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North Hardin junior linebacker Jeremiah Draper watches every game two or three times. The first look is to see where he needs to improve and the second viewing is to oversee the entire defense. Draper doesn’t watch like a player, but more with a coach’s eyes, jotting down notes.
Some of Draper’s notes include taking better angles to the ball, making the correct first step and shedding or getting around blocks quicker. He is a perfectionist and sometimes he doesn’t like what he sees, vowing to change it.
“I spend countless hours watching film,” Draper said. “I might watch only a few plays some nights before I go to bed. Coach gives me films to watch and that’s a blessing. I always take notes on what I can do better as an individual and what we can do better as a defense.”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Draper has become a student of the game, progressing from a sophomore season where he displayed glimpses of his immense potential to becoming the face and leader of the defense less than a year later.
Draper played outside linebacker last season, but moved to the middle this year to fill the void left by Johnny Hopkins. Playing inside linebacker seems to suit Draper, who always seems to be around the ball.
Last season, Draper struggled at times, admitting he made his share of bonehead plays. But what he gained was valuable experience and a thirst to do more this year. Draper leads the Trojans in tackles and has been a bright spot for a defense allowing 39.9 points and 379.8 yards per game.
“He definitely our defensive leader,” North Hardin coach Brent Thompson said. “He’s been a leader for us on and off the field and in the locker room. He’s done it all for us.
“He’s one of our most sure tacklers we have,” he added. “He makes a lot of tackles. He wraps up well and he’s made a lot of tackles for us.”
Thompson said Draper worked tirelessly in the offseason. Draper added 10 to 15 pounds through his work in the weight room. He worked to increase his flexibility, speed and strength in his legs.
“He’s really improved in taking on blocks,” Thompson said. “That’s where you see where his strength is. As a middle linebacker, you’re taking a lick on every play. He’s become much better taking on blocks. Last year, he wanted to run around them. He’s getting through blocks now or getting there before they can block him. Mostly, he’s running through blocks now.”
Like many athletes, Draper said the game has slowed down in his second season as a starter.
“The experience last year has helped me,” Draper said. “I started to see it at the end of last year. I’m working on my angles. My decision-making is much better.”
While there’s no question he has improved on the field, Draper’s biggest improvements might have come behind the scenes. Thompson said Draper’s positive attitude helps his teammates more than anything.
Draper is a member of North Hardin’s JROTC and he credits it for his discipline and demeanor.
“It helps with my leadership,” Draper said. “It helps because everyone pays attention to your attitude. It teaches you how to be a leader and a team player. It helps me a lot.”
The Trojans have had a trying season to say the least. After starting the season with such high hopes, they dropped their first seven games, and after a win over Louisville Iroquois, they lost back-to-back games to rivals John Hardin and Meade County.
Despite the lack of success, Draper’s approach has remained the same. He’s a blue-collar type player who shows up ready to give his all every day.
“It’s been tough,” Draper said. “But I’m playing the sport I love. I’m coming to work every day. I’m going to continue playing hard and working hard and keep my head in the books. That’s not going to change. It’s been tough at times, but I knew we were going to have a young defense. You just have to stay positive and keep working.”
It’s all part of the never-ending cycle. There’s always work to be done or a film to watch. Draper doesn’t mind. He’s not going to complain or grumble about it.
Draper never stops. That’s the way he’s wired. He’s driven and determined to become better and help the team succeed.
That’s evident from his film study sessions.
Chuck Jones can be reached at 270-505-1759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.