Leader by example

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In this day of fast talkers and me-first attitudes, anyone that plans to lead by example better set an outstanding example.

Perhaps no football player in the area set a better example than Billingsley’s Jamar Hopson, The Clanton Advertiser’s area player of the year.

“He defines the whole lead by example thing,” said Todd Reece, Billingsley’s first-year play-caller. “The other kids see what he does in the locker room, in the weight room and on the field. He’s the lunchbox-type guy.

“They knew he was the best player on the team, and they respected him because of it.”

Hopson’s example included some otherworldly numbers. He rushed 175 times for 1,738 yards and 26 touchdowns. That’s an average of 9.9 yards a carry as Hopson and teammate Tim Simon swapped between tailback and fullback.

Hopson was the team’s third-leading receiver with 10 catches for 141 yards and one score. He was also third on the team with 60 tackles from the outside linebacker position, though his time on that side of the ball was limited because he was such a focal point of the offense. In fact, Hopson accounted for 45 percent of his team’s scoring this season with 182 of the Bears’ 404 points. That’s no small task considering Billingsley averaged 33.7 points a game.

Hopson was the team’s punter. He returned punts and kicks and handled kickoff and extra point duties for about half the season, until the coaches figured they might be putting too much stress on their star.

But Hopson is not the type to complain.

“Anything we asked him to do, it was ‘yes, sir,’ and he would do it as well as he could,” Reece said. “You could put him at center, and he could play it.”

Oh, Hopson was also the team’s backup quarterback.

But Hopson’s skill and versatility might not have been as important to Billingsley as his leadership. After the Bears lost a first-round playoff game at Millry to end the 2007 season, coach Kevin LeSueur told his team that their level of commitment had to change.

“I told them that if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got,” LeSueur said. “These seniors decided they were going to change the attitude.”

A more committed Billingsley squad finished 8-2 and won its first playoff game since a state title run in 1997. Hopson was an important part of the transformation.

“Most of the guys on the team look up to me,” Hopson said about the responsibility he felt to help his teammates improve and have success. “I gave everything I had.”