Colby Sawyer Named Honorary SBC Player of the Week; Monday Press Conference – USC Edition

November 18, 2014 · By · Filed Under Cross Country, Football, Sun Belt Conference 
Colby Sawyer with South Alabama student-athletes during his visit with coach Jones and and the team prior to the Monday press conference. | Photo: al.com usajaguars.com

Colby Sawyer with South Alabama student-athletes during his visit with coach Jones and and the team prior to the Monday press conference. | Photo: al.com usajaguars.com

The Sun Belt Conference named 11-year-old Colby Sawyer the Honorary Sun Belt Football Player of the Week on Monday. Sawyer, an inspiration to the Jaguar football team, signed his National Letter of Intent with the program a week ago and joined head coach Joey Jones for his weekly press conference, made his first appearance with the team on Saturday against Texas State.

Sawyer signed with the Jags as part of Team Impact which helps match kids with chronic or life-threatening illnesses to teams. He was diagnosed in June of 2012 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and had over a year of chemotherapy treatments as a patient at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital.

After signing with the Jags he received his own locker, jersey and other USA team items. He was with the team during their bus trip to the stadium, through pregame warm-ups, and when Coach Jones was addressing the team. He was also led the team out onto the field. And he was also on the sidelines when the Jaguars rallied from 10 points down and held on in the final seconds to defeat Texas State to earn bowl eligibility and most likely their first bowl invitation.

Derek Westbrook, who is a member of the student athlete advisory committee (SAAC), had a part in helping to make this possible. The senior attended the Sun Belt’s SAAC conference this past summer in New Orleans as a representative from South Alabama. He was also recognized during halftime recently as being a member of the South Alabama Cross Country team who won the SBC Title this season.

“Colby has impressed all of us throughout the Sun Belt with his spirit for the Jags and his inspiration to the team,” Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson said. “Colby is unquestionably deserving of this award and all of the recognition that he has received.”

Team IMPACT’s mission is to match kids facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses with teams throughout the United States. So far they have placed 560 kids with 280 schools in 37 states, one of their latest being Sawyer.

Press Conference

Head coach Joey Jones was joined by linebacker Maleki Harris and running back Terrance Timmons on Monday to recap the Jaguars win over Texas State and to preview their matchup with South Carolina. Below are some highlights from that press conference.

Coach Jones’ opening statement on defeating the Bobcats. “What a great win that was for our football program, that’s a game I will remember for the rest of my life. First because it was just a great football game, and second because it was a game that we won with our backs up against the wall when we had to win it. Our guys will remember that, knowing that it was do or die, and they came through and won; that’s something that you want to do as a man to gain respect.”

Jones on quarterback Hunter Vaughn. “We felt like Hunter gave us the best chance to win because he can run and throw. He gave us the opportunity to run the quarterback some more, which really helped us — even that threat of him running helped. We did worry about the fact that he hadn’t practiced pretty much the whole year other than the last week or two where he got a few reps. It’s amazing to me what he was able to do in a situation like that, it was such a big game, with hardly any reps during the season. That was tremendous.

“You think about all the experience you get in games, and he didn’t even get experience in practice, I guess like Allen Iverson said, practice doesn’t matter. He did a tremendous job, it was fun to watch and see his composure out there. I was real excited about the way he played.”

Jones on playing South Carolina this weekend. “They are a very talented football team, it will be a great challenge for us to go to Columbia, but one that our kids look forward to. It’s a typical SEC team, they’ve lost a lot of close games and could very easily be a lot better from a record standpoint. I always look at players and teams rather than records, and their team is certainly has a bunch of talent and they are very well coached.

“Our kids like that kind of environment, they like the fact that we will be playing against a team that can score a lot of points. We’re looking forward to this opportunity.”

Jones on the Gamecock offense. “I don’t know that it’s what they do that concerns me as much as who they are doing it with. They’ve got a great running back, in my opinion Mike Davis is going to be picked very high in the NFL Draft, who will be the best running back we’ve faced by far this year. They have great receivers, and real big, athletic linemen.”

Jones on the expected atmosphere in Columbia, SC and how it will affect the Jaguars offensively. “We have so much loud music at practice anyway, we’ve always done it for that reason not only because the kids like it but so they concentrate with all that noise. It will probably be louder than what we’re playing, we’ll have to get used to that and make sure that we can handle that with our snap count offensively. You have to focus as much as you can during practice so that when you get to the game you focus in the same way, and I don’t think our kids will have a problem with that. Nowadays you don’t call plays in the huddle anymore, it’s all signals so you don’t have to listen to as many things.”

Jones on how the Jaguars are handling the excitement of playing a second SEC school this season. “To be honest with you, and I said this after the game, but I haven’t thought about South Carolina until Saturday night. Normally you look ahead at times, but the enormity of this past week with Texas State was so big that we threw everything we had into that game to achieve our goal. The hype for this game might not be as big as in the past for our games at Mississippi State and Tennessee, but now that it’s here it’s obviously exciting for our players, we’re looking forward to it.”

Jones on the Jaguar defense and what it will face this week. “We do what we do, we’re not going to change. [defensive coordinator] Coach [Travis] Pearson has drilled that into their heads, we believe we can play good defense. When you start playing against better athletes, you have to be a little sharper because one misstep can cost you. Against these guys, you better fill your gap, if you leave the gap open that running back is gone. We have to be sharp about what we do, but that’s what we preach anyway, it’s not any different than what we’ve always done.”

Linebacker Maleki Harris on the Texas State game. “It was a big win for us. We all knew what was on the line going into it. We were talking about it all week, it was a big game. You try not to focus on all the external things of getting a sixth win and becoming bowl eligible, and just look at it as another game. But it wasn’t just another game. It was a big game for us, the coaches, the program and the university. We showed composure at halftime. There was no panic or fear; everybody was cool and calm. We went in and made the adjustments, and we knew we were the better team but we just had to go out and play like it. When you start out the game with three turnovers, you’re already putting yourself in a hole. But we knew the worst had already came; you can’t do much worse than three turnovers and we were still in it. It was time for us to throw some punches and stop taking them.”

Harris on returning to the field for the first time since an injury. “It was great. It was fun. There was a lot of excitement, and a little nervousness too. I haven’t felt nervous about a game since probably my first start last year or my first game as a freshman. It was good to get back on the field and running around, and good to be back with my teammates. You build a brotherhood throughout the season, and then when you lose somebody you really feel like you lost a brother. I felt kind of down about not being able to play last week. It was fun to get back this past week.”

Harris on earning bowl eligibility. “Everyone was happy and excited about it in the locker room after the game. But we knew we had to get locked in and get it done. Once you achieve one of the goals you have set at the beginning of the season, you can look back and say we accomplished what we set out to do. But the season is not over. We’re not happy with just six wins. We’re going to be ready to go at practice tomorrow.”

Harris on facing South Carolina. “It’s just another team, another set of players who put their pants on one leg at a time. We’re never going to back down or shy away from a challenge. Hopefully, we’ll all rise to the occasion and give them a run for their money.”

Harris on the Gamecock offense. “They do a lot of different things. One thing I know just from watching film is their offensive linemen get big splits. They have a big offensive line and a good running back. Their quarterback is solid and they have playmakers. But if we play our game, I feel like we can play with them. I have total confidence in the way our defense matches up, but we have to go out there and not let the big stage or hype take away from our focus. If we go out there and focus on the X’s and O’s then we’ll be alright.”

Running back Terrance Timmons on the Texas State game. “Offensively, we all got together before the game and told each other that we had to stick together no matter what happened. We started the game with two fumbles, but I looked in everyone’s eyes on the sideline and they told me that we were alright. We had a whole game left to play. I knew then that it was going to be a good night. If we can get through that and still come out with a win, there’s no telling what we can do when we don’t stop ourselves.”

Timmons on his performance last Saturday. “You practice every week, and you never know what can happen. We talk among ourselves, and you never know who is going to go down; you just have to be ready and practice knowing that on any given play someone can go down. If you’re the next man up, you just have to stay ready and be prepared.”

Timmons on earning bowl eligibility. “It was joyful to know that we could be the first (South Alabama) team to go to a bowl game. When we come back 20 years from now, we’ll always be able to say we were the first team to do it. But that’s over. We have a big game this week, and we have to move on to South Carolina this week.”

Timmons on facing South Carolina. “I know they probably don’t look at us as a challenge. We’re going to bring it to them, and try to catch them off guard. I kind of like going into a game being the underdog, because it makes us feel like we have something to prove. No one is going to go up there thinking we can’t win the game. We can win any game we play. There’s no doubt in my mind we will go up there prepared to knock them off.”

Timmons on the Jaguar offense. “I feel like we are in a good place. Everyone has total confidence in (quarterback) Hunter (Vaughn). If Brandon (Bridge) isn’t available to go, we have total confidence in Hunter. As an offense, there’s no doubting our ability or what we do.”

South Alabama and South Carolina kick off at 11AM CST on Saturday in Columbia, SC.

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