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Dean overcomes setbacks en route to E10 honors


Janari Dean eludes tacklers in a high school football game against Memphis University School. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Eubanks, South Panola High School)

One of the main things associated with South Panola football is having a well-oiled running machine.


Names like Deshea Townsend, Derek Pegues, Darius “Tig” Barksdale, Nicholas Parker, Qyendairs Griffin and the school’s all-time leading rusher Darrell Henderson come to mind. The same could be said about Janari Dean.


Dean, whose father James Dean was also an acclaimed South Panola running back, was recently named the sixth member of the 2019 SES Mississippi Elite 10. He joins 2014 Mr. Elite Darrell Henderson and former quarterback Patrick Shegog as recipients from “The University of South Panola.” A new member of the Elite 10 is announced each Monday by the SES Mississippi staff from early June to the first Monday of fall practice in August.


That title is just one of the things that Dean plans to make clear to everyone in 2019.


“It’s a great feeling,” Dean said. “We’ve been working really hard to try to get that old South Panola football mentality back, and I think my teammates look at me as a great leader. So I believe this award will help me lead my fellow teammates even better.”


Dean has the capability to do big things both on and off the field according to assistant coach Zach Broadway.


“Janari is a special kid," Broadway said. "He's extremely humble to be so talented. He is an absolute workhorse. He puts just as much commitment into the classroom as he does the weight room. His leadership abilities are so far above other people his age."


Dean, like many males in Panola County, desired to dawn the navy and red growing up. He eventually got his opportunity, but it didn’t come easy. Injuries derailed his high school career early as he suffered a torn ACL and meniscus as a freshman in 2016 and then a broken arm the following season.


“I got depressed because I had never faced adversity before," Dean said. "I just had a lot of talks with the man upstairs."


He didn’t waiver.


In 2018, Dean was healthy and ready to embrace the role of a “workhorse." The Tigers were without many of their key skill players on offense from the previous season, and Dean had to take a big weight off of sophomore quarterback Anterio Draper.


The Tigers sputtered early in the 2018 season. Dean was still able to rack up impressive numbers, but his team was faced with an 0-2 mark in region play and were 2-5 overall at one point. It was around that time when Dean decided to turn things up a notch.


“As the season progressed, I started running a lot tougher," Dean said, "and it was like a domino effect and rubbed of on the team. We started running through people, and I felt we were just warming up.”


Five straight 100+ yard rushing games led to five straight wins for the Tigers. He ran them into the playoffs for the 16th straight season. Although their hot streak ended at the hands of Starkville, Dean had himself a whale of a year. He finished with 2,030 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, all while averaging seven yards a carry.


This season, Dean has made it a mission for him and his team to bring the “old South Panola football mentality” back to Batesville and hopefully win state title No. 12 for his school.


“First, it all starts in the weight room," Dean said. "Just everyone having accountability and a bunch of blood, sweat and tears shed as well as building a bond with your brothers. When it’s time to step on that field, no one can touch us because we know every single one of us balled out all summer."


The next member of the Elite 10 will be announced on June 15.


Follow Jared on Twitter @RowdySES.

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