MUSING WITH CECIL BUFFINGTON
The Best Football Player That Ever Played For Jefferson High School
On my cecilbuffington.com web-site during 2012, there have been many comments from viewers on some of the various posts. One page that has drawn considerable interest is “The Jefferson Dragons Legends.” The chart listing the top Jefferson football players and basketball players of all time invoked comments of agreement and disagreement from many of my regular site viewers.
I have been asked on many occasions why I list 1950's Jefferson All-state halfback Jeff Davis as the “Best football player that ever played for Jefferson.” I don't think for one instance that anyone that ever saw Jeff play during his high school years could possibly rate any other Dragon football player above the level he performed at for four years of high school football.
Names like Billy Ricks, Benny Tompkins, Webster Samples, Jack Kesler. Bobby Gooch, Alex Bryan, Johnny Spence, Todd Berry, Jimmy Lofton, Ronald Watson, Bob Hix, Steven Bryan and Darius Rakestraw are usually thrown out as possibly better than the 1950's running back that went on to play for Coach Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech.
I even had one person very succinctly ask me how I was capable of making such a judgment as to who was the best ever to wear the red and blue. My reply was simply ~ who could be a better choice to come to that conclusion than me? My rational: I first attended a Jefferson football game in 1953 when they played Commerce in Jefferson. My cousin, Tom Williamson played for Coach Davis on his second Jefferson team in 1952. I had somehow managed to talk my uncle, Ray Williamson, into letting me go to a football game in Jefferson to watch Tom play. As they both expected, I spent the entire game playing football with a group of youngsters behind the press box at old Memorial Field. We used a crushed paper cup as a football. I don't remember much about the game in that I never saw much, if any of it. By the time I was ten years old in 1955, I was able to again talk my way into being allowed to go to a Jefferson game. It was the Commerce-Jefferson game in 1955.
By this time, I was a big football fan that had no problem keeping my mind on the game. I began to regularly attend all Jefferson home games and as a junior and senior I played for the red and blue. This was during the 1962 and 1963 seasons.
After graduation I missed several games in Jefferson before getting back into a regular attendance mode once again. In 1966, John Kesler asked me to join his chain gang crew. I became the down marker carrier for Jefferson in 1966 and never missed a Dragon home game for the next 26 years. I also followed the Dragons on the road wherever they might be playing.
I saw all the Jefferson football player's over these years and would on many occasions walk out to the center of the field to congratulate a solid performance by a Dragon player after a game would conclude.
Even after leaving Jefferson for eight years in 1992 due to a career job opportunity with Perdue Farms in Dothan, Alabama, I would return on many Fridays to watch the Dragons play that night. I made it a point to never miss a Commerce game. I have not missed a Commerce game since 1954.
I don't have evidence one way or the other, but it is very possible that I have probably seen more Jefferson football games than anyone that ever lived. Certainly I would rank in the top five.
I think I have the knowledge and comprehension to recognize the best football players I have ever seen play for Jefferson High School.
I realize the subjectivity of stating that one individual was better than another. The times have changed. Would Jeff Davis have been a great football player in this day and time? I believe he would have been just as good as he was in late 1950's. He was 6'2", over 200 pounds and was a state high and low hurdle champion. He had tremendous speed and was also a very good basketball and baseball player as well as a great football and track performer. He was a great all-around athlete.
Could a youngster like Bryant Shirreffs have been as good in the 50's? Of course, he would have been even more highly acclaimed as a football player than he is today. While taking into consideration that today's athletes are much more athletic, much heavier and generally stronger and more durable due to working with weights and other training techniques, I still maintain that there were athletes of the 50's and 60's that could have been very successful in sports today. Heart had a lot to do with success those days as it does in the present era.
I hear people talk about the heart of today's Jefferson players. While this Dragon team does play with a great deal of emotion and determination, it's not just heart that is beating teams by 30-40 points when this team takes the field. It is talent derived from skills, intensity, coaching and personal pride. To pull out close game after close game would strongly merit support for a superior, gutsy attitude from a team. That has not been the case with these Dragons. They have been dominant for the most part during the course of the season. This is a very good high school football team.
Is it the best team Jefferson has ever had? I haven't seen any that could beat them the way they are playing at this time. We hear Coach McFerrin talk about the Dragons being under-sized. They are under-sized when going up against some of the teams they play on a week-to-week basis. But, with 230 pound linemen and even a 215 pound quarterback they are not under-sized in comparison with Jefferson teams from 30 to 50 years ago. Bryant Shirreffs weighs in at around 215 pounds. There have been many years in Jefferson history where not one player on the team weighed 215 pounds, much less the best football player on the team.
In answering the "best team" question, Yes, I honestly believe this is the best football team Jefferson has ever had. We have had teams with some outstanding individuals, even two or three on the team during the same year upon occasion. We have never had a team that has so many good football players on it at the same time. This season several Jefferson players will be strong all-state candidates after this years strong performances on the field. We could wind up with two or three all-state, all-North Georgia or certainly all-region honors. This team is that talented.
Now, who is the best football player to ever play for Jefferson? I must admit it was hard to convince me that anyone could be better than Jeff Davis. Well, I am now convinced that Bryant Shirreffs is as good or better than Jeff was as a senior. That's saying a lot because Jeff Davis was an unbelievable football player for the Dragons. But, than again, Bryant Shirreffs has been unbelievable for the 2012 Dragons.
I have moved the senior signal-caller to the top of my cecilbuffington.com “Best football player ever at Jefferson High School” after much soul searching. I don't think the Dragons could have beaten North Hall, Washington Wilkes, and of course Fitzgerald without the Jefferson signal caller. We could have lost several other games without the on-field performance of the big Jefferson quarterback.
Jeff Davis scored 23 touchdowns his senior year for the Dragons while rushing for over 1600 yards in 10 games.. He threw for 8 touchdowns and averaged over 10 tackles per game on defense. He ran back punts and kickoffs and probably carried the water bucket onto the field during timeouts. He was twice All-State and played in the prestigeous summer GHSA all-star game at Grant Field. He went on to have a very good college career with the Tech Yellow Jackets.
It is my belief that Shirreffs numbers will far exceed the former Dragon super-star for a season and even for a career. The one area where Shirreffs will far out-distance him in performance is that Jefferson will play for the state AA championship. That is a big plus when looking at 'The Best.”
The fact is that both were outstanding football players that left their mark on the Jefferson football program. I was fortunate that I was able to see both perform at their best during their high school careers. It was worth the price of admission!
Jeff and Coach Davis ~ Plotting a course for success during a Dragon time-out. A familiar scene during the Davis era.
Jeff after the 1960 Dragon football banquet. Racking up the hardware.
Jeff Davis was probably the best all-around athlete that ever attended Jefferson High School. He played football, basketball, baseball, ran track and was the team medalist on the golf team. It is estimated he received 18 letters in five sports during his high school career.
Bryant Shirreffs is unquestionably the most successful quarterback to ever wear the red and blue of Jefferson High school.
Bryant was not only an exceptional passer, he was a tremendous running threat. His versatility made him a touchdown threat every time he touched the football.
Shirreffs finished his Jefferson career with staggering numbers in three seasons. He completed 397 of 625 passes (64 percent) with 52 touchdowns. He also ran for 2,028 yards and 38 touchdowns. He accounted for 7,677 yards and 90 touchdowns rushing and receiving in three seasons. The culmination of this effort was leading the 2012 Jefferson Dragons to the Class AA state Championship.