By Ruthie Robison The Winston County Journal
Nanih Waiya Warriors head football coach Tate Hanna was chosen as this year’s offensive lineman coach in the prestigious Mississippi- Alabama All-Star game.
“It’s an honor for me being a head coach for only six years and coming from a smaller school to be coaching in my second all-star game,” Hanna said. “I’ve been really lucky, and it has been a real privilege.”
Hanna will coach under the leadership of head coach Junior Graham of Eupora and share the sideline with assisting coaches Demaris Mitchell of Broadstreet, Paul Dees of Ethel, Judd Boswell of Clinton, Kenny Burton of Ridgeland, Jamie Mitchell of Starkville, Lance Pogue of South Panola, Administrative coach Howard McNeil and 40 of Mississippi’s most gifted athletes. “It’s exciting to be able to coach this type of talent,” Hanna said. “It is going to be an experience, and I look forward to it.”
This isn’t the first time Graham and Hanna have coached together at the all-star level. Two years ago, they were both on the coaching staff of the Bernard Blackwell All-Star game. Hanna represented the south half of the state as offensive coordinator while Graham represented the north half as scout coach.
To be selected as a coach in the Mississippi-Alabama game is an honor as well as a lengthy process. To qualify as an assisting coach on the All-Star level, Hanna had to meet the guidelines set by a committee of coaches including career-winning percentage, letters of recommendation, years as a high school head football coach in the state of Mississippi and had to have previous experience coaching in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star game. Hanna met all requirements, and the committee of coaches and Graham decided he was a perfect pick to lead the talent-filled offensive line.
“The committee is made up of some of the best, well-known coaches in state of Mississippi so being selected is an honor,” Hanna said. “It’s also an honor to work with (Graham).”
Hanna found out about his new position in the late Spring. After all the coaches were notified that they had been selected to represent the state of Mississippi, the long process of selecting their roster began.
“This year has been a great year for offensive linemen,” Hanna said. “We have the biggest group of offensive linemen that there has been in the state of Mississippi.”
The players were announced on Oct. 17 at the Mississippi Association of Coaches Office in Clinton.
Three of Jackson newspaper The Clarion Ledger’s “dandy dozen” will be featured on the offensive line this year; Kent Flowers of Hollandale Simmons, Deon Mix of South Panola and Jake Thomas of Columbus.
“On the offensive side of the ball, we’re big. The offensive line’s average height is 6 foot 3.5 and our average weight is 291,” Hanna said. “Our offensive line is going to be huge and very talented.”
The rest of the offensive line is just as talented consisting of; Chris Berry of Quitman, Davin Farrior of Wayne County, David Mahaffey of Brandon and Jacob Feeley and Joey Reynolds of Picayune.
“Going in we felt like the offensive line was going to be a strength, and we could build around those guys,” Graham said about the players Tate is leading. “Two come from Picayune which is a top team in the state. They are probably two of our smaller linemen, but they are going to be two of the most aggressive.”
Coaches and players met for the first time on Nov. 4. However, the squad will not begin practice until the Monday before the neighboring state matchup.
“We picked a team with high character, and a team that could go there, try hard with only one week of practice and give us a chance to win,” Hanna said.
Mississippi trails in the series against Alabama 18-7, and has lost the past four consecutive years before entering their meeting on Dec. 15. Although Alabama has a larger population than Mississippi and a bigger pool to pull players from, Mississippi has done an excellent job building a competitive team to face Alabama’s best.
“This is a huge year for the offensive line, and in the past that has been what hindered Mississippi when they played Alabama,” Hanna said. “The offensive line wasn’t as good as Alabama’s defensive line. Hopefully we’ll turn it around this year.” Tate also looks forward to representing the community of Nanih Waiya.
“Last time when I coached in the Bernard Blackwell all star game, I was the first coach from Nanih Waiya that had ever had the opportunity to coach in an all-star game. It was a big deal and I had much community support that went with us,” Hanna said. “The community rallied behind us and supported us. I look forward to the same thing, but on a bigger scale. We have a lot of support from the school, and it is to honor to be here.”
The 26th Annual Mississippi-Alabama showdown is scheduled for Dec. 15 at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. Kickoff is set for 12:00 p.m.
The game will be airing on ABC-WTVA.