Adam Choice proved time and time again, yard after yard, scintillating run after scintillating run, how much he meant to the Thomas County Central football program.
However, his worth may have never been more evident than after he suffered a season- and high school career-ending injury against Harris County at the end of the third quarter on Nov. 8.
For a team that averaged more yards rushing per game than any Yellow Jackets team since Ed Pilcher brought the veer to Central in 1991, and for an offense that averaged 35 points per game, Choice’s absence was notable.
Five and seven.
Following Choice’s dislocated shoulder, Central played five quarters. The Jackets scored seven points.
“I’ve told people that was probably harder than sitting out and watching my sophomore year that Cairo game,” said Choice, the 2013 Times-Enterprise All-Area Most Valuable Player. “I don’t like having to watch my team play, especially without me playing. But it’s not something I could control. It was out of my hands.
“But watching those last five quarters was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
“There were some things we had, we got some bad breaks. But some things could have went our way and turned out differently. But we did some things, too.”
Added Central coach Bill Shaver: “If you have to say who’s the one guy that you can’t lose and still be as good a team, obviously Adam’s the one. When he touched it 100 percent of the time on offense, and makes all the decisions, it definitely affects your team.
“It was just a tough one.”
But Choice’s greatness was evident long before that injury. His legacy will be remembered for a different set of numbers, not that five and seven. Rather, it will be defined by 5,095.
“What he does is amazing in that offense. He runs it to perfection,” said Thomasville running back Mario Cherry, the All-Area Offensive Player of the Year. “He’s really smart and athletic. So it’s pretty hard to stop that.”
It something very few were able to do.
Sixteen years after his cousin Joe Burns set Central’s career rushing record with 5,006 yards, Choice surpassed it. And once again, he did it in explosive fashion. Already the school’s single-game rushing leader after torching Lee County for 313 yards in 2011, Choice entered that Harris County game 173 yards behind Burns, the former Georgia Tech star who went on to a four-year National Football League career with the Buffalo Bills.
“When you break a record that you didn’t think was going to be broken for awhile, over 5,000 yards for a career, that’s obviously not just a one-year deal but a three- or four-year deal,” Shaver said.
Added Choice: “I think about it every once in a while that I did do something here. But at the same time, it wasn’t my main goal. I’m proud of it, but it wasn’t what I really wanted. I really want to still be playing right now.
“But I am proud that I accomplished something. It’s something to be proud of.”
One quarter after topping the record against Harris County, Choice’s season was over, but not before he set the new mark at 5,095 yards. In his three years as Central’s starting quarterback, herushed for 1,622 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2011, 1,658 yards and 23 touchdowns last year and 1,521 yards and 14 more touchdowns this year.
“I felt like I was having a good year,” said Choice, who originally thought his injury was a stinger, much like one he battled earlier in the season. “I was hoping to do better than I did last year — that’s always my goal — but I felt like I was playing pretty good, and I felt like I was contributing in some way. And then, of course, the injury happened and I had to sit there and watch.
“That was hard.”
It took Thomasville’s new coach, Leroy Ryals, all of four plays to see all he needed to know that the Central quarterback and Clemson commit was a special player.
“It’s like I was talking with (Lamar County) coach (Franklin) Stephens this weekend, what makes him special,” Ryals said of Choice’s 78-yard scoring scamper that helped Central set the tone early in the 38-0 season-opening win. “When you have an Adam Choice or a couple of the kids that he has, when you defense it right and they still break it out for 10 or 12 yards, and you have two guys on him and you still can’t tackle him anyways? That’s when you know you have somebody special.
“I’ll never the forget the first touchdown. They ran the midline against us and we have two guys there to tackle him and he makes them miss, and that’s when you know that he’s special.
“That’s what it takes at the next level. Because when everything is said and done, and all the coaches are done and put the pens down and all the Xs and Os are on the board, it comes down to players. And he’s a special player.”