JCJC's Leverett Adjusting to New Position

ELLISVILLE – Moving from defensive back to linebacker can be a major adjustment for a football player. But, Jones County Junior College's Demorio Leverett (Bartow, Fla.) has made the switch in fine fashion.

"I'm playing linebacker for the first time ever," said Leverett, a 6-foot-1, 233-pound sophomore from Bartow, Fla. "It was kind of difficult at first, but I've caught on to it and gotten better."

"At first, I was really wondering about it, but I really like it now."

After watching his performance in last week's 26-22 loss to the Pearl River Community College Wildcats, it's no wonder Leverett likes playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

He made a huge play with just 2:36 left in the game when he recovered a Wildcat fumble and ran 15 yards into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Bobcats a 22-19 lead. He also intercepted a Pearl River pass on the game's second play from scrimmage. In between, he recorded 11 tackles and kept the Bobcats in the game up until the end.

"Last week was my best game of the season," said Leverett, who added he would have gladly traded the performance for a JCJC victory. "On the fumble, we had a blitz called. I was coming off the corner after they hiked the ball. I was coming so fast, he (quarterback Emil Jones) dropped it. As soon as I saw him drop it, I went straight for it, scooped it up and I was smelling the end zone. That's where I was headed.

"On the interception, I had already had a big talk with the team before the game. We were on defense first and I wanted to be the first to come up with a big play. I dropped back and my dude went away and blocked. I saw the quarterback looking toward the middle, so I dropped that way. I don't guess he could see me over the linemen. He threw it and I just broke on it and caught it."

Leverett also returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown against Itawamba Community College in JCJC's 38-7 season-opening victory.

Leverett said there are several differences in playing in the secondary and at linebacker. But, the main thing is the pace of the game.

"The biggest difference is I always had a nose for the football," he said. "I like to come down and hit. The difference is it's a lot faster at linebacker because you are right in the mix of everything. They want you to make most of the tackles.

"You have to take on the big linemen, while back at safety, you have to make sure you don't get beat deep if somebody gets past the defensive linemen or the linebackers."

The play of the Bobcat front four - ends Darrion Wilson and Riley Flowers, along with tackles Joshua Stephens and Caleb McQueen - has also made Leverett's adjustment easier. He is quick to give credit to the players up front.

"If it was not for the front four, I would not be having the success I'm having," he said. "They do a great job of keeping the offensive linemen off of the linebackers. Our system is set up for the linebackers to make most of the tackles. So, I have to give a lot of gratitude to the front four."

Just how Leverett arrived at JCJC is an interesting story.

He was a standout at Auburndale High School in Florida, but was injured his senior season. He wanted to play immediately, rather than be redshirted after he left high school. And it just so happened that former Bobcat defensive end Chauncey Davis, who is now with the Atlanta Falcons, also played at Auburndale, graduating from there in 2000.

"I had a lot of colleges I was looking at, but I broke my foot in my senior year of high school," he said. "But, I thought I might not have been ready at some of those places and I would have been redshirted. I had already missed a year, so I really did not want to sit out another year.

"Everybody put in my head I was good enough to go juco for two years. My high school head coach looked around and knew about Jones because we had Chauncey Davis up here. That's how I knew about Jones. I came for a visit and I signed with them."

Leverett played defensive back in 2006 as the Bobcats posted a 6-3 mark.

Last year, he was not in school at Jones, but has made a successful return in 2008.

"I had some family issues and I was not looking forward to staying out a whole year," he said of 2007. "I was just going to take off one semester, but it did not work out that way."

The Bobcats are enjoying a solid 2008 season so far. They are 5-1 overall and are ranked No. 8 in this week's NJCAA/jcfootball.com poll. They also still lead the South Division by ½ game at 3-1, despite last week's loss to Pearl River.

Leverett said the Bobcats have the ability to have an outstanding year.

"As far as the team is concerned, we have a good team," he said. "It's the same as when I was here in '06. We are still good, but we just have some guys who need to get more focused when it comes to playing a big game. It showed last week when we lost.

"I think we've got good team chemistry. Everybody is together. We just need to be more focused once the game starts."

Moving from defensive back to linebacker is not the only change for Leverett. He comes from Bartow, which is just east of Tampa Bay. So, living in Ellisville has been quite a bit different than living in a larger area.

"I'm from the city and used to city life, so it's kind of slow for me," he said. "I just had to find things that I like to do to make it fun for me. I have had to learn how to live in a different environment. But, I've made some new friends and I've enjoyed it."

The Bobcats will be trying to bounce back from last week's defeat to Pearl River when they take the field at 2 p.m. on Saturday against the Southwest Mississippi Community College Bears. It will be Homecoming at Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Field and Leverett expects a good effort by his team.

"We need to practice and get ready mentally and physically," he said. "We know we have the physical talent. But, the mental part is the key. Most of the big plays we are giving up are because of mental mistakes. We are beating ourselves.

"We've got Homecoming against Southwest this week and they've lost some games. But, they've got some good athletes and if we go in thinking we own them, we could come up short. We have to play our game on both sides of the ball, get to clicking and we can't be beat."

Leverett is enjoying his stint as a Bobcat linebacker. He credits JCJC linebacker coach Picasso Nelson with helping him learn his new position.

"Coach Nelson has an analogy for everything," quipped Leverett. "He can have you laughing. Outside of football, he is like one of us and one of the team. But, when it comes to business, whether it's in the weight room or on the field, it's all about business. He's not laughing or smiling or joking a lot then.

"He is one of the best coaches I have ever played for, no matter the position. He is going to stay on you in practice and during the game."

After leaving JCJC, Leverett will definitely play at the next level. He hopes to sign a Division I scholarship and enroll at a senior college for the spring semester.

"I am looking forward to passing my classes and graduating in December," said Leverett, who is a business administration major. "I have a couple of offers. Troy, Oklahoma State and Auburn are some of the schools looking at me.

"Wherever God sends me, that's where I will go."

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