• John Macon Gillespie

SES Iron Man Award: John Mark Jolly

It takes a special player to lead a unit for a football team. Whether he be the star quarterback or unstoppable running back or even the smart middle linebacker or hard-hitting safety. Being the leader of the offensive or defensive side of the football takes brains, athleticism and guts. Few players have each of those.

The Tupelo Christian Prep Eagles were 8-1 this season. They set a school record for wins in a season, due largely to being a very balanced team offensively and defensively. John Mark Jolly was a key on each side of the ball for the Eagles. He always seemed to make the tackle on big third down stops or churned third down conversions on the ground.

Offensively, Jolly tallied 932 yards rushing on 7.2 yards per carry. He rushed for 14 scores and caught another 4. Defensively he lead the team with 71 tackles and added five tackles for loss, 11 hurries, a sack, a pick and a forced fumble. He was literally everywhere on the field. And for that, we made him our first ever SES Iron Man award winner.

“It’s a great honor for me to win this,” Jolly stated to me.

“The thing that separated me from rest are the guys I had beside me. They put everything they had into it just to make our team work as one unit. It’s great having the ball in my hand and to be making tackles but I couldn’t do that if my team hadn’t blocked for me or filled in the holes and made the back bounce inside.”

While Jolly’s teammates were able to go to the sideline after a big defensive stand or a long methodical offensive drive, he stayed out there to make sure things stayed on track for the Eagles on both sides of the ball. That takes some conditioning that most players simply do not have. Jolly uses other sports to his advantage when it comes to staying in shape.

“Since we have such a small school we have many athletes playing other sports. I play soccer and baseball as well. So those other sports took up a bunch of time. But the coaches spent every extra minute we had with them preparing us for a full season of playing both sides of the ball,” He explained.

The best thing that could be said about John Mark and his leadership and what he meant to his team, is that his team reflected his attitude and his passion. The Eagles had a will to win that came from Jolly and Caleb Kitchens and the coaching staff.

“I will give anything and everything I have for my family that I play with on Friday nights. All I’m thinking about from the time the game starts until the clock hit zeroes is what I can do to contribute to the team so we can come out on top,” Jolly said.

Though Jolly shines on the football field, it seems baseball may yet be his best sport. He is a middle infielder and s sidearm pitcher with next level upside. He and baseball go back a long ways.

“I’ve loved baseball since I was too young to remember. I started at the age of three and I still love it as much as the day I started,” He said.

“I’ve always loved stepping on the mound and trying to shut the other team down with whatever crafty stuff I can come up with.”

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