HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Like every other who has donned the red, white and blue at North Forrest High School, Tyler McLaurin knows what he and the Eagles can expect on the football field this fall.
We’re young," McLaurin said during a break from a recent summer workout. "We’re few in numbers, so it takes a great mindset.
“You’ve got to fight adversity back and not quit."
Like most of his teammates, the 5-foot-8, 210-pound McLaurin will play on both offense and defense, serving as middle linebacker and fullback.
McLaurin merely shrugged.
Two-way players are simply a way of life for the Class 2A Eagles.
“It’s a life lesson that you’re not always going to have everything you need, and you’re going to have to man up and just take it, just try and be better," said McLaurin, who was selected as North Forrest’s “Player of the Pine Belt.”
“It makes you stronger because most people don’t have to play both sides of the ball. They have a choice. We don’t have one.”
For North Forrest coach Anthony Dillon, it’s business as usual.
“We’ll play two-way football," Dillon said. "It’s just what the guys have to do, so we need two-way players.
“Our kids, they say it all the time, you have to overcome adversity. You’ll go down. You’ll be lightheaded. You’re cramping. But we find ways to put mind over matter and find ways to just keeping pushing."
“Hey, at the end of the day, we’ve still got to play,” he said. “There’s still got to be a football team.”
And usually, at the end of the first month, playing the Eagles winds up being about as much fun as falling in a thorn bush.
“I coach every kid the same, and we have a lot of young kids, so I’m excited to see what kind of coach I am and develop these young players into some good players" Dillon said.
Just like he did with McLaurin, who in his younger days was not exactly enamored with early-morning workouts in stifling heat.
“His father was on our side, and basically said, ‘When he’s up there, he’s yours,’ so I was able to push him pretty good, and that’s kind of what’s got us to where we are today,” Dillon said.
And what Dillon got was a somewhat reserved senior who has figured out his place on the field.
“I’d rather play linebacker, but I’ll do what’s best for the team," McLaurin said. “What do I like about linebacker? I get to hit people. That’s just what I like to do. That’s just me.”
Actually, there’s a lot more, Dillon said.
“We’re very grateful to have him on this team,” Dillon said. "He’s a guy who does everything right, on and off the field. He’s an ACT guy who always leads by example.”
North Forrest will open the 2019 football season at 7 p.m. by welcoming Lumberton High School to Eatonville on Friday, Aug. 23.
“We’re up for the challenge,” Dillon said. “We tell the guys, don’t quit on us. Keep working hard. When that last (horn) goes of in the game, we can accept the results if we left it all out on the field.”
“At the end of the day, we’ve still got to play," he said. "There still has to be a football team.”