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Family First: Airedales' Coursey follows in the footsteps of his dad, uncle 9/30/20

Family First: Airedales' Coursey follows in the footsteps of his dad, uncle

J. Coursey



By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 


ALMA — J.D. Coursey is sitting with his family. It’s Friday somewhere in America, and for the Courseys, that somewhere is Citizens Bank Field at Airedale Stadium. 


Just then, as J.D. and Bekah Thomas-Coursey’s oldest son lay on the field, his crumpled up body leaning closer to the opposing team's sideline than his own, is wincing after a hard hit during the opening week of Alma's 2020 football season. 


Nothing is promised in COVID-19 2020. Not even high school football. An injured football player in September? 


Get in line. 


Six months before, as schools are shutting down amid a Pandemic people were still trying to understand, Jacob Coursey is shooting baskets on a sun-splashed April afternoon in a church parking lot with classmates BriLee White, Drew Battles, and Hunter McAlister. 


On this night, however, anxious classmates are standing in unison until Coursey picks himself off the turf. The five-foot-7, 165-pound senior eventually trots off the field, his spirit shaken but not broken. (Trust me, 165 is being generous). 


A week later, Coursey cradled a perfectly thrown pass from quarterback Conner Stacy on the team's fourth snap of the game, then raced 53 yards for a touchdown reception during Alma's 17-14 overtime win over Rogers Heritage.


A good route runner with good hands and average speed, Coursey’s Stacy’s favorite targets.


"It was really a big deal for our team and it was really big for coach (Rusty) Bush to get his first win here," Coursey said. "It brings a lot of chemistry between us and our coaches and us as teammates."


But it's Coursey’s defensive prowess that draws the most raves. Like a heat-seeking missile, there's nothing soft about Jacob Coursey's tackling ability. 


“You have to play angry to be successful,” he said. "It's just kind of a mindset you have to have. When you step on the field and put the helmet on, you turn into a different person. During practice, it's not really the same because we're going against our own guys. I kind of have the mindset during the game that those guys (opponents) are trying to take something from me that I want.


"It's a different mindset that not everybody has."


Coursey leads the team in tackles and has 10 receptions for 108 yards and a TD reception. 


Alma (1-3, 0-1) travels to Harrison today.


"He does everything you ask him to do at a hundred miles an hour,” Bush said. “You don't have this happen very often in your crew, but sometimes you have to slow them down at practice, just because you don't want to get anybody hurt."


"Coursey's been our leader in the back (secondary) since I got here," first-year defensive coordinator Ernest Pressley said. "He's that guy who can go out there and get us lined up in multiple coverages. We've asked him a lot this year, to step down in the box and help us on run support. That was really evident those first four games - he was averaging 12 to 15 tackles a game."  


Not only that, but Coursey's also led the team in forced fumbles behind the line of scrimmage. "For a safety, that kind of talks about his aggressiveness and how tough he is," Pressley added.


Old School


Jacob Thomas Coursey is a throw-back football player in every sense, the type of kid who couldn't have played for Wayne Thompson's 1972 Airedales just as easily as some of those tough-as-nails mighty mites who left it all on the field for Frank Vines' 1990s Airedales. 


Jacob came into this world on the morning of April 21, 2003, a five-pound, four-ounce bundle of joy born five weeks premature with baby blue eyes and a smile that immediately melted the hearts of his two of his biggest fans — grandmothers Cindy Coursey and Patricia Thomas. 


“As a dad, all you want is to see your kids go work hard and benefit from the fruit of all their labor. Nobody sees your kids work the way you see your kids work,” J.D. Coursey said. “You see them come home after a loss or after a bad practice. As a dad, it's even more rewarding to see all that hard work pay off.


"He's having to learn to be a good teammate and trust his coaches. I'm thrilled that we're in week five of the football season and he's still playing — every play is a blessing.”


Green and Gold


By the time Jacob Coursey was old enough to play football, J.D. Coursey — now an assistant principal at Alma Middle School — had become an assistant football coach. 


Seventeen years later, Jacob Coursey is living proof that little guys aren't just happy to be part of the team but important players, too. 


"My dad played here; my dad coached here, and my uncle (Shane) played here, too," Coursey said. "We've all kind of grown-up here. Growing up here and watching the guys ahead of me ... they played not just for each other but the name on the jersey. Along with the other activities I've done in this school, everybody does it because we're Alma and it's very important for


"He's a small-town kid who absolutely loves this game and loves his teammates,” Bush said. “He's a coaches kid who understands the game. He's a special kid, and I'm really excited to be part of his senior year."


Tyler’s sidekick


As a ballboy for the Airedales — a feat Jacob Coursey did between his fourth and ninth grade seasons — during his dad’s coaching tenure, Coursey admired the play of former football star Tyler Mylaker. 


One day he told him as much.


"I was a ballboy from fourth through the ninth grade, me and Tyler had some conversations," Coursey said. "I just really looked up to him. I had his mom, too, when I was in the sixth grade."

"We have to figure out our identity on offense and not turn the ball over," Coursey said. "We have to play together and not get frustrated defensively. We have to keep calm and make sure we're leaders on the field. 


"Sometimes it happened last year, too. Sometimes people can get in your head about not being as good as you want to be. You can't let the outsiders get in your head."