• 59°

Tide’s big man in big game

By CURTIS ROCKWELL

Item Sports Editor

MOBILE, Ala. — When Picayune’s Jonathan Billups was first informed of his selection to the prestigious Alabama/Mississippi All-Star Football Classic, he didn’t think about how big of an honor it was for him personally.

No, instead, he thought about his late mother.

“I was just thinking about how proud of me she would be, how she was probably smiling down on me… that was the biggest reward.” Billups, who will start on the defensive line for the Mississippi team in Saturday’s game, said. “That’s what I have done since it happened, is just try and make her more proud of me every time I take the field.”

Billups’ mom Carolyn, was killed in a tragic house fire just before his junior season.

“She’s always on my mind every time I play,” the 6-foot-1, 340-pound two way all-state standout added.

Billups is the fourth Picayune player selected for this contest in the past three seasons, and seventh Maroon Tide player to play in the 22 year history of the game.

“That gave me a little more motivation to work hard and get here, after seeing some teammates get to play in the game,” Billups, whom veteran Picayune head coach Dodd Lee has called the most dominating lineman he has ever coached, said.

Billups hopes his play this week in practice and in Saturday’s game, that kicks off at 1 p.m. in legendary Ladd-Peebles Stadium, will catch the eye of college coaches even though a recent rule enacted by the NCAA has prevented them from attending the sessions.

“If I play well, they will know,” Billups added. “It’s great exposure for me and a great experience.”

Billups, who was a big part of one of the most successful senior classes in Picayune history, thanks his coaches for all their support especially assistant coach John Feaster whose family took Billups in after the tragedy.

“I have a very good relationship with all the coaches, they all have meant so much to me,” Billups said “They have taught me a great work ethic that I have tried to live up to.

“But Coach Feaster and his wife have been more than a blessing. They are my family.”

Billups has had several scholarship offers already, and hopes his performance Saturday will bring even more.

And that would be another reason to make his late mom smile.