Jamond Witt has always been a pretty good decision maker.
A junior running back for the East Hall Vikings, Witt has been able to overcome difficult life circumstances and avoid troubled friends who have steered down the wrong path.
Using football as his escape from those obstacles, he’s now starting to apply his decision-making skills to the sport. He came to East Hall, as Vikings coach Bryan Gray puts it, as “a good athlete that didn’t know how to play football.”
Demonstrated by his strong play to this point, and especially the last two weeks — he’s averaging nearly 25 yards per carry in that span — he’s no longer just an athlete, but a football player.
“I didn’t know much about being a running back,” said Witt, who has played in the East Hall feeder system since elementary school, but mostly at receiver. “Coach Gray has helped me out with running the ball, and when they moved me to running back, it just felt right.”
Witt currently leads the area with 855 rushing yards on 61 carries (a 14.1 yard per carry average) and also has nine rushing touchdowns.
In the Vikings’ 42-26 win last week in the subregion 8A-AA opener against Rabun County, Witt rushed for 236 yards and four touchdowns on just 11 carries. That followed up his performance from the week before when he rushed for 257 yards and two scores on 14 carries.
He’s also staying true to his receiver roots, averaging 19 yards a catch on eight receptions for 154 yards. As a kick and punt returner, he has 262 yards and touchdown on nine touches, including a 90-yard punt return for a score against Johnson in Week 3.
“We (as a coaching staff) knew once he learned the game, he was going to be pretty good,” Gray said. “He’s always been a natural athlete and not a running back, per se. He knows how to run and now he’s understanding how to read the gaps and hit the holes the line creates for him. He’s learning how to be patient and waiting for those holes to open.”
Gray said another reason for Witt’s success is the maturation of a young offensive line, which features five sophomores and two juniors in the rotation.
Junior lineman C.J. White, one of several team captains, said the team’s drive to make the state playoffs — the Vikings haven’t been since 2005 — has pushed the team to work harder.
With the win over Rabun County, the Vikings (2-3, 1-0 8A-AA) have positioned themselves at the top of a wide-open, six-team subregion that features no state playoff teams from 2009. Also, the win was their second of the season, breaking a string of three straight 1-9 seasons.
White also said the line is motivated to improve by Witt’s capabilities.
“Jamond gives us confidence because we know if we can make just a little hole he’s going to hit it and take it to the house,” White said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all how well he’s doing because he has the talent to be as good as he wants to.
“But we’ve got to work together to make him as good as he is.”
Both Gray and White have noticed Witt’s work ethic and willingness to become a better football player. His teammates have noticed too, electing him a team captain in the preseason.
For Witt, he said football helps him to stay focused in the classroom. He’s hoping to use football to land a scholarship and is taking steps toward that goal. He’ll take the ACT on Dec. 11.
“Our kids know if they’re not signed up for the ACT and SAT, we don’t talk about you (to college recruiters),” Gray said. “He’s a good kid fighting a lot of battles to be successful, and I think he’s got a chance to be a D-I player.”
Witt said he’s had friends removed from their homes for getting in trouble and that he’s chosen to stay clear of them. It would be easy for him to fall into the wrong crowd, because he currently has no means of transportation to get to and from practice.
“I always try to find a ride and if I can’t, I’ll call one of the coaches,” Witt said. “I choose to play football to stay out of trouble.”