For the second straight year, there is a finalist for the Warrick Dunn Player of the Year Award from Riverside Academy. All-State linebacker Evan Veron has been starting for the Rebels since the 8th grade, and in 2015 he had 135 tackles.
"You get lucky every once in a while as a coach, to be able to coach a guy for four years with this type of passion. You know it is life to him," said Riverside head coach Bill Stubbs.
Of his 135 tackles, 60 percent of those hits were solo and 30 percent were behind the line.
"You can ask my parents. I was kind of a crazy child running around with my head cut off," said Veron. "Once I got to Riverside it mellowed it out, kind of evened it out. Because my freshman year I was running around trying to tackle people, not learning the game of football."
"He don't stop. He's a guy that's just going to practice the way he plays on Friday night," said Stubbs. "And good gracious, as a coach if you can get that out of kids. That type of leadership was important for us."
From a 1-point loss in the season opener to 5A finalist John Ehret, where he scored one of his three defensive touchdowns, to a date in the Superdome for the Division III finals, where he suffered his only other loss, Veron was always making big hits. It's fair to say Veron spent his senior season terrorizing opposing quarterbacks and impressing nearly every single opposing coach.
"Coach Nelson at Newman. The list can go on and on. Nelson said 'Best defensive player' he's ever coached against," said Stubbs. "He plays the game like they used to play in the 50's and 60's and 70's. You know he's got a lot of sparks off of him, and he's going to let them fly. But being able to do it under control and do it inside the scheme, that's a completely different thing and to do it like he does on a regular basis."
"I just play with a motor non-stop, and I just gotta rely on my teammates. It's not a one-man job," said Veron. "If you don't have a good relationship with the man alongside you, how can you rely on them on third down. Hustle. Like a said you gotta be tough."
"Second or third ballgame we found out he's got broken bones in his foot. Evan's the type of guy you cut his arm off he's going to play," said Stubbs.
"When I hit that dude, I kinda blacked out for a little after that. Like I didn't even know I hit the dude like that, I didn't even know I hit him that hard," said Veron. "When I woke up, I was just ready to get back in. After seeing it after the game, I was like yeah... pretty big hit."
The winner of the Sportsline Player of the Year Award will be announced at this year's Warrick Dunn banquet on Wednesday, January 27.
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