CENTRE – During Cherokee County High School football head coach Jacob Kelley’s first year in 2019, he recalls a goal line drill at practice where he found out just what this kid named Damien Ramsey was all about.
“It was basically one of those best-on-best type drills, and we didn’t have anybody who wanted or I think could tackle him. He looked so good in that,” Kelley said.
Flash forward to the third week of the 2019 season at Jacksonville, when Ramsey had become a regular contributor on offense.
“We ended up going to a heavy set after halftime, and Damien and Slade (Alexander) and Kendrick (Fife) were just lighting them up. He’s got a special ability to use that big body and break through some stuff.”
During the 2020 season, the kid his teammates call ‘Rambo’ went into full combat mode.
Ramsey ran for 1,217 yards and 14 touchdowns on 192 carries. He also caught 12 passes for 125 yards and another score in helping the Warriors (7-4) earn a Class 4A state playoff berth.
But perhaps even more impressive than Ramsey’s final rushing stats of the season was more than half of his yards and eight of his touchdowns came after senior quarterback Slade Alexander went down with a Week 4 knee injury.
One of Ramsey’s big rushing performances following Alexander’s injury was a Week 8 Region 4 game at Cleburne County. He ran for 146 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. He also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the Warriors’ 21-0 victory.
“They were putting almost every single guy in the box,” Kelley said. “It got to be a point where we were facing a lot of that late in the season, where every single person on defense was keying in on Damien. He still made plays and did things.”
“Slade was a big part of our offense, and we were both putting up big numbers when we were both playing. When he got hurt, I knew I really had to step up and take over,” Ramsey said. “Our linemen did a great job this year helping me out. I just did what I had to do and they did what they had to do.”
For stepping up and being the back the Warriors needed, especially after losing a player of Alexander’s caliber, Ramsey is WEIS Radio’s choice for All-Cherokee County Offensive Player of the Year.
“It’s a tremendous honor for him, but he’s just getting started,” Kelley said. “He’s a beast. If you’re going to have a name like Rambo, you better be some kind of different.”
And Ramsey is some kind of different player for the Warriors.
Not only was he a force on offense, but he was also one of the team’s top defenders at middle linebacker with 80 tackles, including four for lost yardage.
In a crucial region game at Munford in Week 6, Ramsey batted down a fourth-down pass with 41.3 seconds remaining to preserve a 28-26 Warrior victory.
“He just has a tremendous athletic ability, especially for a guy as big as he is,” Kelley said. “You’re talking about a kid who’s 6-1, 235 pounds. He could go sideline to sideline. We use him in a bunch of different facets in game planning for different opponents.
“Against some teams later in the year, we were having some trouble throwing the ball down the field. We felt like to give ourselves the best chance to get first downs and control the clock, we needed to put him in a position to play a little quarterback for us. He did that, maybe the last two or three games, whether we were in heavy set or the Wildcat or our Gun Wing-T set.
“He could do it all. He could take the adjustments with whatever we needed. You’re talking about a guy who’s that big who can also run. He’s just a special type of kid.”
And a humble one, too.
Ramsey deflected the praise of his big season to his teammates and coaches.
“We had a lot of great players. Everybody gave effort. Nobody was slacking. Coaching had a lot to do with that,” Ramsey said. “Coach Kelley did a good job with us in the weight room and everywhere else. I just work out and do the right things. You’ve got to be able to take hits and not go down. That’s what we work on, and that’s what I do.”
COMING SATURDAY: All-Cherokee County Defensive Most Valuable Player