Jeff Hurndon Photography
Lovejoy senior Jermaine Hough was a jack-of-all-trades for the Class AAAA runner-up in playing several positions for the two-time Region 4-AAAA champions.
The question, to which no opponent truly found a satisfactory answer, was this: What can't Jermaine Hough do on the football field?
“Throughout his career, he’s done everything on the football field — holder, snapper, punt returner, kickoff returner, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive back,” Lovejoy coach Al Hughes said. “If you ask him to play nose guard, he could manage that. He’s a magnificent athlete.”
Hough, the Clayton News Daily’s Clayton County Player of the Year, said playing all those positions “made me smarter” — this coming from a student-athlete who maintains a 3.8 grade-point average in the tough classes. His football IQ was off the charts, and that’s why he always seemed to make the plays Lovejoy needed on the way to a season of unprecedented excellence, reaching the first state-championship game in school history.
“When I went from quarterback to defensive back, I knew how a quarterback would think because that used to be my main position,” Hough said. “That just made me smarter. I played wide receiver this year and that really put me in position to make plays."
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior made plays wherever he was put, and you're not supposed to be able to do that consistently at 5-9, 170. Otherwise, college scouts would be lining up for them.
“Jermaine Hough was our everything,” Lovejoy defensive coordinator Kevin Jones said. “The only passing touchdown we gave up all season came on a play after Jermaine Hough was out because he had rolled his ankle. He has a 40-inch vertical leap, which allows him to make plays over taller guys.”
He did his greatest good this season at cornerback. He was such a sure thing in the secondary that the defenders up front knew that passing wasn't a viable option for the opposing offense, giving them carte blanche to pin their ears back and have the quarterback for lunch. That in turn helped the Wildcats establish Class AAAA’s stingiest defense, allowing barely a field goal a game most of the season with eight shutouts in 15 games.
Opponents would test Hough because they wanted no part of the rest of the Lovejoy secondary. Rico McWilliams and Dushonta Broughton had already made believers of opposing quarterbacks, and the fact that Hough was smaller made him a convenient target. Or so opposing QBs seemed to think, especially in the playoffs. Region 4-AAAA quarterbacks already knew better.
“I took it as an opportunity to make plays, I didn’t take it as a personal challenge,” Hough said. “As the playoffs started, other teams didn’t know as much about me.”
Hough intercepted seven passes, including two against Warner Robins that helped the Wildcats reach the Class AAAA final against Tucker. Such on-field credibility earned the respect of his teammates.
“He knows exactly what to say, when to say it and how to say it,” Hughes said. “All the other players — it’s like when E.F. Hutton talks —when he speaks, he has everybody’s undivided attention.”
When Hough spoke, he didn’t waste a lot of words.
“We stepped up,” he said. “We had a couple of team meetings where we’d say things like, ‘We’ve got to pick it up and get serious. We’ve got to step it up for the coaches.’ It felt good.”
Hough remains committed to Jacksonville State, though he got the attention of Div. I programs who came to see McWilliams.
“Rico, for lack of a better word, was our drawing card when folks came out,” Jones said. “But when folks left, they were saying, ‘Who’s No. 2?”
That was Hough. And for this season, No. 2 was No. 1.
Jermaine Hough, Lovejoy
Why Hough: He led the Lovejoy defense, which allowed only 4.9 points a game all season, with seven interceptions.
Scouting Hough: “Jermaine Hough was our catalyst. He allowed us to say, ‘Our best three could guard your best three.’ He’s the total package.” said Lovejoy defensive coordinator Kevin Jones.
Who else was considered: Lovejoy running back Travis Custis, Jonesboro quarterback Cedric Nettles and Jonesboro wide receiver Cameron Sutton.
What’s ahead in 2012 for Hough: Has committed to play at Jacksonville State, an Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) program in Alabama.
A look back: Last season, former North Clayton linebacker Amarlo Herrera was the Clayton County Player of the Year. As a freshman at Georgia this season, he started eight of the Bulldogs’ 13 games and was named the team’s newcomer of the year on defense with 37 tackles, three tackles for losses and two pass break ups.