Local Semi-Pro players honored

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2015

Caleb Varner

Caleb Varner

Tevin James

Tevin James

Red Level’s Tevin James and Caleb Varner will join the Alabama All-Star football team this weekend for the 2015 Southern Pride Bowl between Alabama and Mississippi All-Star teams in Pensacola, Fla.

The game pits All-Stars from teams in the Amateur Professional Developmental Football League, both James and Varner are members of the Covington Raiders.

Varner was a 2013 graduate of Red Level High School, and just finished his second season as a member of the Covington Raiders. Varner plays outside linebacker for the Raiders, and was also named to two All-Star teams last season, and this will be his third All-Star appearance in two seasons.

Varner began playing varsity for the Tigers around his eighth grade year, but said his sophomore season was were it really began clicking for him.

“I was named most improved player after my sophomore season,” Varner said. “And that is where it really all began, so to speak.”

During his junior and senior season, Varner continued to bring in the hardware by being name the True Grit Award winner and the All-Around Tiger Award winner both seasons.

Following high school, Varner elected to forgo college and join the Raiders.

“The colleges I talked to wanted to put me on a weight program,” Varner said. “And I felt like I could play better at the size I am. I just love the game, and I wanted to stay around and continue playing.”

Varner, who is 5 feet 7 inches tall and 180 lbs., said his size has always been his motivation, and he is always ready to prove people wrong.

“It’s not how big your are that matters,” Varner said. “It’s about the size of your heart. Being as small as I am I have always had people telling me that I can’t do something. I love being the underdog, and proving people wrong that say I’m too small to do something.”

Varner said his time with Raiders has been a lot of fun, but that it is nothing like high school football.

“It’s not like high school,” Varner said. “You are playing with guys from 20 to 40 years old, and a lot of them are big guys. You don’t do this for the money, you do it because you love it.”

Varner expressed his appreciation for everyone who has made this possible.

“I just want to thank my mom and dad for being behind me and supporting me,” Varner said. “I also want to thank all of the fans, and Opp for furnishing the stadium.”

This past season, James joined Varner on the Raiders and both enjoyed successful seasons.

“I played with Tevin in high school for a few years,” Varner said. “I actually played behind him until he graduated. This was kind of like a reunion year for us. It was cool getting to play together again, and it’s a lot of fun now that we have matured and understand the game better.”

James took a different path to the Raiders, after graduating from Red Level in 2011, James played at Alabama State and Concordia before coming back to LBWCC.

James plays defensive end and tight end for the Raiders.

“I’ve always loved playing football,” James said. “I want my career to be in football. I want to be an inspiration to kids around here. You never know who is going to look up to you.”

During the All-Star game, there will be several scouts on hand from the Canadian and European football leagues, as well as from the Arena league and a few other smaller leagues.

“I didn’t get to play in all the games this year because of work,” James said. “So I wasn’t really expecting to make the All-Star team. I consider it a blessing, and hopefully I will impress some of the scouts.”

James said his coach told him that the scouts would be looking for at least five players from the All-Star game to join the Canadian and European leagues.

“There will be a lot of different scouts from different leagues there watching,” James said. “I would like to get a chance to show them what I can do. This is something I love and it would be cool to get paid for it.”

Although he didn’t play in every game, James did set the team record for sacks in a game. In one game this past season, James recorded seven sacks and 12 solo tackles.

James said he spends a lot of time in and out of season to stay in shape for the game.

“We play football every Saturday and Sunday at the Kiwanis field, I go to Andalusia’s field and flip tires and a spend a lot of time at Andalusia Health and Fitness.”

James said that his powerful motivation comes from his mother.

“Growing up it was just me, her and my brother,” James said. “Just seeing how hard she worked all those years for us, I think she deserves for me to be able to give her everything.”

If football doesn’t work out, James said he currently in school pursuing a criminal justice degree.

“I would like to be a juvenile parole officer,” James said. “What ever I do in life, be it football or something else, I want to be able to come back here and give the kids a positive role model to look up to.”

The game will be played at Woodham Middle School, and admissions will be $10 for adults and $5 for students. One can bring a school supply and receive $3 off the price of admission.