MAIS Prospects Having SEC Success

For years fans, analysts and others have questioned the level of competition in the private school ranks in the state of Mississippi. With the recent level of success some MAIS alumni are making on the college level, it is clear that times as well as perceptions are changing.

Back in 2001, Jackson Prep product Will Overstreet was named the top college football prospect in the Magnolia State.

Named a high school All-American by multiple publications, Overstreet went on to All-SEC honors at Tennessee.

After two years with the Atlanta Falcons, Overstreet hung up his cleats.

Overstreet was a consensus blue chip player, which even then was a bit of a surprise considering the high school league he played in.

Despite the former Prep standout's accomplishments, the private school ranks in Mississippi did not get a lot of respect.

Then called the MPSA, the MAIS programs saw very few of their football prospects draw serious interest from major programs.

Jackson Academy star Reid Neely made some contributions at Ole Miss during the late 2000s after battling through injuries much of his college career.

Mississippi State struck gold when they landed brothers Addison and Cameron Lawrence from Magnolia Heights.

After winning a state title together in high school, the brothers Lawrence became regulars in the starting lineup for the Bulldogs.

Addison Lawrence was a solid edge protector at right tackle for three years, while younger brother Cameron was a fan favorite at linebacker and captain of the defensive unit as a senior.

Addison went to camp with the Baltimore Ravens making it all the way to the final cut.

Cameron is currently on the 53 man roster for the Dallas Cowboys.

Anthony Steen of Lee Academy in Clarksdale, Mississippi has been a mainstay for national champion Alabama at offensive guard.

Steen was lightly recruited by the in state schools in Mississippi, but has proven to be an All-SEC talent in Tuscaloosa.

Another MAIS player who elected to leave the state for his college football career was Stevan Ridley of Trinity Episcopal.

A one time Ole Miss commitment, Ridley jumped on an offer from LSU once it was extended and went on to a great career for the Bayou Bengals.

Ridely now carries the banner for the MAIS in the NFL for the New England Patriots.

Speaking of LSU, when Ole Miss knocked off the Tigers earlier this year, the game winning field goal was booted through the Vaught-Hemingway uprights by Jackson Academy product Andrew Ritter.

The game clinching interception against Vanderbilt by the Ole Miss is defense was reeled in by Sylva Bay product Cody Prewitt.

One of Mississippi's top quarterback prospects last year, Ryan Buchanan, is in the middle of a redshirt year in Oxford.

Mississippi State has had some recent contributions from MAIS prospects on the offensive line.

Over the course of the 2013 football season, Ben Beckwith of Benton Academy, Justin Malone of Madison-Ridgeland Academy and Jamaal Clayborn of Jackson Academy have all drawn starts.

The Bulldogs run on big men from the MAIS ranks should continue in the 2014 signing class.

MRA left tackle Sean Rawlings committed to Mississippi State a few weeks ago.

Rawlings joins Columbia Academy All-American kicker Logan Cooke as Bulldog commitments.

While the jury is still out for the 2015 class, the early returns suggest that Magnolia Heights big man Matt Womack will have some scholarship offers to consider in his own recruitment next year.

The bottom line is that the perceptions about prospects from MAIS programs are changing.

Some of those programs are now competing head to head with some of their public school counterparts on the playing field and winning.

The days when college coaches could ignore the players chasing their football dreams from this league are likely over forever.

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