Commonwealth Journal

Local Sports

April 30, 2014

Lifelong friends remain teammates at the next level

Somerset — Jesse Meece and Stewart Russell have played football together at Oak Hill Elementary, Southern Middle, and Southwestern High.

The two lifelong friends will continue their football careers together at the next level, as the pair of Southwestern Warrior standouts recently signed to play for the University of the Cumberlands.

Both Meece and Russell have been together on the gridiron since day one, and will continue to be, as the pair will suit up for the NAIA national runner-up Patriots in the fall of 2014.

The future Patriots went through both ups and downs in their four years at Southwestern, with the biggest up in their time at Southwestern was being a part of the school’s first-ever regional championship in the 2011 season. After winning a regional title as sophomores, Southwestern managed only three wins combined in their junior and senior seasons.

Despite not having the finish to his prep career that he wanted, Meece was glad to have been a member of the Warrior football program during his four years of high school.

“It’s been a good experience, an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything, no matter what happened,” began Meece. “I made some great friends and had great relationships with some of the coaches. All in all, it’s been a good experience.”

Meece, who played defense for his first three years for the Warriors, moved over to offense his senior year to fill in the vacant quarterback position. Unfortunately, Meece had to give up the signal calling position midseason due to a shoulder injury, but still made an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

At the quarterback spot, Meece went 12 of 46 for 131 yards and three scores through the air, and then ran for another 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 62 carries.

Meece gave up his role on the defense, his strong suit, to be Southwestern’s quarterback. In fact, Meece could play some offense for Matt Rhymer’s Patriots at the NAIA level.

“I enjoyed stepping up for my team and having to play that role,” explained Meece. “No matter which side of the ball I play on, I feel comfortable. Coach Rhymer wants the ball in my hands more, so I feel like I will be used on offense more.”

On the defensive side of the football, Meece had 28 total tackles on the year – 5 solo and 23 assisted. The Warrior senior had a pair of tackles for loss in the latter half of the year.

Donnie Burdine, who coached the defense for Southwestern last season, feels like Meece can play any position that the University of the Cumberlands staff puts him.

“I think Jesse sacrificed a lot – maybe going to a bigger college than he is – for the team,” said Burdine. “That says a lot about his character and the type of man that he is. With his size and his strength, I think he can play five or six positions at the next level. He’s going to be a fine player for them.”

The former Warrior standout is looking forward to getting started at the next level under the first-year Patriots head coach.

“I feel like I have a great relationship with Coach Rhymer – we see eye-to-eye on a lot of things,” said Meece. “I think it will be fun to play for him, and I think it will be a great all-around experience for me.”

Russell, despite missing much of the 2013 campaign due to injuries, still put up some pretty good numbers for the Warrior defense. The Southwestern defensive standout had 61 tackles – 11 solo and 50 assisted – on the year, including 2.5 tackles for loss. Russell, who had 1.5 sacks and a lone forced fumble, averaged 10.2 tackles per game.

On his tour of the University of the Cumberlands, along with their football facilities, Russell was impressed with what he saw.

“Mike Lewis is really the one who got me to come over there,” told Russell. “I went over there to tour it, and really liked it. I liked all of their facilities – the weight room, locker room, and the field. Ultimately, I decided to go there.”

Burdine is confident that Russell’s drive will do nothing but benefit him at the next level.

“Stewart was still third on our defense in tackling despite missing four games,” Burdine stated. “Stewart Russell is as fine of a football player that we had in the county – he has good size and good strength. Stewart also has something that you can’t teach, and that’s fire – he’s got a lot of fire.”

The former Warrior defensive coordinator hopes the pair of Meece and Russell will come back to the community once their playing days are over at the college in Williamsburg.

“Both of these boys had the potential to play at a bigger school or a different school, but I believe that God has bound these two together for whatever reason,” concluded Burdine. “I think they will learn something there, and hopefully, they will bring what they’ve learned back to our community. I think both of them can help our community in the future.”

Both Meece and Russell have made memories so far in their football playing days. Look for the dynamic duo to make some lifelong memories in their football careers at the University of the Cumberlands.


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