• John Macon Gillespie

Mary Moving Full Speed Ahead

The Oak Grove offense was deadly in 2015. It was a big reason for their success as they finished the season 10-3 and made it to the second round of the playoffs.

Through the air is where they found the bulk of their production as they averaged 283 yards per game. Senior quarterback Alex Ward sprayed the ball all over the field. Junior Justin Mary was on the receiving end of 22 passes for 258 yards and six touchdowns.

“All of the hard work day in and day out. Staying after practice and coming on weekends to get work,” Mary said when asked what went into having that kind of season. “I’ve come a long way from where I started and I have a long way to go. It’s going to take more hard work for me to get better.”

The numbers for Mary are slightly lower than they could have been as he missed time due to injury.

“After missing five games last season due to a groin injury, I didn’t feel like I accomplished what I wanted,” Mary told SES Mississippi.

In dealing with the injury Mary was able to take away a valuable lesson. It also showed him just how much he loves the game and his motivation behind playing.

“Mostly the love of the game,” He said about why he plays. “I want to play ball at the next level. And I know this sport doesn’t last forever so I might as well make the best of it.”

The love of the game has drawn him to compete in the upcoming Fortius Project combine that will be held on March 5th at Petal High.

I’m really looking forward to and excited about the competition. I’ve seen many talented athletes announce that they will be attending the Fortius Project. I saw it as a great opportunity to be able to compete and better myself,” He said.

The camp setting will provide him with a chance to show off his route running and his hands, two traits he feels stick out most about his game. His 6-3 frame also allows him to play a physical style of football which he says is also an advantage he uses well.

With the competition that he will be pitted against, he also has his mind focused on getting better. He has two areas in mind that he would like to improve while also wanting to improve overall.

“I’m looking to improve all aspects of my game. Mostly speed and vertical,” Mary said.

The key to a more productive season in 2016 could be as a simple as basic addition. More games should be better numbers. However, Mary would also like to elevate his play.

“I just have to stay healthy throughout this next year and play better football,” He said.

After all, he caught two passes, both for touchdowns, in a win against eventual 5A champion Wayne County last season. He followed that up a few weeks late with 5 catches for 68 yards and three scores in a victory against Pearl.

A full, healthy season for Mary could also mean good things for the Warriors. Despite some talented players moving on he is looking forward to this Fall and believes his team has what it takes to go all the way.

“We lost some really good players but I think we could easily fill those spots. The younger guys need to step up and fill those roles. I’m confident in the guys I play with and I think if we work hard then we can make it to state,” Mary said. “It all starts now and we need to compete and get better every single day.”

**Photo by Keith Warren of the MHSAA.

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