It was exactly the surly attitude any football coach would want a linebacker to have. Asked how he intended to deal with opponents testing his ability and whether he could live up to the hype, North Jackson High School star Tana Patrick was short and to the point.
“I think people will find out that I don’t take much crap,” said Patrick, who twice last year delivered hits that required trainers to carry the runners off the field. “There were guys who came at me last year with a lot of talk. I just kept coming at them and eventually let them know I’m not just all hype and that they don’t want any part of me the rest of the night.
“I can tell by their faces a lot of times that they’re intimidated and don’t really want to hit me anymore. And I love the adrenaline rush from a big hit. Hearing the crowd when you nail somebody, that’s when you know you’ve done something big.”
The Stevenson, Ala., school has been one of the area’s most successful programs, with perennial top-five state rankings and at least one player signing with a Division I program in each of the last five years. But Patrick (6-foot-3, 227) is the most sought-after prospect in program history.
The hype is substantial for Patrick, who is rated the fifth-best linebacker and overall one of the top 65 prospects nationally by Rivals.com. He has 15 scholarship offers already, including from more than half the teams in the Southeastern Conference and Southern California, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Florida State, Clemson, Michigan and Texas A&M.
A Chiefs starter at outside linebacker the last two years, Patrick, whose first name is pronounced “Ta-nay,” will move to middle linebacker this season.