Local athlete is leaving his mark at South Alabama

Published on September 18, 2013 with No Comments

Over 17,000 plus University of South Alabama fans cheered U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A, Saturday night in Mobile.

It was kind of fitting since the mascot of Western Kentucky is called Big Red along with the red and white uniforms sported by the visiting Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the Jaguars’ first ever D-I Sun Belt Conference football game, which they won 31-24.

The Hilltoppers (1-2) took the opening drive of the game to go up 7-0 and the Jaguars matched them point for point as the fourth quarter started with both teams tied at 24-24.

South Alabama (2-1) was looking to add to the history of its short lived, but storied football program under the direction of head coach Joey Jones in his fifth year leading the program in Mobile.

For South, Saturday was a historical moment, but for former Jay Royal standout running back and line backer Rush Hendricks it was fulfilling a dream he had when he signed with South Alabama as a senior.“South Alabama offered a great opportunity for me to play close to my home and my family,” said Hendricks, who also entertained Division I offers in baseball. “My family can even go to our road games, so it was natural for me to lean towards football.”

After going 2-11 last season the Jaguars are off to a 2-1 start and Hendricks believes it is all because the team has bought into the system.

“We strive to be recognized,” said Hendricks, who plays on all the special team units and is featured as an extra blocker on short yardage situations. “This is just one step towards what we have worked for this past off season; step up our game, out tempo, our pace of play, our toughness and our physicality.

“I think this is just a small speck toward what we have worked towards. Our goals have been set to win the conference and go to a bowl and we are stepping towards that. We have built the foundation and now it is time to build up.”

Knowing the work that is ahead of the Jaguars, many have referred to this as a building project with some fans wearing construction hats and the players carrying a sledgehammer onto the field as they come out of the tunnel.

Hendricks, a redshirt junior, has been a part of the building project the past four seasons.

“It has been amazing to be a part of a team that has the drive and the intensity to be the best in the conference,” said Hendricks. “That is where we are looking and where we have our eyes set at and this is the first step towards it.

“All the work we put in this is when it pays off and all the people came to the game and we got to show it tonight.
The exercise science major might not touch the ball as much as he did at Jay, but you see him in his #12 quite a bit when it comes to kickoffs, kickoff return, punt block, short yardage situations, and whatever Jones and company draw up on the Jags’ chalkboard.

“It doesn’t take the pressure off at all,” said Hendricks. “The coaches push us to accept our role on the team and provide every bit of physicality if that is what you are required to do. As of late that is what I have been called to do and I love it.

“You get to kick out on a power play or lead up on a line backer and some of the linebackers and best defensive players in our conference are on (Western Kentucky) team. Just knowing you go through the hole they are counting on you to get that block and make that block is awesome”.

Hendricks will continue to take it one day at a time during his career as a Jaguar.

“That is the way you have to look at it. How do I get better tomorrow?” Hendricks said. “Anything other than that is how you get ahead of yourself.”

Rush is not the only Santa Rosa County player at South Alabama this season, former Pace standout Ben Giles is on the Jaguars roster as a full back but has not seen any game action and former Milton receiver Dejon Funderburk is being red-shirted this season.

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