South Pittsburg Iron Man

What is it about the South Pittsburg area that seems to produce tough-as-nails linebackers who hit like a ton of bricks dropped from the top of a TVA smoke stack onto a truckload of pumpkins?

Two of the top in-state linebacker talents Tennessee has ever signed hailed from Marion County in the persons of Eddie Moore of South Pittsburg and Eric Westmoreland of nearby Jasper. Both came from these small mountain communities as unheralded prospects. Both players were two-way stars at running back and linebacker. Both played strong-side linebacker at UT, lettering four years and serving as team captains before moving to careers in the NFL.

Their college careers overlapped in 1999 and 2000 with Moore backing up Westmoreland, who became a starter as a sophomore on the 1998 title team. Moore started in 2000 and 2001 and was a key component in the Vols dramatic upset victory in Gainesville in ‘01.

Westmoreland and Moore are quintessential examples of the type of low-profile, high-potential, in-state prospects the Vols have to identify and defend from SEC predators. Moore actually committed to Ole Miss before the Vols swooped in with a late offer that steered him to Knoxville.

It just so happens that there is a player at South Pittsburg that may very well reached that level, and certainly justifies a close look. At 6-foot, 195 pounds David Jones is very almost identical to Moore's size when he last played for the Pirates. Jones has started at linebacker since he was a freshman and he's also become an outstanding running back. Last year he rushed for over 1,300 yards on the Pirates undefeated (15-0) Class-A state championship team. He was also named defensive MVP on the title game, as well as Region MVP and an all-state selection.

He's fully qualified with a 3.7 GPA and has collected several attractive scholarship offers in addition to increased interest from some big names.

"Auburn is on David and Alabama is on David," said his father Daniel. "He's been offered by Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State University and South Alabama. North Carolina and Wake Forest are coming in. Tennessee is at the top of his list and we're anxious for Tennessee to make an offer to a Tennessee boy."

The Vols are certainly aware of Jones. He went to summer camp at UT and the staff has monitored his progress as a senior. To this point he is leading the team in tackles (over 50) as the Pirates have rolled to a 7-0 mark to extend their winning streak to 22 straight — a school record. He has also gained over 700 yards on the ground with 15 touchdowns. In a 28-21 victory over Tyner Academy Jones rushed for over 100 yards and recorded 12 solo tackles.

However the stat that really stands out from this season is six forced fumbles with two recoveries. When asked the secret of his success in separating ball and carriers summed it up succinctly.

"My instincts and I just love to hit. I love the big hit."

Of course it doesn't hurt that Jones runs a 4.53 time in the 40 or that he bench presses 405 pounds or that he squats over 500.

"I broke school record for backs with 405 pounds," he said. "I'm 20 pounds from the overall school record of 425 pounds on the bench press."

Clearly Moore has the makings of a collegiate player and his potential to play on either side of the ball along with his scholastic excellence make him a good risk. It's interesting to note is that Tennessee is the only team to contact him so far that's interested in him as a defender first.

"Since Eric Westmoreland and Eddie Moore came from this same area they kind of like him at strong linebacker," said Daniel Jones. "It's odd all the other schools in the SEC are recruiting him as a running back. As a matter of fact we were visiting with Coach (Stan) Drayton about six weeks ago he hadn't even seen David's DVD because the defensive coaches still have it. He said Coach Chavis had it with the rest of the defensive coaches."

David "D.J." Jones doesn't care where he lines up as long as it's the quickest course to playing time. Neither is he put off by UT's slow start this fall.

"Tennessee is a great program," he said. "Every school goes through those years when they don't win many games. But in another year or two I believe they'll be back with the elite of the nation."

Faith like that should to be rewarded.

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