Will McCommons hopes to lead the NGA football team to great success during his senior year
This story appears in the 2018 Smith Communications Inc. Football Preview Section, available inside the Aug. 23-24 editions of Lake Oconee News, The Eatonton Messenger and The Baldwin Bulletin.
Will McCommons is ready to break through.
The talented senior quarterback helped lead the Nathanael Greene Academy football team to the playoffs last year. Unfortunately for him and the Patriots, things did not end well.
NGA lost in the opening round of the GICAA playoffs against CrossPointe Christian Academy, 60-14. That came one year after falling to King’s Way Christian School, 66-42, also in the first round.
The Patriots’ one-and-done playoff appearances were understandably disappointing to all involved. However, because of the wealth of returning talent the past two years, there was reason to not be completely broken about them.
For McCommons, though, 2018 presents his final opportunity to win a playoff game in a Patriots uniform. He is the team’s only senior who spent all his time at NGA, and he is determined to make his last year in green and white the team’s best.
“My goal is definitely to make it to the playoffs and finally get past the first round,” McCommons said. “We've been knocked out the past two years and I just want to make it past the first round for my last year.”
The Patriots will try and do so with a new head coach. Kevin Nichols returns to the program this year after several years away. The past two years saw Edward Bradley lead NGA’s program.
With the coaching change comes a new offensive philosophy: The Patriots run a more power run-heavy scheme now as opposed to a more spread out, big-play driven approach under Bradley.
Because of that different emphasis, McCommons’ arm will not be used as much as before. He will still be expected to pass when needed, and Nichols said there will be packages that call for him to throw, but McCommons is prepared to take on a slightly altered role.
“We've got some (quarterback) runs,” McCommons said. “I lead block on a couple of plays, too.”
McCommons is a versatile athlete who excels in every sport he plays at NGA – football, basketball and baseball. Nichols said he quickly noticed McCommons’ athleticism.
He said that makes McCommons a critical weapon to use on the offense.
“Will McCommons is just steady as he can be,” Nichols said. “He can run, throw, block. He could play right guard, if you ask him to, in a game. He can quarterback, he can run the fullback, he can be a tight end or any position. He can play anywhere.”
The on-field capabilities McCommons possesses are great assets to the team. But his veteran leadership means a lot, too.
Sean Brown, a junior guard and defensive tackle, said McCommons is often able to help correct mistakes made by his teammates. He’s tried teaching them a few of his tricks, too, including a swinging power move to help them shed blocks.
“He's got four years of experience so he'll watch us during drills and, if he can help us in any way, he'll show us something,” Brown said. “He's got a deadly swim move and he helps us every day working on that.”
McCommons plays with a loose demeanor. He’s a serious competitor, but he likes to remind his teammates football is still a game and it is OK to play with enthusiasm.
“He brings a lot of excitement,” said junior Chase Crumbley. “We're excited about him. He's the only (returning) senior so we won't be missing that many people next year. But he does a lot for the team and he's encouraging, too.”
Crumbley likened McCommons’ personality to that of his cousin, Joseph Crumbley, who graduated from NGA this past spring.
Joseph Crumbley was the heart and soul of the athletic teams for which he played and, along with McCommons, was usually among those teams’ best players.
With Crumbley gone, it’s up to McCommons to lead the way.
“It's definitely some big shoes to fill,” McCommons said. “I thank God that I'm in this position. I just try to do everything right and lead everybody by example.”
According to his head coach, that is exactly what McCommons does.
“He's just a fine young man,” Nichols said. “He's a fine example. He has not missed a practice, a workout or any time down here – he's been down here every day and he works hard every day.”
During a recent interview, McCommons stated that the summer workouts flew by. It’s a common side effect of being a senior: everything goes by just a little bit faster than normal.
But although that is the case, McCommons said he will slow down this season, which begins Aug. 24 at Covenant Christian Academy.
McCommons wants to relish the opportunity to play for the only school he’s ever known.
“It means a lot playing for NGA,” he said. “I've played ever since C team in second grade. I think to myself, 'I've got to enjoy these moments while I still have them,' especially during running sprints and stuff because I used to hate doing all that and all the hitting drills and everything. I just think, 'I've got to enjoy this because I know I'm going to be missing it next year.' I just want to be able to look back on everything and know I gave 100 percent in everything I did.”