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Lovejoy has a tradition of producing top line prospects

By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

Lovejoy offensive and defensive linemen don't have to look too far to see that they are part of a proud tradition at the school.

On most Saturdays during the fall they can see a former Lovejoy player playing for a major college team on the television. They can occasionally see a player in the NFL with Lovejoy connections.

"This has been a great place for linemen to be," said Lovejoy coach Al Hughes as he leaned back in his golf cart following a recent practice. "We have had a few good ones."

That is definitely an understatement from the coach. Hughes has seen quite a few of his former offensive and defensive linemen play on the major college level during his tenure at Lovejoy.

While he is happy about their success, the coach is quick to point out that they stay involved in the program during their brief free time.

"All the kids come around," Hughes said. "They come back to encourage the kids in the program. They share their experience and tell the younger kids what they have to do to get to that level."

The major college linemen pipeline will probably not end anytime soon. Two of the team's top recruited players are defensive lineman David Washington and offensive tackle Lamont Hardy. They each have several offers from the top major college programs in the country.

Last season, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Washington had 51 tackles, including six tackle for losses with two caused fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He played a great deal of the season with broken thumb on one hand. According to Hughes, he has a great combination of speed and strength.

"He scarce me to death," Hughes joked. "He has that fire in his eyes."

Hardy, a 6-6, 349-pounder, said he used to dress with the varsity on game days at Lovejoy, which helped him get a better understanding and appreciation for the game.

"I would sit there and watch the other guys to see what it was like in a real game," he said. "I think watching as a freshman helped me adjust to the varsity level of competition. I was able to go to some camps this year, and that has really helped me."

Senior defensive linemen Josh Walker has attracted the attention from several Football Championship Subdivision (formally Div. I-AA) schools like Wofford, The Citadel and VMI.

While Hughes is high on all three of his senior linemen, he is excited about the prospects of junior Jamal Covington. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Covington also plays tackle.

Hughes is not shy in his evaluation of the underclassman. He compares him to former standout Anthony Parker, who earned a scholarship to Tennessee where he made all-conference.

"He (Covington) is special," Hughes said. "He has all the qualities as Anthony Parker. Jamal has great footwork and an intelligence for the game. He is a very athletic lineman. He has an understanding of the game."

And these new crop of lineman will remain close to the program as the others.

A few days after the Pittsburgh Steelers made former Tennessee standout Chris Scott a fifth round draft pick, he was back on the Lovejoy campus talking with Hughes.

"It has been great sharing in the experiences of these players," Hughes said. "I've had great parent, community and administrative support over here. I've got a staff with some great assistant coaches."

Hughes refuses to take all the credit for the players' development.

"For me as the coach, I've got the best sit in the house," he joked. "I'm happy to say that I've been able to share a little in their experience. It took a lot of people to get to this point. I just try not to mess them up."