Fyffe quarterback Ike Rowell did not wait around to find out if he would be announced as the winner of the 3A Back of the Year Award. In fact, Rowell was doing what most teenagers do at 11pm on a school night, when the awards were announced: sleeping.
“I was asleep and my mom called me and told, and woke me up,” Rowell said of his experience finding out the news.
Rowell quarterbacked the Red Devils to a perfect 15-0 record this past season, culminating with a come-from-behind win over Montgomery Catholic in the 3A state title game. Rowell was also instrumental in helping Fyffe build a 45-game winning streak that they will carry into next season. For the season, Rowell was one of the most prolific players at any level quarterbacking the Devils but doing most of his damage with his legs. This season he rushed for 1,709 yards and 30 touchdowns, while also passing for another 684 yards and nine scores. In addition to this award, Rowell was previously named to the Class 3A first-team All-State honors.
While Rowell is thankful to have received the award, he was quick to point out that his teammates were just as much a part of him winning the award as he was.
“I was excited and all,” Rowell said. “But I know it’s a team game, and without them I wouldn’t be able to do the things I was able to do.”
One of those teammates was lineman Caleb Lyles, himself a three-time All-State player, was also named a finalist for the 3A Lineman of the Year Award, but lost out to Jett Smith of Walter Wellborn High School. Lyles was a three-time finalist for the award.
“It’s a great feeling to get to play with him,” Rowell said of his teammate. “It’s an honor, and for him to be up for It for three years, I’m glad I got play with him.”
That unselfishness is what stands out to Fyffe head coach Paul Benefield, who watched Rowell become a starter on both sides of the ball for the Red Devils in tenth grade, and saw him take on a more prominent role with the team each year.
“It’s awesome, there’s no kid in the state more deserving,” Benefield said. “We’re so proud for him, and of him for how he carries himself, he’s unselfish and you love to see good things like that happen. He’s so unselfish that it embarrasses him to win awards, but we’re so proud of him and all he’s accomplished.”
Rowell was a starting defensive back and and wing back that season, then became the team’s primary running back during his junior year, before being handed the reigns as quarterback this past season.
“He’s always been able to play there,” Benefield said of Rowell’s move to QB before the season started. “He’s got more speed there than any QB we had before, and that’s what made him so special, but at the end of the year it was his arm that won it for us. He’s just about all we had to put back there, we knew he could handle it and if he was able to stay healthy.”
Staying healthy was one of the biggest battles Rowell and the Red Devils faced this season, with him having a number of nagging injuries, including playing the 3A championship game with a strained Achilles heel.
“He fought through it all, including that last game,” Benefield added. “It’s just been a very tough year, but a very fulfilling year and this couldn’t happen to a better group of kids, and a more deserving group of kids. I’m proud of all they’ve accomplished.”
As for what’s next for Rowell, he said he is still weighing his options at the collegiate level. Rowell said he has received offers from some smaller schools, including schools in Arkansas and Mississippi, as well as discussing possible walk-on roles with bigger schools like Mercer and UAB.
While his time in Fyffe on the football field has come to an end, Rowell says it’s not the victories on the field, the long winning streak, or the individual awards he’ll remember most from his time with the Red Devils. But instead, the small things that bring a team together, and make playing at a place like Fyffe special.
“I’ll remember going through summer workouts and practice with my friends and just having fun with them,” Rowell said. “I’m thankful for all my teammates and coaches, and just all the Fyffe fans for their support throughout this year.”
The complete list of winners in each class is as follows.
Linemen of the year
7A: Jeremiah Alexander, Thompson
6A: Lee Hunter, Blount
5A: Jeremiah Williams, Ramsay
4A: Deontae Lawson, Mobile Chr.
3A: Jett Smith, Walter Wellborn
2A: Caden Story, Lanett
1A: Carson Jones, Brantley
AISA: Eli Richey, Southern Aca.
Backs of the year
7A: Conner Harrell, Thompson
6A: GaQuincy McKinstry, Pinson Valley
5A: Zyquez Perryman, Pleasant Grove
4A: Kamari Lassiter, American Chr.
3A: Ike Rowell, Fyffe
2A: Peyton Higgins, Mars Hill Bible
1A: Brayden Kyle, Decatur Heritage
AISA: Payton Allen, Chambers Aca.