BY PAUL HINES
MT. VERNON —
A Rams lineman will compete for Millikin's football team next season.
Mt. Vernon's Justin Armstrong recently committed to play for the university. Armstrong was a fixture on the line for the Rams a season ago. He was also a wrestler.
“(He's) just a tremendous kid and a hard worker,” Mt. Vernon football coach Jared Shaner said. “(He) lifts weights and conditions, obviously been a wrestler too. (I'm) really happy for Justin and glad he's going to go on.”
The Rams were winless last season, but Armstrong ended his season with a South Seven All-Conference first team honor. He was also named to the All-South First Team. He finished his high school football career with three letters.
“He was definitely our best defensive lineman,” Shaner said. “Just gets off the ball really well and defeats blocks and moves laterally really well for a guy that weighs close to 300 pounds.”
Armstrong played offensive line and defensive tackle for the Rams, and Shaner said he expected him to stay on the defensive line at the college level.
“I think after a year or so in the weight room and letting him get acclimated to their system I think he will be valuable to them,” Shaner said.
Defensive tackles are responsible for clogging up the opponent's running attack and keeping blockers away from the linebackers so they are free to roam around the field.
“It's not a real glorious position,” Shaner said. “A lot of times your job coaches refer to it (as) eat up blocks.
“Justin not only did that but got off of double teams and made a lot of plays. He led us in sacks and tackles for losses.”
Armstrong played with discomfort in his knee throughout last season and missed time because of swelling. He returned for Senior Night against Centralia in the final week of the season.
“He never complained about it, did everything we asked,” Shaner said. “We actually held him out of a couple games just to try to keep him as healthy as we could for his last couple high school games.”
Millikin finished 5-5 last season and opens its 2013 season against Greenville College at 1 p.m. Sept. 7.