A second Hernando High graduate has inked to play football this fall with the NAIA's Graceland University Yellowjackets in Lamoni, Iowa.
Following in the footsteps of Leopard center Andrew Timmons, Andre Dason Southall, will meander nearly 20 hours across 1,310 miles before reporting to school Aug. 14.
Andre was born and raised in Brooksville by his parents Kavin Southall and Sophia Holland.
The 18-year-old Southall, who mostly started at cornerback for HHS skipper Dwayne Mobley, narrowed his choice of schools to four: Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., Adrian College in Adrian, Mich., Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio, and Graceland.
Southall sealed his decision with a visit to Graceland.
"The entire time I was there I felt like I was with family," recalled the 5-foot-9, 175-pounder from Brooksville. "Everyone I met was so nice.
"I was able to visit with some of the Florida guys, too," added Southall. "I was at ease the whole time. It was like being at home."
On the recruiting pitch, "The coaches spelled it out for me," recalled Southall. "They lost a bunch of guys in the secondary and they needed some corners; that's where I've played for years.
"I thought coach was pretty straight. He said that I 'need to come in ready to work hard.'"
On his visit across campus, "It was like Hernando," described Southall. "It was real easy to get around and no one I met was stuck up."
Southall's athletic roots trace back to Hernando Youth League football at Ernie Wever Youth Park. He started playing football when he was 10 and played for 2-3 seasons.
When he matriculated to Parrott Middle School, he participated in track and field, specializing in the 100 and 200 as a sixth- and seventh-grader.
As an eighth-grader, he literally spread his wings and made the football team playing fullback and cornerback.
That year he also delved into basketball and maintained his speed in the sprint corps running the 100 and 200 for a third straight season.
As a freshman at Hernando, Southall played JV football and earned a varsity letter in track, specializing in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay.
After playing JV football as a sophomore, Southall's grades dipped, leaving him ineligible for track and field.
He bounced back in the classroom to become eligible and played varsity football as a junior and returned to the oval. Again he concentrated in the 100, 200 and 4x100. The 4x100 relay unit won the county and eventually advanced as far as regionals.
As a senior, Southall collected 32 tackles across 11 games, finishing 10th on the team in tackles.
In a varsity career where he never scored a point, he did rush the football twice as a junior for 26 yards.
He closed out his Purple and Gold prep career just as he started - running the 100, 200 and 4x100.
Though he enjoys track, his favorite sport is an easy choice.
"Its football," said Southall. "I love playing defense. You don't have to rely on anybody. What I enjoy most? Hitting somebody with the football.
"There's a certain intensity that goes along with playing football," stressed Southall. "There's no better feeling than making a tackle on somebody."
In evaluating his prep career, "Overall, we had talent, there's no doubt. We just didn't finish what we started," suggested Southall. "We made the playoffs the last three years - that's pretty good. I'll admit I had some nice memories."
One such snapshot was his interception in the spring classic against Clearwater Central Catholic.
"I did what I always do, I just read the quarterback's eyes until he threw the ball and then I stepped in front of the receiver and made the play," said Southall. "Playing defense is all about making plays."
On the sting associated with dropping his final game - a career-ending 60-3 loss in Alachua County to Gainesville, "It hurt so bad; probably for two weeks," pointed out Southall. "It was falling in love with a girl and her breaking up with you for no reason.
"Probably the score hurt the most. Yeah, I have some regret. I felt like some of the guys, including me, let up."
Upon arrival at Graceland, he aspires to earn a degree in business administration.
"I'd like to someday own my real estate business," said Southall, who graduated with a 2.3 grade point average. "I have a few aunts who are into real estate. They've already given me some pointers."
Before he departs for the Midwest, Southall wanted to extend a few thanks.
"I have to start with my family. My mom, dad and grandma Edith were my rocks," he said. "No matter what I did, they'd push me into not giving up on my dreams.
"I have to thank Coach Mobley and (former Hernando head coach) Coach (John) Palmer. To me Coach Mobley is an inspiring guy," smiled Southall. "He leads by example. He gets you psyched to play college and the NFL.
"And Coach Palmer has always pushed me hard, but with direction.
"I also have to give big thanks to Coach (Patti) Martin," detailed Southall, referring to the school's volleyball mentor. "She was the one who kept me in line on my virtual school studies. If it hadn't been for Coach Martin, I wouldn't have graduated on time. I owe her so much."
On the transition to Iowa where there is no family or friends, "I don't think it'll be too bad," forecasted Southall. "My parents have raised me right. I'm really ready for the challenge."
By the Numbers: Hernando's Andre Southall
- Compiled by TONY CASTRO
YR SOLO ASST TTK TBL SK QBP CF FR PB BLK INT
2012 12 20 32 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0