Prep Signing: East Rowan’s Jefferson to Livingstone
By Ronnie Gallagher
GRANITE QUARRY — At 6-foot-1, 330 pounds, there’s no denying the fact East Rowan’s T.J. Jefferson is a lineman.
The only question is, which side of the line do you put him?
After a senior season where he switched from offense to noseguard, he may return to blocking next season. The all-county, all-conference behemoth is headed to Livingstone.
Jefferson said while he was leaning toward other schools earlier, new Livingstone coach Darryl Williams kept in touch.
“Coach said, ‘If it doesn’t work out, we’ll be sitting over here waiting on you. If you need a place to come, this is the place.’ ”
Jefferson said he may be making his third switch in three seasons. As a junior, he was an offensive lineman.
“Livingstone’s lacking offensive linemen right now,” Jefferson said.
Not that he couldn’t step over and play defense for the Blue Bears. He made a seamless transition at East when new defensive coordinator Jason Barnes arrived with a 3-5 stack. He was a key in the Mustangs’ turning their fortunes around with an eight-win season.
“When Coach Barnes came in, they needed a noseguard,” Jefferson said. “It was an adjustment a little bit at first. It was technique and footwork mostly. But once you practice something enough, you’ll get it down pat.”
Was it different being on that side of the ball?
“I just went in with the same mindset as I did last year,” he said. “I’m a team player and I wanted to help.”
Jefferson certainly did. His massive frame plugged up the middle and after midseason, it was difficult to run on the Mustangs.
Carson was held to 11 yards on the ground. North Iredell managed 40 and South Rowan only 30. In the playoffs, Rockingham County was held to 92.
But what Jefferson and his teammates did in a 21-20 playoff loss to Concord proved East was one of the best teams in western North Carolina.
In Week 2, the Spiders had whipped East 42-20, finishing with 284 yards on the ground.
Then they met again, this time in the playoffs, one step from the Western 3A Final.
“Our defense wasn’t the same one they had played earlier in the season,” Jefferson said.
Concord rushed for just 85 yards, mainly because they couldn’t move Jefferson.
“That was definitely one of my best games,” he said. “We were stopping the run and they had to bounce outside.”
Not only did he recover his second fumble of the season, he harrased Concord’s hyped, 6-foot-7 quarterback B.J. Beecher into a mistake.
“I kinda smacked him a little bit and he threw an interception to Dock (Corpening),” Jefferson said with a satisfied smile.
He said he had other big moments, but his thoughts were always team oriented.
“My biggest moment was making the playoffs,” Jefferson said. “That was a big step for us.”
At Livingstone, Jefferson will face the same sort of challenges he had at East Rowan. The Blue Bears have been on the bottom of the CIAA for years.
Williams could actually make him the team spokesman for bringing a team back from obscurity. East had only three wins in Jefferson’s sophomore and junior seasons.
Jefferson said Williams is trying instill the same mindset on Monroe Street that Danny Misenheimer did in Granite Quarry. — and he wants to be a part of another resurgence.
“A lot of coaches said offense, defense ... I said, wherever you need me,” Jefferson said. “I’m trying to get down to 315-320 because in college, it’s a faster-paced game.”
Livingstone may be the perfect fit.
“Everybody has dreams of going (to the next level),” Jefferson said. “I’m happy and excited that I’ll be able to do it at Livingstone. And I’ll get an education, that’s the biggest thing.”