Firebirds' Vick excels in starring role
Southern Nash’s Jackson Vick, breaking into the clear for a long run during a game against Rocky Mount on April 3 at Firebird Stadium, is The Wilson Times All-Area Offensive Player of the Year after leading the area with 1,072 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times
Jackson Vick’s time had come in the Southern Nash offensive backfield, and the speedy junior running back was more than ready for it.
Vick — who had served as an understudy the last two years behind the program’s top two all-time leading rushers, Zonovan Knight and Quinton Cooley — stepped into the starring role this spring as he ran for 1,072 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Vick’s production, which ranked sixth among state 3-A runners and first in The Wilson Times readership area, elevates him to the level of his predecessors as the Times Offensive Player of the Year.
Knight, a rising junior at N.C. State University, was a two-time recipient while Cooley, a rising redshirt freshman at Wake Forest University, claimed that honor in 2019. While Vick’s totals weren’t as impressive, he only played in seven games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which moved the season to spring and shortened it by four games.
“I could have had a better year, but I feel like I finished pretty strong other than the circumstances of the COVID and stuff this year. It was a pretty short year,” Vick said.
He posted a season-high 329 yards and 11.3 yards per carry in the Firebirds’ 41-39 win at Fike to kick off 3-A Big East Conference play. Vick, listed at 6-foot-0, 171 pounds this season, had four games with more than 100 yards and one with 90, and he accounted for 46.5% of the Firebirds’ rushing total in a season that saw them struggle to a 3-4 finish some 16 months after losing their only game of the 2019 season to Charlotte Catholic in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A championship game.
“Any time you’ve got somebody like him, somebody that the other team has to worry about taking it to the house on every play, you have to pay more attention to one position, which helps other people,” assessed outgoing Southern Nash head coach Brian Foster. “He did do some good stuff and broke some big plays. For the kind of year we had, I thought he did a really good job.”
Vick didn’t blink at stepping into the considerable shoes of Knight and Cooley.
“I feel confident. I felt like I could do it,” he said. “I’ve always felt like I’m capable and I feel like I handled myself pretty well. I could have done a little bit better, but I feel like under the circumstances, I did what I had to do.”
Foster reminded that Vick is still a little shy of his 17th birthday, but the youngster grew as a ball carrier this season.
“I think making the initial man (defender) miss, he got better at, which was good to see,” Foster said. “With what we do, that’s huge, because a lot of times you’re going to be one on one.”
Foster said Vick became more adept at reading defenses and adjusted to carrying the load in the Firebirds’ double wing offense that’s designed to spread the ball around.
“I thought he got tougher overall,” Foster said. “It’s one thing saying you want the ball, it’s another getting it and seeing what you feel like the next day.”
Vick will see more of that in the fall when he will certainly be a marked man by opposing defenses. He’s already received scholarship offers from nearly every FBS program in the state. Mack Brown and North Carolina haven’t offered yet, but N.C. State, Wake Forest, Duke, East Carolina, Appalachian State and Charlotte have invited Vick to join their programs, along with Syracuse, Coastal Carolina and Georgia State.
Vick said there’s still some unfinished business at Southern Nash, though.
“It was a lot of pressure, but I feel like I’m very confident in my abilities and my team’s abilities,” he said. “And I feel like we’re going to have a great team this year. We have all our coaches. I think we’ll be fine for sure. I’ll be a better leader. A lot of people will step up and make plays, and I’ll make a lot more plays.”
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