parents, Eric and Michelle.

Growing up, he loved football. At just 5-years-old, he was a star in the making on the field. Later, still an elementary school student, he strapped on the pads for the first time to play a successful stint in the local Little League. Over the years, he racked up awards ranging from individual honors to a team championship while in the 8th grade at Trimble County Middle School.

But as a freshman at TCHS, Hawkes felt the agony of defeat every time he and fellow players suited up. As a high school student, he was now part of a Raider squad that struggled unsuccessfully all season to bring home a win. Disappointed as he was, his love for the game and the introduction of coach Johnny Poynter kept him on the field despite the losses.

Things began to look up when, in his sophomore year at TCHS, Hawkes was part of the supporting class that helped snap the school’s 27-game losing streak. By the end of his second season, Hawkes and the team still had work to do, however had made major improvements on the way to winning a trio of match-ups.

The 2006 season brought Hawkes and his teammates even more to celebrate. The Raiders were becoming a force to be reckoned with as they closed out their first winning season in years, finishing with a record of 7-4.

The hard work of Poynter’s Raiders continued to pay dividends in Hawkes’ senior year. Along with being named to the state and district teams, he celebrated a 7-5 Raider season that included the first playoff win in Trimble’s history.

Hawkes “really matured through the time I was here…He was a great leader and a hard worker. He loved to hit, which is a key element to playing college football,” Poynter said in a recent interview. “He is really smart and has excelled in academics. He is a very respectful young man.”

Although 2008 was not a stellar season in Hanover football, the team wrapped up the season with a 2-7 record, Hawkes is grateful for the experience he gained as a college athlete. An illness sidelined him for several weeks and left a mark on his playing time, however, as a back-up safety and special teams starter, he ultimately played in six of the squad’s games.

“I’ve learned a lot. It’s not Friday night football. It’s a totally different atmosphere. They expect you to know the game well already. As far as being physical, I was just as physical as they were when I first came in,” Hawkes said.

Although Hawkes parents miss having their older son at home, both are proud of his successes in the class and on the football field.

“He understands what he needs to do to be successful. He was a little disappointed in his playing time, but has accepted his role and has a great positive attitude,” Michelle Hawkes said of her son recently.

“I’m mighty proud of him. It’s cool to see his games and it’s only half an hour away from the house,” Eric Hawkes said. “But now I can’t wait for [his younger brother] Bo to get out,” he joked.

Hawkes said he looks forward to playing next season and anticipates seeing twice as much time on the Panther field next year.

Jones excels on the field

Corey Jones has been running plays on the football field for 14 years.

Born and raised in downtown Louisville, he had his first taste of the game playing Pop Warner football in and around the Louisville area.

One of his first coaches was known for once calling the shots for current Oakland Raider Michael Bush, a Male High School graduate and University of Louisville standout. Jones said the coach once called him “the best player I’ve ever coached at this level,” giving him the motivation needed to play his best, as well as to aspire to become the first member of his family to earn a college degree and play college ball.

It was not until the end of his sophomore year that Jones joined the TCHS Raiders, transferring from Louisville’s Shawnee High School. He was quickly welcomed on the team, and in his junior year helped earn the local boys their first winning season in several years.

A dedicated player, Jones found success as a middle linebacker when a teammate’s injury his senior year led to the position switch mid-season. Of the 165 tackles he was credited with in two years at the school, nearly two-thirds of those came in his final season.

Jones’ parents, Joe and Terri Simpson, said they are proud of his success on the field, and believe the sport he loves may be the key to his education.

“I’m really glad he’s playing football because maybe that will give him the desire to continue doing well in college,” Joe Simpson said.

“He loves football. He would play it all day on video games if he could,” added Terri Simpson.

Jones considered Campbellsville, Eastern Kentucky and Kentucky State when looking for a place to further his education and football career, however settled on Kentucky Wesleyan almost immediately after touring the school’s beautiful campus, he said.

With the help of his brothers, he continued the physical workout routines he learned at TCHS and was ready for the next level when he attended Wesleyan’s training camp last August.

In his first season as a Wesleyan Panther, Jones performed well on the field. Putting stats on the board in eight of the team’s 10 battles, he was responsible for 19 tackles, including 10 solo and one tackle for a loss of yards. He also recorded one sack as the team went 4-6 on the season.

“I’m really proud of what he accomplished,” Poynter said of Jones. “[As a Raider] he led more by example than with words. He was always looking to do what was right. Words can’t totally describe this boy. He put in so much effort to get to the college level…to get his starting spot in college. Overall he is the best lineman I have ever coached.”

Jones said, “It’s been a very long run and I have had a lot of help along the way. Joe, Terri, Coach Poynter and God have given me a great opportunity…I want to make my family back in Louisville proud.”

Jones’ future plans include earning his college degree and “hopefully making it to the pros.” He said he would also like to work with Poynter one day, before returning to the sidelines as a high school football head coach.