Catholic’s Person getting college attention
By Tim Gayle
C.J. Person went through “another frustrating Friday,” as he put it, watching Catholic’s lopsided win over Prattville Christian last week.
The junior defensive tackle is happy the Knights are 2-0, but anxious to return to the football field after offseason surgery.
“It’s been very frustrating, but at the same time, going through something like that, you can’t be selfish,” he said. “You have to be there and motivate your guys. It would be wrong for me to go off in a corner and sit down and pout.”
The 6-foot-2, 295-pound lineman started playing football to emulate his cousin, Ricardo Stokes, a linebacker at Jeff Davis that went to junior college and later played at Miles College.
He got his first taste of organized football four years ago at Floyd Middle Magnet School. A school that had once had a rich tradition in football produced quarterback Robert Johnson, who went on to star at Jeff Davis and Auburn University, in its final season before disbanding. In its first year back, Andre Howard coached the 2014 team to an 0-8 season as Person played linebacker, running back, fullback, quarterback, tight end and defensive lineman.
“They got football my eighth grade year and a coach that has coached me all my life decided to come and change the program,” he said. “He was like, we need a football team and he came and made it happen. I was the last one to join because I had quit football.”
The 220-pound linebacker went to Catholic the next year and rapidly grew into one of the state’s best underclassmen as a sophomore in 2016, recording 60 tackles, three forced fumbles and 15 tackles for loss despite playing the entire season with an injured hip.
“I played the whole year because I didn’t think it was anything major,” he said. “This offseason, we went to doctor after doctor and no one could find the answer. I finally got referred to Dr. (Benton) Emblom (an orthopaedic specialist at Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center) and after 30 seconds of talking to this guy, he was like, ‘I know what you’ve got. You’ve got femoroacetabular impingement.’ I was like, ‘Hmm, what is that?’ He said it was common in athletes.
“I went ahead and got the surgery and I’m glad I did. I feel great.”
While he was recovering this summer, he missed work in Catholic’s seven-on-seven drills but went on several unofficial visits to area colleges. One of his first offers came from South Alabama.
“It was great,” he said. “(South Alabama defensive coordinator Kane) Wommack showed me a lot of love, me and my boys that went down there with me. Another college that is not on everybody’s radar, Mercer, is a great school and just like South. I’m just waiting to go on more visits and meet new coaches.”
“I was asleep and Coach J (Catholic defensive coordinator Kirk Johnson) called me,” Person said. “I thought I was in trouble because Coach J doesn’t just call you unless you’re in trouble. I was like, ‘What did I do?’ He said, ‘Mississippi State.’ It took a while for it to sink in because this is all still new to me.
“I can’t lie. When I first got here, I was a 220-pound linebacker as an eighth grader. Now, I’m a 295-pound defensive lineman. It’s crazy. Everything has happened so quickly even though this is my third year here. I didn’t expect all of this to come.”
“Coach J told me they wanted me to come watch practice,” Person said. “Sounds good to me. That was my second time going.”
Person described Ansley as a “real cool dude,” but added he wasn’t placing too much of an emphasis on recruiting just yet.
Still, he admitted, a call from Alabama means a little more than most.
“Obviously, I have to be doing something right for Alabama to want to see me so it makes you feel good,” he said. “At the same time, you have to stay humble. It was a great experience. I love Alabama. Who wouldn’t? It’s a great school.”