The Albertville football program has produced its share of legendary running backs in more than a century of competition, with several of them enshrined in the Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame.
Jacob Dendy’s three years in an Aggie uniform saw him take his place among those legends.
As a senior in 2018, Dendy rushed for a school single-season record 1,709 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. He finished his career with 3,625 yards, which is believed to be an Aggie record.
After weighing his options, Dendy chose to continue his football career with Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas. The Bisons are an NCAA Division II program that competes in the Great American Conference.
Dendy signed during a Feb. 20 ceremony in the AHS library.
“I used to sit there and watch these players and say I want to be just like them. I want to play college football,” Dendy said. “I’ve just been working at it day in and day out ever since I was 6, 7 years old. I started peewee at 6 years old and have been playing ever since.”
Soon after national signing day in February, AHS head coach Dale Pruitt received a call from Harding offensive coordinator Chris Hill.
Pruitt asked for Dendy to be excused from his math class so he could call Hill. During their conversation, Dendy scheduled a visit to Searcy. He committed to the Bisons after his visit.
Harding finished 20th in the final AFCA Division II Coaches Poll for the 2018 season. It’s the fifth time in the last seven seasons Harding has finished the season as a nationally ranked team.
The Bisons went 9-3 overall and 9-2 in the Great American Conference in 2018. Since 2012, they are 67-18 (.788), the most wins by any college team in Arkansas during that span.
Statistically in 2018, Harding led Division II in scoring defense (11.3), passing yards per completion (23.62) and time of possession (36:02). The Bisons were second nationally in rushing offense (341.1) and total defense (214.9).
“They redshirt most freshmen,” Dendy said. “Out of their freshman class this year they only played one.
“My leg is still fractured and to heal it, you have to have surgery and put screws in it. My ankle is hurting me in track right now — I have a sprained ankle. Maybe they feel like I could heal my injuries and be fresh as a redshirt freshman, but I’m just going with the flow. I want to do whatever they think is best.
“It’s great to be able to play for a big school like FBS, the Power 5 conferences. Either way, it’s a blessing to be able to play college football. Only 5 percent of high school athletes go to play college in any division.
“I know it’s Division II and I’m very thankful for it, and it’s a good opportunity for me. I want to be a college coach, and I’m going to try and be a GA [graduate assistant] after I play.”
Dendy was a three-time All-Marshall County selection. He shared the 2018 offensive most valuable player award with Boaz’s Christian Collins.
The Alabama Sports Writers Association voted Dendy second team All-State at running back in Class 6A for 2018.
He rushed for 22 touchdowns to go along with his 1,709 yards. He caught six passes for 88 yards and a TD and returned 12 kickoffs for 235 yards. He was 1-of-1 passing for 36 yards and a score.
Dendy delivered a performance for the ages in Albertville’s 35-27 triumph over archrival Boaz. He rushed 24 times for an Aggie single-game record 349 yards and five touchdowns on runs of 42, 52, 45, 6 and 78 yards.
“I think about it all the time. It was a game that will always stick to me,” Dendy said. “It was like that Guntersville game my sophomore year, it was just a big game. You’ll never forget games like that.
“It was packed out, it was a close game, your hometown rival. It don’t get any better than that. That’s the beauty of high school football right there is games like that.”
Dendy transferred from Douglas to Albertville before his sophomore season, and he thanked his parents for the sacrifices they made during the family’s transition. He also gave a shout-out to Pruitt and the Aggie coaching staff.
“Coach Pruitt has had a lot of patience with me. He’s done so much for me,” Dendy said. “Coach [Cliff] Mitchell, all my coaches, they’re fantastic guys and I look up to a lot of them.
“Coach Pruitt and Coach Mitchell have been like mentors to me. Whenever I have something, whenever I’m like, ‘coach, I need help on this,’ those are the guys I go to. And my dad. He’s helped me through a lot.”
Pruitt said Dendy worked “very hard” to earn his opportunity at Harding.
“It’s a good opportunity for Jacob and their school, because I think he’ll do well,” Pruitt said. “He’s a kid who likes to practice and likes to get better and work on his trade.
“He’s played with a torn MCL [in his knee]. He came out of the game, put a brace on it and went right back in and finished the season, which is very remarkable.
“Jacob’s been a part of an eight-win season, two playoff teams and two county championships. He rushed for over 3,000 yards. He had an outstanding career.”
Visit hardingsports.com for more about the Bisons.