Tide’s Billups overcomes big loss

Published 11:09 pm Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Highly-touted Picayune opened the current football campaign getting upset by Moss Point.

The defeat, though, was nothing compared to the loss standout Maroon Tide lineman Jonathan Billups suffered just weeks prior to the beginning of the season.

Billups’ mother, Carolyn, and another family friend were killed in a fire that consumed their home in the Nicholson community in early August.

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Billups was away from the home, eating dinner with Picayune linebackers’ coach John Feaster, when they got the call.

“I was devastated, I’ve never gone through anything like that,” the 16-year old Billups said. “We went to the house, but it was over.”

“It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life,” Feaster, a former Maroon Tide standout as well, said.

Feaster used to work for the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department and he got the call about the tragic accident on his cell phone from members of the local law enforcement agency.

“I mean, how do you tell a kid that something like that has just happened to someone he is so close to?” Feaster added. “It was something I don’t ever want to go through again.”

Billups and his teammates, who have won five straight since the early season loss, host Bay High for Homecoming on Friday, and Billups will once again glance to the stands for a face that won’t be there.

“She was always there for me, at every game she could be, we were very close,” he added. “It’ll be tough with this being Homecoming, but I’ll keep going and get through it because I know that is what she would have wanted me to do.”

The 6-foot-2, 325-pound two-way lineman is one of the top players for the Maroon Tide. He is already getting attention from the Big Three programs in the state as well as some of the major universities across the South as well.

“I think he has handled the situation about as well as any 16-year-old could have,” Feaster, who along with his wife Nakisha let Billups move in with his family, said. “I think the relationship he had with his mom and their faith in God has helped him handle it as well as he has. He’s got a lot of talent. Really, the sky is the limit for him.”

Picayune veteran head coach Dodd Lee agrees.

“He’s had a lot of help from a lot of people in this community, and that makes me proud I am from here and I live here,” said Lee, who calls Billups by far the strongest player he has ever had as well as one of the most dominant. “He knows that he has the opportunity to get an education through his playing ability, and an education opens up a lot of doors for you.”

Feaster was the perfect fit for the situation according to Lee. “You couldn’t have hand picked a better person than John and his family for something like that,” Lee added.

The community came together for Billups in his time of need and conducted several fund-raisers for the youngster, who has started for three years for the Tide, as he was getting ready for his junior year.

“She would have wanted me to be strong and succeed in what I do,” Billups said, of his mother. “I know she is watching me and I want to make her proud. That’s what I try to do on Friday night. I am working hard and playing for her.”