Wilcox ready to follow in the footsteps of Tiger greats
Lewisburg is a mid-size town and Marshall County High School is a mid-size school.
But for the past four years under head coach Thomas Osteen and his hard-working staff, the Tigers have been sending an enormous amount of football players to the next level.
Clocking in at just over the 900 mark in terms of enrollment, the Tigers are the smallest school enrollment-wise in Region 4-4A but have had 13 players sign with colleges in that period alone.
But one position area in particular has been placing recruits in the college ranks every season---the defensive line, led by coach Danny Pickle.
In 2015 defensive end Peyton Hood signed with Kentucky Christian, in 2016 defensive tackle Tae Tae Lytle with Lindsey Wilson and last season Josh Johnson took his talents to The University of the Cumberlands, while highly sought after defensive end Tavi McLean chose to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
And who could forget former Tiger defensive lineman Donta' Hightower, who went on to star at Alabama and the New England Patriots.
"I am very proud of all the guys that have signed over the past few years," coach Pickle, now in his eighth season as defensive line coach, said. "It has always been a goal of mine to get the most out of each player and do what I have to do to get them to the next level."
"I think the young guys see the work ethic and how the older guys buy in," Pickle continued. "Freshmen figure out very quick that we like to work hard and do a ton of reps. The buy-in part is huge because it is no secret that you have to work your tail off on and off the field to even get noticed by a college coach."
That formula has worked once again as defensive tackle Jayshon Wilcox is leading another crop of highly talented Tiger seniors.
Wilcox, standing at 6-1 and weighing in at 295 pounds, picked up offers from UT-Martin and Tennessee Tech before the season, to make 2018 the sixth straight season a Tiger has signed with a Division I school on signing day.
Aaron Medley signed with Tennessee and Jay Murphy with UT-Martin in 2013, Chris Walker with Cornell in 2014, Steven Clemmons with Murray State in 2015, Jay Howard with Citadel, Cain McWilliams with MTSU in 2016, and McLean with UTC last season.
Not too shabby for a 4A school located in a sparsely populated section of Middle Tennessee.
"There are several reasons that Jayshon is a DI prospect," Pickle explained. "One, he has the size and strength to compete at that level. Second, his work ethic the last three years has gotten him where he needs to be."
"He has been relentless in the weight room and is without a doubt our strongest player across the board and for his size, the quickest player I have ever coached," Pickle added. "Third, Jayshon is a bright student in the classroom. He has a 3.4 GPA and a 21 on his ACT, which college coaches really like."
Wilcox camped at multiple schools over the summer, leading to the offers, but several schools are still showing interest and the Tiger senior should have even more options to choose from.
"I have been to three camps this summer," Wilcox, who is also receiving interest from Kennesaw State, Murray State and Lindsey Wilson, said. "Those three were UT-Martin, Tennessee Tech and Murray State. Murray State was the most challenging and the other two was fairly equal in difficultly. My favorite was the Tennessee camp."
And just like any recruit, the football program will not be the only barometer of which to choose a school.
"My preferences for a school are a friendly community and people inside and outside of the school and a well-known school with a good reputation," Wilcox said. "Great football program and football community and fairly close to home, but not too far away."
After watching the older defensive lineman before him and a standout junior season led Wilcox to the realization that a football scholarship was a realistic possibility after graduation.
"I came to the realization that I was going to go play college football during my junior year because during that year I wanted to pull out all the potential I had in me which I'm still working on now," Wilcox stated. "Also during that same year is when the college coaches started contacting me."
The Tigers rigorous off-season workout regimen and wealth of knowledge from all of the Marshall County coaches are a big reason for the recent success of sending so many defensive lineman to the next level.
"We have been blessed with big, athletic D-linemen over the past 4-5 years," Pickle stated. "They all have had a great work ethic and have been committed to getting better."
"Coach Cobb has a strenuous workout program and our weight room is a key aspect as to why they are so big and strong," Pickle added. "We work hard in the offseason on footwork and technique and try to rep everything we do as many times as possible. All of our coaches attend multiple coaching clinics every year and learn as much as we can from college and pro coaches."
Wilcox also realizes that raw talent can only get a player so far in the game a football.
Having great coaches to rely on and learn from is a key component to stepping up and playing at the next level.
"The defensive coaches at Marshall County set a high standard for all defensive players," Wilcox, who lists his 2018 goals as winning a championship and being named to the all-state team, said. "Our defensive coordinator, Jerry Cobb, has a motto that we live by that states, ‘They don't score if we don't let them.’"
"Also he doesn't accept loafing so if you aren't giving your all then he doesn't want you on his defense," Wilcox continued. "On the other hand, our defensive line coach, Danny Pickle, sets an even higher standard for his D-lineman. He believes that the heart of the defense is the D-lineman, therefore he teaches us every technique possible to add to our tools of destruction so we can dominate any offensive line that stand against us."
"Since we are demanded of a high standard, I believe that college coaches see that we are disciplined, coachable, and see us as potential college players."
With the Tigers standing at 1-1, having almost beat 6A championship contender Cane Ridge and knocking off 5A Shelbyville last Friday, Wilcox was right on the money by saying hard work in the weight room would keep them in the game against the higher classified teams in 2018 and that some underclassmen would step up and fill the rolls.
"It's hard to see Tavi Mclean and Josh Johnson leave us this year," Wilcox, who already has nine tackles, 1.5 sacks and a QB hurry this season, pointed out. "They were beyond great players that gave it their all on every play. Since they are official college players now, someone’s got to take their place and keep the standard they had set last year."
"This year I believe that Kevontez Allen, Carter Shirey, and Keylin Talley will be the starters that will help me dominate the offensive line this year and replace our two great D-lineman from last year," Wilcox added. "The D-line strengths this season are our techniques, but mostly our strength in the weight room. We take the weight room serious because we know without it, we wouldn't stand a chance against the opponents we face this year."
Wilcox still has the majority of the season left to play before making a college choice, but the big defensive tackle still has his favorite memories as a Tiger.
"My most memorable moments at Marshall County are mainly being with my football family," Wilcox recalled. "It's a brotherhood bond that is special and not common to everyday life. Without that bond, no team will see the full potential they can be."
Wise words from another in a long line of dominant Marshall County defensive standouts.