While Cartersville senior receiver Tony Dean may not have gotten the same accolades or national recognition from the recruiting scene that some of the other Canes at his position received, there was no denying his impact on the 2015 state championship football team.
Whether it was a big catch on third down, finding the end zone or springing a long run with a block downfield, Dean’s abilities were imperative to the team’s run to the state championship.
Dean’s talents were recognized Thursday when he signed a scholarship to play for Point University during a ceremony at Cartersville High.
“It’s a really good community and I love the atmosphere,” Dean said of why he chose Point. “They have a really good program. I think I can go there and contribute.”
Point is located in West Point in Troup County and the football program is a member of the NAIA. Dean chose Point over scholarship offers from Shorter University and Guilford College.
The Skyhawks went 9-3 last year and reached the NAIA Football Championship Series. The team averaged 266 passing yards per game last year, and Dean’s versatility as a receiver should be a welcome addition to the program.
“They’ve offered him some money and an opportunity to continue his education,” King said of Dean going to Point. “Like I say with all of these deals, these young men are getting a chance to further their education, and that’s what it’s all about. So he’s excited. He won’t be too far from home, and those guys down there are excited about getting him.
“They’re surely getting a good player.”
Dean was a second team all-region selection this year after compiling 372 yards on 26 receptions, good enough for a 14.3 yard-per-catch average. He also was third on the team with seven touchdown receptions.
Dean’s versatility played a major role in the team’s success as he was able to rotate between multiple receiver positions. He was sometimes used as a possession receiver on third downs and in the red zone, and could turn a gain out of a short pass on a quick screen or could go deep for a big play.
“He could play any one of the receiving positions we needed him to,” King said. “He was that committed in learning that. At one point in time, he wasn’t the starter, but then someone would get hurt on the Z, and then someone would get hurt in the A, so we’d start him at the A. We played him at the Y a bunch. He’s a guy that’s been a program guy. He came in and worked hard, was super skinny when we got here. He gained a lot of weight.
“I sure am proud of him. He’s a good boy, and it’s good to see the good ones rewarded for their hard work.”
Although he recorded at least one catch in each game this season, Dean’s biggest game came against Northwest Whitfield, the No. 2 team in the region, when he had 95 yards on five receptions with two touchdowns. He also was responsible for one of the best highlights of the season during the North Paulding game when he corralled a pass that was a little behind him by turning his body, jumping over a defender and plucking the ball away for a touchdown.
“That’s my favorite catch,” Dean said of the play he made against North Paulding. “I put that first on my highlight film. .... [Point] really looked at it. I showed a lot of my crackback [blocks] and things. I guess they loved that.”
Dean’s blocking ability also was a draw to Point and was an aspect of his game that embodied his toughness and commitment to the team.
“I tell the kids all the time, ‘When somebody looks back at the way you play the game, the best thing they can say about you is “That joker played hard.’” And that joker played hard,” King said of Dean. “He blocked. He ran routes well. He’s another one, if he was hurt, he wasn’t going to come out. He was going to stay in there and keep going. He’s a special young man. That trait alone will take him a long ways in life.”
Those traits also were critical in helping the Canes win the state title.
“It was unbelievable. I couldn’t imagine anything better. It was just a great atmosphere. All the community came out and I was just having fun with my boys,” Dean said of winning the state championship. “I loved the teammates I had. It was a really good experience for me. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”