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Jonesboro basketball players bring championship swagger to football field

Jordan Griffin, who was a reserve on the Jonesboro state-champion basketball team, is one of the top cornerback prospects in the state in football. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Jordan Griffin, who was a reserve on the Jonesboro state-champion basketball team, is one of the top cornerback prospects in the state in football. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Zerrick Cooper helped lead the Jonesboro basketball team to the Class AAAA title, and has emerged this spring as a top football prospect at quarterback. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

JONESBORO — Earlier in the year, the Jonesboro basketball team won the Class AAAA basketball championship over powerhouse Columbia.

After they did it in one sport, some athletes look to do in another as spring football has started, with the help of a few basketball players.

Juniors Marshall McIntyre and Tracy Hector, sophomores Zerrick Copper and Jordan Griffin as well as freshman James “MJ” Walker will be key members of the football team looking to accomplish the same goal as their fellow Cardinals — a state championship.

Cooper will serve as the team’s quarterback, Griffin will play cornerback, McIntyre will play on the defensive line, and Walker will line up at multiple positions all over the field.

“All of them are very talented, skilled athletes and on top of it all they’re great in the classroom” said Jonesboro offensive coordinator Nathan Wardlaw. “They’ve done something that we want to do as well, so whatever experience they bring to the table will help our guys greatly.”

The high level of play on the field by these athletes has attracted colleges from around the nation.

Cooper has offers from Clemson, Miami, Ole Miss and North Carolina State and Ohio State among others. Griffin has Kentucky, Clemson and Cincinnati offers and interest from other schools, McIntyre holds a Duke offer, and Walker has offers from Clemson and Miami.

“A championship in both sports would be an amazing opportunity, it’s every player and coach’s goal” Cooper said. “We already did it once so we know what it takes and we look forward to the challenge of doing it in football.”

One player who will have an interesting season upcoming will be Walker, who hasn’t played football in two years. After playing in middle school, he was injured last season and was unable to play.

However, he’s excited about the chance to play under the Friday night lights.

“It was hard not being out there and yes it will be a big transition for me, but I’m just ready to compete” Walker said. “Luckily, I already have the size and with my work ethic if I apply myself I know I can be a productive member on this team in any way.”

Performing at a high level in both sports always brings up the question of which sport better suits you. Well, it was an easy answer for most: Cooper, Griffin and McIntyre all said they prefer football with, Walker still debating.

“It’s interesting, my whole life growing up, basketball was the number one sport in my family,” McIntyre said. “Both of my parents play and so do I, but as I progress through my career I know that football will present more opportunities for me.”

Despite this, McIntyre stated he would still be interested in playing in college along with football. Griffin and Walker also have that same interest, while Cooper does not. In college, McIntyre wants to major in business management while Walker is interested in architectural engineering and Cooper and Griffin plan to major in sports management.

For now though, the only thing that’s on their minds is winning another championship, and sharing their knowledge and experience with their teammates.

“The main thing we learned during that run was that everyday you have to be ready to work hard and compete,” Griffin said. “We believe this team is ready for that. Hard work means that you have to work as hard as you can to be better than the man next to you which makes everyone better. Without that mindset, and the will to compete, there’s no point in even playing the game.”