Here are a few fun facts about the East Texas city of Nacogdoches:
- Formally founded in 1779, Nacogdoches claims to be the “oldest town in Texas.”
- Stephen F. Austin State University opened there in 1923.
- This past June, Nacogdoches Central Heights’ baseball team won its second high school state championship.
- Soccer standout Clint Dempsey and MLB all-star Brandon Belt were born in Nacogdoches.
Parts of Nacogdoches also will play a prominent role in Texas’ secondary this season. Sophomore safety Brandon Jones, a member of Nacogdoches High’s Class of 2016, is penciled in to start. Freshman Josh Thompson, who graduated from Nacogdoches this year, will provide depth at cornerback.
“We definitely take pride from where we are,” Jones said. “At the end of the day, we do what’s best for the team. We love to show support for Nacogdoches when we can.”
Jones played in all 12 of UT’s games last season, and he started against Oklahoma State. He finished the season with 16 tackles. His biggest impact was on special teams, however, as Jones blocked two punts. (Texas’ last blocked punt had come in 2012.)
“Brandon Jones can cover a lot of ground. If that guy played center field, he’d make a whole lot of money,” UT safeties coach Craig Naivar said.
Texas coach Tom Herman has said Thompson will play this fall. During his senior year of high school he had two interceptions and four fumble recoveries. He also scored on a 95-yard kickoff return and a 75-yard punt return.
A four-star recruit, Thompson originally committed to Texas coach Charlie Strong. When he signed with Herman this past February, it set up a reunion with Jones. Three years ago, the duo led the Nacogdoches Dragons to the Class 5A Division II playoffs.
“Josh is like my long-time brother,” Jones said. “We’ve always played football together. This is really one of our dreams together, playing in Pop Warner, going to the same middle school and going to the same high school. We’ve always been together and we’ve always been there for each other.”
Jones and Thompson are the first Nacogdoches representatives on UT’s football team since Joe Samford in 1976. The players, however, aren’t alone in that refurbished locker room. Texas’ roster boasts players from places like Longview, Gilmer and Tyler; the Longhorns’ East Texas natives have formed a fraternity of sorts.
“When they bring in the recruits from East Texas, I just start smiling because I know we’re going to build a bond with each other no matter what,” said receiver Dorian Leonard, who’s from Longview. “Even if they come in on defense, offense, kicker. If we get a kicker from East Texas, we’re going to be together.”
Pride isn’t hard to find in East Texas. On Twitter, the #bEASTtexas hashtag coined by the East Texas Sports Network has been consistently used to celebrate East Texas’ past, present and future. Gilmer-bred cornerback Kris Boyd also isn’t shy in his assessment of the area’s talent.
“I tell them every time in the locker room that’s where real football’s played,” Boyd said.
The Longhorns from Austin, Dallas and Houston agree, right?
“I just tell them (to) line up,” Boyd countered with a laugh.
The post From Dragons to Longhorns: Nacogdoches DBs to defend Texas’ secondary this fall appeared first on HookEm.
News on Bevo Beat is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of Hookem.com is included with an Austin American-Statesman subscription in addition to Statesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe today at statesman.com/subscribe.