By Carey Reeder
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
A 6-foot-3, 280-pound kicker.
It sounds like something out of a movie. For the Pickens County High School football team, that is a reality.
After the first two weeks of the 2019 season, Pickens County head coach Michael Williams did not have a reliable punter or kicker after the starter went down with an injury. When he addressed the team at practice and asked if anyone could kick, senior defensive lineman Jah-Marien Latham assured Williams that “he’s got this.”
“The crazy part about it is that I never knew he could kick,” Williams said. “I saw him kick and he booted it and I just went ahead and made the adjustment right then.”
Since then, Latham has been the daily punter and kicker for the Tornadoes and the tale continued to grow on Oct. 18 prior to Pickens County’s 32-13 win over Berry. Latham was warming up and practicing his kicks and knocked through a 47-yard field goal that left his teammates in awe.
“I’ve been kicking since pee-wee and when I was coming up (through school),” Latham said. “They finally talked me into kicking field goals and I kicked that one before that game. I’ve always been able to kick.”
Kicker is just one position among a plethora of spots Latham has lined up this season for the Tornadoes. Latham has played on the defensive line, lined up at linebacker, ran the ball on short yardage situations, lined up at tackle to protect the quarterback and even has his own goal-line package.
Latham was named the Class 1A Linemen of the Year and first-team All-State in Class 1A in 2018 and carried that momentum over to this season.
Quarterback Javion Belle, who took over during the Aliceville game on Sept. 27, was extremely expressive about how happy he is to have Latham at left tackle protecting his blindside.
“I don’t have to worry about anyone blitzing that’s for sure,” Belle said chuckling.
With three players hurt, Williams has just 24 players at his disposal to put out on the field, so playing both ways is necessary for many players, including Latham. While the team is small, the comradery within the team and locker room is second to none, according the Latham.
“We all know each other, everyone on the team is family and treat each other like we’re brothers,” Latham said.
“To go out and compete on a level others think you can’t with just 24 players, it’s humbling,” Williams added. “I try to teach them life lessons that no matter how many people are in your corner; you can do big things.”
While doing the most for his team, Latham is like any other 18-year-old from Pickens County. A multi-sport athlete, he plays basketball and also throws in field events for track, enjoys hunting and fishing in his free time and a “country boy.”
Latham has decided to keep his roots close to Reform and verbally committed to Alabama on Nov. 19, 2018, just two days after he received his offer.
Williams also attended Alabama and was a tight end from 2010-13 and part of two national championship teams.
Williams mentioned a coaching point he learned that “as a coach, you can’t be your players friend.” With Latham, Williams threw that point out because he described the senior as a “little brother.” The two talk every day and Williams has been able to help Latham be prepared for what to expect when he arrives on campus next year.
“I’ll tell him stories, not horror stories, and now he understands better that this is what I have to do to get ready,” Williams said. “This is what I have to do to go in and have a chance to play, what I have to do in the classroom. Not just win championships, but the daily grind of what you have to do.”