Adairsville’s Hightower honored as all-American
by Jason Greenberg
Dec 17, 2013 | 1396 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While quarterbacks, running backs and defensive players get all the accolades, offensive linemen rarely get the attention they deserve.

That is unless you are former Adairsville football player Rance Hightower, who has been racking up the postseason awards after a stellar junior season at Maryville College.

Most notably, Hightower was named on Monday by the American Football Coaches Association to their 2013 Division III Coaches’ All-America Team.

“It’s a big honor. Maryville College hasn’t had one in awhile,” Hightower said. “It just gives me joy that all the hard work my teammates and I put in has paid off.”

Hightower, a 6-foot-3 offensive lineman, helped Maryville College to its second consecutive USA South Athletic Conference title and the program’s first trip to the NCAA postseason with an 8-3 record in 2013. He has already been named first team all-conference and earned second team all-region honors

“Us getting together and winning the championship this year is icing on the cake,” Hightower said of his award-winning junior season. “It’s a big accomplishment.”

According to the Maryville College sports information department, in 745 snaps this season as a guard, Hightower graded out at 89 percent with 18 knockdowns and 20 cuts. Maryville College’s offensive line allowed only three sacks in 11 games, tops in the nation, and allowed only four tackles for loss per game, fifth nationally.

Maryville’s 287.9 rushing yards per game ranked eighth in Division III. The offense also ranked ninth in third-down conversion rate and 15th in red zone offense. As a result, the team finished 20th nationally in total offense with 473 yards per game and 21st in scoring offense with 39.3 points per game.

Even with all the team and individual success this season, Hightower was still caught off guard when he found out he had been named an all-American.

“I knew I had a great year and our team had a great year. I just didn’t expect it,” Hightower said. “It’s just been so long since anybody’s won it [from Maryville].”

Hightower is the 38th all-American football player at Maryville College and the first offensive lineman to earn the honor since 1993.

Hightower was not always an offensive lineman. In fact, he did not play football his first two years at Adairsville. Then head coach Jim Kremer convinced Hightower to play his junior season. After playing nose guard on defense that year, Hightower moved to the offensive line on the advice of offensive line coach Steve Sparks and excelled his senior season.

“He’s a smart kid in the classroom, but he also kind of fell in love with learning the game of football and when he came over to the offensive side, he was sharp as a tack,” Eric Bishop, current Adairsville head football coach and former assistant, said of Hightower. “We knew that going into his senior year, [the offensive line] was going to be his calling in football. He could not only tell you his assignment, he could tell you everybody else’s assignments up there.”

Hightower had an 89.6 film grade average his senior year and was second on the team in pancakes.

“He was a great kid,” Bishop said. “All throughout high school he was a kid that we felt like, even his senior year, he hadn’t reached his full potential. I think the coaches will tell you, even then, his best football was ahead of him.”

Hightower credits the Adairsville program for helping him become an all-American at Maryville.

“We had a sign in our locker room that said, ‘If you stay, you’ll be champions.’ It didn’t necessarily mean you’ll be champions in football, but you’ll be champions in life and that’s something that really stuck with me,” Hightower said. “Just stick with it and things will work out.”

Indeed they have for Hightower who wants to one day get into coaching.

“I majored in physical education so I could be a teaching coach,” he said. “Either that or coaching at the college level, or hopefully get to play somewhere after this.”