Gallagher column: Hinson finds some diamonds in the rough at East

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 14, 2009

East Rowan hasn’t been the place to find many three-sport athletes. When Brian Hinson took over as head football coach, he quickly found that out.
Some of the best athletes in school were baseball players. Most didn’t come out, electing on fall baseball instead. Basketball players who could make incredible moves on the basketball court did not make them on the turf, much to Hinson’s dismay. He’d get a baseball or basketball player here and there but the numbers were nothing like what he envisioned.
There is no fall baseball now. So Hinson welcomed juniors Jamey Blalock and Preston Troutman, along with sophomore Wesley LeRoy, with open arms. There’s basketball’s Riley Weber and Phillip Ajayi on the roster.
What Hinson would really like at East are more kids like Trey Holmes. Baseball is his best sport, but at East, he was the classic three-sport star. Holmes was a kid who loved one high school sport but liked them all. So he played them all.
“Last year, we didn’t have many,” Hinson said of the multiple-sport athlete. “It’s an understatement to say it was a down year.”

After winning seven games in 2007, the Mustangs sank to 1-10 last season. LeRoy had potential but quit for fall baseball. This year, he’s back. Preston Troutman didn’t play last season either. But he’s back. He joins Blalock at the quarterback position.
Troutman is a stalwart for Jim Gantt’s Rowan Legion currently playing in the World Series. Blalock played Junior Legion.
The football coaches lauded the efforts of both, who proved you can be a baseball ó and football ó player.
Blalock was last year’s jayvee quarterback. When his Legion team played this summer, he still came to football, just earlier.
“Jamey committed himself to coming to the workouts,” Hinson said. “That’s a definite sign of a leader.”
Assistant Gary Bass was even more emphatic.
“A lot of times, he didn’t get to practice with us but he was coming two, three hours early,” Bass said. “The kid put in a lot of time doing that.”
Bass said Blalock’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed as far as his teammates.
“Jamey’s a great leader,” Bass said. “The kids follow him and that’s the one thing we need. The kids really respond to him.”
Gantt has helped as well. He scheduled practice earlier in the day before high school football started.
“I’ve been able to get in all of it,” Troutman said. “It hasn’t been that hard.”
Hinson even said Troutman has been one of the major surprises. He will be a wide receiver, a cornerback and backup quarterback.
Troutman was asked which practice was tougher, baseball or football.
“Definitely, football,” he said with a grin.

Meanwhile, Weber, a six-foot senior receiver, is playing for the first time.
“We kinda get the kids who are one-and-done,” Hinson smiled. “But Riley has a good frame and he probably has the best hands on the team. I think he and Troutman had some classes together and they were bending each other’s ear.
“Maybe we can start recruiting our school a little bit,” Hinson said. “Hopefully, we’ll get more of those kids out.”

Hinson’s best recruit wasn’t off the baseball or basketball team, but in P.E. last year. He noticed a sophomore playing basketball.
That sophomore has turned into junior starting linebacker Jordan Hopper.
“Hinson and Bass walked up and said, ‘What’s your height? What’s your weight?’ ” Hopper said. “They’re like, ‘You want to show up for football?’ ”
Hopper hit the weight room, played jayvee, and now considers himself a football player first.
“I thought I’d be just an average player,” Hopper said. “I’ve come a long way compared to what I thought I’d be. The coaches are hands-on.”
“Jordan has a lot of potential,” Hinson said. “He’s now into football and has found a niche for himself.”
A football player first? At East Rowan? That’s a good sign for the Hinson’s program.