Stidham commits to Troy
By Brannon King for the FCT
At the Russellville High School football field house for a National Signing Day celebration for senior Austin Stidham, one thing that you notice about the 6-5, 250 pound offensive tackle is that he stands out.
On a table just inside the doors, his accomplishments stand out. Pictures from his playing days and a big No. 79 jersey provided the proof. The plaques scattered also made an impact – team captain, two-time ASWA All-State first team offensive lineman, two-time All-Area and two-time RHS offensive lineman award, just to name a few of the accolades.
Stidham also stands out in a crowd. Just as he is on the field, he is equally poised and in control of the moment on his big day while signing his letter of intent to play for the Troy Trojans of the FBS Division 1 Sun Belt Conference in front of teammates, coaches, media, friends and family, including parents, Tina and Greg.
The three-year starter on the football field is also a standout in the classroom, basketball court, track and field team and the community. “Austin is one of those guys who, when you’re trying to describe the type of student-athlete you want to develop to be a great example of your community, of your school and your program – he defines that to me,” Russellville Head Coach and athletic director Mark Heaton said.
“I think the neatest thing about Austin to me that sticks out is when we started the recruiting process, and the recruiters would start to talk to him about his competitive nature, he would start to talk about trying to compete to be No. 1 in his class academically,” Heaton said. “I think that kind of grabbed their attention because this is a guy that, when you’re talking about the definition of a true competitor, they don’t compartmentalize the areas in which they compete in – it’s a part of who they are. That defines Austin. He’s a true competitor in all facets of life, and that’s why he’s going to be successful in whatever he does and wherever he goes.”
The day was a memorable one for Stidham, who plans on studying exercise science and then attending physical therapy school at Troy University while playing for Head Coach Neal Brown’s team Saturdays in the fall.
“Today was such an exciting day,” Stidham said. “It’s what a lot of high school players look up to and not a whole lot of them get to experience this, and I’m just so blessed and so grateful that I get to experience this. I have a tough road ahead of me at Troy, and I can’t wait to get down there.”
Looking out over the field where he stood out so impressively with great blocking during many Russellville victories, he spoke well of his experiences at RHS. “This is a great place to play. This is a great atmosphere to play under, a great coaching staff to play under, and I feel like they truly prepared me for the next level better than anywhere else could have.”