Photo: Six Gadsden City High School seniors announced their intention to play football at the collegiate level during a ceremony on Wednesday, February 1 at the GCHS auditorium. Pictured, sitting, from left: Clyde Curry, Steven Jones, Aaron Wood. Standing, from left: Jake Malone, Jackson Veasy, Elijah Taylor. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Several Gadsden City High School seniors secured their academic and athletic futures on Wednesday, February 1.
Six Titan football players either signed scholarships or earned preferred walk-on status. Clyde Curry (signed with Arkansas State), Steven Jones (signed with Georgia Tech), Aaron Wood (signed with Middle Tennessee State), Elijah Taylor (Eastern Tennessee State), Jake Malone (preferred walk-on at Samford University) and Jackson Veasy (preferred walk-on at Jacksonville State) helped the 2022 Titans go 7-5 while earning the program’s first state playoff berth and winning record in six years and winning its first region title since 2014.
“With the transfer portals that college football has, it’s so tough to get a scholarship nowadays,” said GCHS head football coach Ali Smith. “The scholarships these young men signed today did not start with this season. Somewhere along the way, they had family members make a lot of sacrifices to help them get to this day. Each one of these kids made his decision based on not today or tomorrow, but what would be best for them for the next 20 to 30 years.”
Malone was the Titans’ kicker this season on extra points and kickoffs. He made 95 percent of his PAT attempts and averaged 40 yards while splittng time at punter.
“Jake’s really worked his tail off for this,” said Smith. “He’s getting a 100 percent academic scholarship, and he’s got a great future ahead of him.”
A four-year starter on the defensive line, Veasy finished 2022 with 93 tackles, including 21 for loss and 10 sacks. He was named to the first-team Class 6A All-Region 8 and All-Messenger football teams.
“I’d like to see if anyone else in this state has a four-year starter with better film than Jackson,” said Smith. “He has had an amazing career for us, and we’re going to miss him tremendously. Jackson has been amazing in the classroom, in the weight room and on the football field, and has been a pillar for our community. JSU is getting something special.”
Curry led the GCHS receiving corps with a school-record 61 catches for 976 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was selected to the first-team Class 6A All-Region 8 and All-Messenger football teams and participated in the AHSAA North/South All-Star game.
“Arkansas State definitely got a diamond in the rough with Clyde,” said Smith. “The sky is the limit for him. With his size and speed, he’s an exceptional athlete. If he stays healthy and humble and continues to work, I would not be surprised if we see Clyde playing on Sundays (in the NFL).”
At defensive back this past season, Jones had 36 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass break-ups. He was selected to the first-team Class 6A All-Region 8 and All-Messenger football teams and participated in the AHSAA North/South All-Star game. Jones attended Etowah for two years before coming back for his senior season at GCHS.
“First and foremost, Steven’s an amazing person,” said Smith. “He came to football late after being all about basketball, and today is a testament to his hard work. Georgia Tech is getting a high-quality person in Steven, and I have no doubt that he’ll do exceptionally well while he’s there.”
Taylor racked up 100 tackles this past season, including 12 for a loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles. He was picked for the first-team Class 6A All-Region 8 and All-Messenger football teams.
“Elijah is an unreal athlete,” said Smith. “He did an ex-ceptional job for us, and he’s got a tremendous upside. He’s strong and he’s really got a motor, and Eastern Tennessee is fortunate to have someone like him.”
This past season, Wood played tackle, guard and center while not allowing a sack and averaging five pancake blocks a game. He made the Class 6A All-State first team, the Class 6A All-Region 8 first team and All-Messenger football first team and participated in the AHSAA North/South All-Star game.
“When Aaron came to us going into his junior year, he changed our culture in the weight room with how he made kids want to work out,” said Smith. “He came here with a purpose and a vision and was an instant leader for us. He’s definitely passionate about what he does, and I’m excited for what’s in store for him.”
Smith pointed out the consistency of Gadsden City football program producing college signees every year.
“You can’t compare what we do here at Gadsden City when it comes to supporting and promoting our student-athletes on and off the field. Anyone who wants to be the next guy, we’ll give him plenty of opportunities, because the door is open. On and off the field, we’re going to give these kids everything we’ve got while they’re at Gadsden City High School.”