Players of the Pine Belt: Columbia WR/OLB D.J. Cloyd
COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - Less than a year ago, Columbia head coach Chip Bilderback led the Wildcats to their first state title in nearly 40 years.
“That was last year, that was 2021. We’ve moved on from there,” Bilderback said.
The first step to putting the state championship in the review mirror is filling the vacancies left by 22 seniors.
“People are really looking at it like ‘oh we lost a whole bunch of seniors and a lot of size’ but I feel like we got a whole bunch of great athletes out here,” Columbia senior D.J. Cloyd said.
“We’re inexperienced. I’m not necessarily going to say we’re young,” Bilderback said. “We have a lot of guys that just haven’t had the opportunity to play because they’ve had some great players in front of them.”
But with those key players gone, Columbia has a lot of holes to fill with the Wildcats only returning 3 starters to each side of the ball.
“They’ve kind of been in the backdrop a little bit but they’ve been working and they’ve been a big part of our success the last couple of years but now their role is going to change into a starter role.”
With so many new faces on first string, Chip Bilderback will rely on veteran contributors like wide receiver and outside linebacker D.J. Cloyd.
“He is the epitome of what our program is about. Hard worker. First one here, last one to leave. All the cliches that the coaches talk about their player, that’s D.J.,” Bilderback said.
“He’s been a part of 29 games the last two years. That’s almost three seasons over two so he’s played a lot and has been in a lot of big games. He’s almost like the grandfather out here.”
“He trying to call me old,” Cloyd joked.
But even with so much experience under his belt, Cloyd himself is taking on new roles.
“This year the area that his role has got to grow is his leadership. That’s something he’s really worked hard for.”
“He [Bilderback] says we should have leaders and I see myself as a vocal leader. I don’t really believe in this is the coaches team or this is my team or your team. I feel like it should be a player-led team,” Cloyd said.
The Tulane commit brings speed, knowledge and physicality to the field but Cloyd feels his greatest asset is his energy.
“A quiet team is a dead team so if I’m dead they’re all looking at me so I got to have my energy. I’ve got to come with my ‘A game’ and all the hard work and leave it all on the field.”
Columbia opens its season at home versus Mendenhall on Aug. 26.
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