D181020 Hartselle vs Cullman (copy)

Hartselle linebacker Jackson Boyer (22) has committed to play football for Navy. [CHRIS SHIMEK/DECATUR DAILY]

HARTSELLE — Practice has ended for the day for the Hartselle Tigers.

Head coach Bo Culver has finished his post-practice talk and dismissed his team.

A steady stream of players leaves the practice field headed for the fieldhouse. It’s the whole team except for two players.

Down at one corner of the field, senior linebacker Jackson Boyer is giving special attention to a younger player.

“That’s a younger player who has changed positions to linebacker,” Culver said. “Jackson is helping him out with a few things. That’s the kind of leadership we expect from all the leaders on this team.

“I tell our twos (second-team players) and threes (third-team players) to watch, and our ones (starters) to teach. That’s what Jackson is doing. He leads by example. That’s the kind of leadership we get every day from him.”

It’s the kind of leadership that has landed Boyer an offer to play football at the U.S. Naval Academy. The coaching staff at Navy likes Boyer's size, 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, and his academics. He scored a 32 on the ACT.

Boyer committed to Navy last month while on a visit at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

“I had decided before last season that I wasn’t going to play college football,” Boyer said, “but I really enjoyed last season. It was the best time of my life, so far.”

Last season was special for the Hartselle Tigers. After going 6-4 in 2017 and missing the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, Hartselle bounced back with an 11-1 record and a region championship. It was a magical season with one amazing win after another.

“I realized that I wasn’t going to play in the SEC. But I thought what if I could play at a really good academic school, like maybe in the Ivy League?” Boyer said. “I didn’t even think about playing for a service academy.”

This is where first-year Cullman head coach Oscar Glasscock enters the story. He was the defensive coordinator for several years at Hartselle before moving to Mountain Brook. Last year he was head coach at Arab. This year’s he’s the new man at his alma mater just down the road from Hartselle.

“Coach OG has connections with the coaches at Navy,” Boyer said. “He told them about me and that’s how this all started.

“When Navy contacted me, I was skeptical about it, but then I visited. I really liked everything I saw. The coaches seem to really want me.”

Before Boyer can sign any papers making his future with the Naval Academy official, he has one more season as a Hartselle Tiger. It’s a season with change.

First, Culver is the new head coach taking over for Bob Godsey, who is now the head coach at Madison Academy.

“There’s a lot of change and it can be hard, but sometimes change can be a good thing,” Boyer said.

Then there’s the fact that 18 seniors graduated off last year’s team that won Hartselle’s first region championship since 2011.

“Those seniors were great leaders,” Boyer said. “Now our senior class has to pick up the slack and be great leaders.”

Boyer is convinced this year’s team has the ability to be good. The only thing missing is experience. The returning experience on defense includes Boyer, linebacker Drew Cartee and defensive back Addison Parker.

Most of the big-play makers are gone on offense, but Boyer has confidence new starting quarterback Cal George, running back Brinten Barclay and receivers like Hunter Driver, Jacob McDonald and Ian Bodine can get the job done.

“We just have to come together and play Hartselle football,” Boyer said. “If we do that, everything will be good.”

 david.elwell@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2395. Twitter @DD_DavidElwell.

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