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Player of the Pine Belt: Wayne County’s Camren McLaurin

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 12:40 PM CDT
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WAYNESBORO, Miss. (WDAM) - Jack Hankins, one of Alabama’s winningest high school football coaches, crossed a couple of state lines to take the reins at Wayne County High School and return it to being one of the winningest football programs in Mississippi.

AS far as senior receiver/free safety Camren McLaurin and his fellow War Eagles are concerned, that’s exactly how it should be

“Our goal is nothing short of winning a championship,” McLaurin said. “Not second, not third.

“We’re going to come out here and play to the best of our ability.”

Hankins, who sported a 169-62 record in 19 seasons as head coach at Thomasville (Ala.) High School, said he was looking for another challenge.

Wayne County’s tradition and football history were appealing, Hankins said.

“We came from a place that had high expectations, and as a coach, you don’t want to be anywhere else,” Hankins said. “You don’t want to be in a community where they accept you going .500 or accept you not as good.

“You want to be at a place where they expect you to win, and we expect to win here. Our community expects us to win, and that’s the culture you want to keep and build.”

Created through consolidation in 1989, Wayne County High School has logged four state championships, the last coming in 2015.

And therein lies the rub.

The War Eagles have gone no deeper than the second round of the playoffs since then, posting their first losing season since 1999 in the COVID-19-stained 2020 season with a 4-6 record.

So, McLaurin and his teammates have been hitting the weights and doing the sprints with a bit more urgency.

“The vibe’s been different,” McLaurin said. “We’ve really been working harder.”

Hankins said he’s liked what he’s seen so far.

“It’s been a great experience,” Hankins said. “They work hard, they’ve accepted me, and coming to a new place, that’s what you kind of wonder or your biggest worry.

“But these guys are great. They’re willing to work hard, to get things back. When people think of Wayne County, they think of state championships. They’re ready for that.”

And Hankins said he likes the example seniors like McLaurin have set during the heat of the preseason workouts.

“This is a critical time in our program here at Wayne County,” Hankins said. “Everybody will tell you, you win when the stands are empty. You win on what you do from January to August.

“For these seniors, I’m their third head coach, so it’s important that we’re all on the same page and we’re all working toward the same goal.”

The 5-foot-9, 165-pound McLaurin said Hankins has preached family and responsibility since his arrival.

“As far as the seniors, we’re trying to make sure everything is done right, show the underclassmen how we do it,” McLaurin said. “We try to make sure there are no mistakes.”

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