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SMU's big man on campus

Joey Sturdivant got his share of attention when he was at Parkview, but maybe not as much as he should have.

That's because back when he played for the Panthers, there was no shortage of football standouts to share the limelight. He was on the most impressive team in the history of Class AAAAA football in Georgia, but the group still had its individual stars.

Up until his senior year, Sturdivant played with current Atlanta Brave Jeff Francoeur, maybe the most acclaimed high school player ever in the state. Because he was a valuable defensive player, Sturdivant's time at running back was limited since Parkview had two Division I backs in Brad Lester (now at Auburn) and Sean Dawkins (now at Troy). His squad also had three Division I linemen in David Overmyer (Florida State), Zeb McKinzey (Georgia) and Brandon Pilgrim (Clemson).

So the guy in the No. 32 Parkview jersey didn't get the fame he would have if he played on another team in another season. At least from fans and the media.

"We absolutely knew how good (Sturdivant) was," Dacula head coach Kevin Maloof said. "He got plenty of attention from us."

Now he's getting attention off the football field, too.

It took going to college, but Sturdivant was named "Big Man on Campus" for Southern Methodist by Sports Illustrated in its preseason football issue. Each school had a "Big Man" and Sturdivant is "The Guy" at SMU.

A respected leader, the senior safety was voted as one of his team's captains recently. On the field, he has been named to some preseason All-American teams after leading the Mustangs in tackles (112, fourth in Conference USA) and passes defended (14, first in the conference) as a junior.

The praise is well deserved for a nice kid, one who had to go through the heartbreak of losing his father Paul, a starting linebacker at SMU in the 1970s, to a heart attack during the middle of his senior season at Parkview. His father certainly would been proud to see how well his 6-foot-2, 210-pound son is doing at the college level.

One memory I'll always have of Sturdivant came last fall when I asked him about Francoeur being on the SI cover. He gave the most genuine response of anyone I asked about it.

"When I saw it, I was so proud it brought tears to my eyes," Sturdivant said.

He's still not the cover boy, but I'm happy to see Sturdivant is getting his due, in SI and other places.

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.