Big Bobby Jones let out a cackle that would make any little fellow jealous.
Large and in charge with a funny bone thick as a steakhouse’s best sirloin: Jones is a massive dude who knows how to have fun.
At 6-foot-1 and 330 pounds, Jones is the largest member of Austin High’s offensive line. Anyone else who tries to claim that title is quickly cut down with a comical zinger.
Here’s an example: When Austin Allday, a 6-foot-1 and 300 pound offensive tackle, was referred to as the biggest of the bunch, Jones quickly chimed in.
“Hey. Hey. Hey. Biggest guy in school, right here,” Jones said with a loud laugh. “That’s Mr. Second Biggest right there.”
Splitting hairs — in a genuinely fun way.
Jones is a big softy at heart. For the Austin offensive right guard, who claims he’s now too big to play tackle — an obvious jab at Allday’s not-quite-the biggest of the bunch stature — laughter is the key to life.
That quality has rubbed off on his teammates, too. Watching the members of Austin’s offensive front interact off the field is an interesting — and humorous — back and forth to observe.
Jokes are frequent. Cracks about their teammates’ vices and peculiar habits occur often.
And no one takes anyone seriously.
The camaraderie is a refreshing sight.
“We’re all weird in our own ways,” Jones said with a smile.
Spend a few minutes with Austin’s big men, and it doesn’t take long to figure out they are a close-knit bunch. Calling the relationship brotherly wouldn’t be a reach.
Saying the group is good at their jobs wouldn’t be a stretch, either.
Austin’s offense has been the best in the area. The unit is averaging more than 35 points per game. Whether running or passing, the Black Bears have been efficient.
And it all starts with the big men up front — an ensemble that could moonlight as standup comedians.
“They’re a very close group — and a fun-loving group,” Austin head coach Jeremy Perkins said. “They’re all team players and great guys to be around. I think that’s created a great chemistry, which is a very important part of having a good offensive line.”
Perkins is right about the chemistry. The personalities on the offensive line fit together like an easily assembled puzzle. Jones is the pack leader. The two-year starter and captain — who takes as many one-liners as he dishes out — has a likeable personality the entire group has taken on.
Allday, another massive two-year starter, is the left guard who has been known to dish out a few friendly jabs of his own.
Then there are the newcomers. Jo-Wan James, Tyler Sherwood, Jaquarous Sherrod and Daniel Gaietto are all new to the starting lineup, but they’ve been perfect fits — both on and off the field.
“We all hang out a lot,” Allday said. “We do things away from school. I’d say we’re all friends. That’s what makes working together fun.”
It’s obvious that the relationship works well on the field. Austin’s offensive front is pushing defenders around, paving the way for an offense that averages about 400 yards per game.
That this is happening doesn’t surprise those involved. They expected to be efficient — despite returning only two starters.
Having quality replacements helped. Sherwood didn’t start last season, but rotated in and out of the lineup. James and Sherrod are the only true newcomers. They played on the defensive side a year ago.
“And there were some growing pains with them (James and Sherrod), because those defensive guys, they came over here and were holding guys like nobody’s business,” Allday joked. “But we’ve got them straightened out now.”
Those are the big bodies. But as in almost every litter, there is also a runt.
At 5-10 and 170 pounds, Gaietto, a junior center, wasn’t cut from the same mold as his offensive line teammates.
But don’t be deceived. His teammates say that pound for pound, he’s the toughest guy on Austin’s offensive line.
“There are reasons why Daniel has done so well,” Perkins said. “No. 1, he is extremely intelligent. He’s one of the top students in the junior class. And No. 2, he was up here for every workout during the offseason. Because he is smart, he puts himself in positions where he can hold his own against bigger players, and because he dedicated himself in the weight room, he’s a lot stronger than he looks. He’s turned into a heck of a player for us.”
The numbers have been good, and consistency hasn’t been an issue.
But maximum potential? The group agreed as a consensus that a peak hasn’t been reached.
“We’ve got a chance to be really good,” Allday said. “I don’t think we’ve gotten to where we can get yet, because some days we get fat and lazy. But for the most part, we get after it every day, and we’re getting better every week.”
Austin’s offensive line is setting a standard of excellence, and stars like Josh Walker, Brandon Watkins and Chris Sparkman are benefiting every week with sterling highlight reels and newspaper headlines.
For offensive linemen, that’s the way life goes.
“And that’s fine,” James said. “That just means we’re doing our jobs. The only thing that matters to us is that we’re winning games.”
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