Autrey inks football scholarship with Air Force Academy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 12, 2000

Last summer, George Nick Autrey had his mind set on playing both Division I football and baseball.

When his cousin Ollie Newton asked which one he liked the best, Autrey said he equally liked them both.

Later in this conversation, Ollie asked Autrey what would he do if he couldn't play both. Autrey's response is now legendary.

"I guess I'll be a student at Auburn. But that's not going to happen," he said.

What he worked so hard for happened last Thursday, Feb. 3. Autrey signed a football scholarship with the Air Force Academy. One of the deciding factors was that the academy had interest in Autrey becoming a baseball player as well.

"To have a chance to play Division I football and baseball has always been my life long dream," Autrey said. Autrey became interested in the AFA last season when he watched their brand of football.

"They like to use the option and that caught my attention," he said.

Former Heisman candidate and AFA QB Blane Morgan has been instrumental in the academy's effort to sign Autrey.

"We have talked several times. Blane has been helpful in my decision and I look forward to looking with him and the rest of the coaching staff when I arrive in Colorado Springs," Autrey said.

Autrey will try to make an earlier visit to AFA later this year. Last season with the Tigers, Autrey was the starting quarterback and helped GHS make the playoffs after a dismal start. Autrey's father, Nick, said the season was tough on all the players including his son.

"George Nick learned that perseverance and dedication pays off in the long run," the father said.

His father said 68 colleges from around the country expressed interest in the Tiger QB. He added that George Nick proved to be a part of the rich tradition of Greenville High athletics.

"Greenville High has a long history of turning out great athletes and George Nick is an example," Autrey said.

Autrey's father stated that he wished George Nick's grandfather could have had an opportunity to see the day happen. However, his mother, Kathy, was pleased to witness the signing.

"It is a dream come true to see George Nick have an opportunity to receive a college education from a school with such high academic standards," Kathy said.

Autrey hasn't forgot who helped him during the years.

"I was extremely lucky to have a great football and baseball coaching staff that worked with me day in and day out," Autrey said.

For example, GHS football defensive coordinator Tony Stonicher helped Autrey learn how to read defenses from the QB slot. To grasp a better read for the defensive schemes, Stonicher had Autrey play some snaps on defense during the year.

"It was a great experience and it helped me to think like a defender," he said. "However, it was just a beginning. I'll continue to study more of it from this point and into next summer."

Along with Stonicher, GHS head coach Gene Allen has helped the Tiger senior.

"George Nick is a class act and I'm proud of him for his hard work, determination and work ethic," Allen said. "I wish him the best at the Air Force Academy."

Greenville Parks and Recreational director and GHS Athletic Alumni Association director Jerome Harris and GHS baseball head coach John Williamson have also played a part in molding Autrey's work ethic.

"Jerome and John has been one of the many positive influences on George Nick and I'm thankful to him for that," Autrey's father said.

Dexter McLendon has known George Nick all his life.

"George Nick is a hard-nosed competitor and I have no doubt that he'll make Greenville and Greenville High very proud at the Air Force Academy," McLendon said.

Autrey will be one of several players competing for the quarterback position at Air Force.

"I like challenges," Autrey said. "It doesn't matter which position I play. I just want to work hard and have a chance to line up out there on the field and do my part."

So far in life, Autrey has done his part.