The St. Stephens Indians prepared for the opening of contact drills Monday with a night under the lights. The stadium at St. Stephens High had the bulbs blazing and the microphone blaring as parents and fans attended the 2010 season's first contact practice at St. Stephens. Only one player — a significant one — was left on the sidelines.
Franklin Jefferies, the starting defensive end for the Indians, had to sit out the practice because he missed a session in the weight room last week. "I wish I could, but I left early one day, and they won't let me hit," he said. "I am hitting in the next scrimmage, so I will have to shell out then."
The Indians will rely on the 6-foot-3, 220-pound defensive end this season to pressure opposing quarterbacks and occasionally catch passes.
"I'm just trying to lead the team in tackles, trying to be a defensive leader as a senior, and show the underclassmen to not just be an athlete, but be a student-athlete, too," Jefferies said.
He struggled with school the first two years at St. Stephens. He estimated his GPA after his sophomore year was around 2.00, but his academic interest grew when schools showed interest in him as a player. He said Appalachian State and Mars Hill are looking at him to play football at the collegiate level. He said his GPA is now around 2.40.
"I wish players could understand as freshmen how important their grades are," Indians head coach Fred Whalen said.
Jefferies is also going to adjust to life on the offense this season as well. He will line up as a tight end for the Indians this season, and he spent some of his time in the offseason conditioning his body for double duty. Jefferies played some tight end while on the JV team, but he played only defense last season as a junior.
"He is unbelievably quick for a big kid," Whalen said. "He is not necessarily the strongest kid or the biggest kid, but he is quick. We have really high expectations for him."
Jefferies said he took up jogging to prepare for this season, but he also lifted weights in the offseason to gain strength without losing speed. He said he dropped two tenths of a second off his time in the 40-yard dash. Jefferies isn't be the only St. Stephens player going both ways as the Indians have only 35 players on their varsity roster this season.
"I just worry about him being tired," Whalen said. "Obviously, he is one of our defensive stoppers, and we want him 100 percent on defense. If we use him on offense, it will be a bonus."