Cleckler earns defensive honor

Dustin Cleckler (right) stands next to CCHS head coach Brian Bradford. Cleckler was named The Clanton Advertiser’s 2016 Defensive Player of the Year. (Photo by Anthony Richards)

Dustin Cleckler (right) stands next to CCHS head coach Brian Bradford. Cleckler was named The Clanton Advertiser’s 2016 Defensive Player of the Year. (Photo by Anthony Richards)

Dustin Cleckler of Chilton County High School was named the 2016 Clanton Advertiser Defensive Player of the Year in football.

The senior linebacker was at the top of the list or a fixture among the upper echelon in tackles among the county throughout the regular season.

“I’d like to thank all my coaches and my parents for making me go hard,” Cleckler said. “They helped me find the best in myself.”

It takes a certain mentality to play the linebacker position, which Cleckler certainly possessed.

“It shows how hard I’ve worked during the offseason,” Cleckler said. “I love to hit somebody. You can’t be afraid if you’re going to be a linebacker.”

According to Cleckler, the focus of offseason training was on his speed and reaction ability.

Those aspects have become strengths of Cleckler’s game and he showcased those skills by closing up potential running lanes on a weekly basis.

Dustin Cleckler (No. 11) of CCHS stops a Jemison ball carrier in his tracks. (File Photo)

Dustin Cleckler (No. 11) of CCHS stops a Jemison ball carrier in his tracks. (File Photo)

“He’s just one of those one-of-a-kind athletes that always go full speed in everything they do,” Chilton County head coach Brian Bradford said. “He’s was always around the football and that’s why he had so many tackles.”

His primary position is at middle linebacker, although he has spent some time on the outside due to helping fill in for injuries.

However, there is no question that the middle is where he feels most comfortable.

Both positions require a different approach to the game.

“In the middle, you’ve got to be prepared to take on lineman, with the main mission being to stop the inside run,” Cleckler said. “It comes down to who has the most mental toughness throughout a game.”

Cleckler had several responsibilities before each snap, which included calling the plays on the defensive side of the ball and making sure that everyone was lined up correctly.

“Whenever I talked to other coaches, he was the first player that they asked about,” Bradford said. “He was definitely our quarterback on defense.”

Cleckler proved his versatility and willingness to help the team any way necessary, as he also served as the punter and returned an interception for a touchdown.

“He is what he is, because of who he is and his work ethic,” Bradford said. “He lives in the weight room and is truly a student of the game. He made everybody else around him play better.”

 

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