| By Myra Bean
Chris Strong does not have to brag. He lets his actions on the field speak for themselves.
The senior nephew of former South Panola and Ole Miss linebacker Eddie Strong wears big shoes as he leads the defense code named, stingy.
This middle linebacker eats offensive linemen and offensive backs for breakfast, then sometimes chases down receivers for midmorning snacks.
He is the anchor of the South Panola Tiger defense and said the coaches expect him to be the player they look to when they need a play stopped.
That leadership earned him the All State Defensive Most Valuable Player for the state of Mississippi by the Mississippi Association of Coaches. Division 1-5A also selected him the defensive MVP. He was selected to the first team All-State by The Clarion Ledger.
Strong is ranked No. 3 in Mississippi on Max Emfinger’s recently released 2005 FAB 44 Mississippi Junior Playmakers. (They will change to the senior class on July 1.)
Emfinger gave him a 6.52 ranking. (Players who are rated 6.51 or better are National Top 125 Players.)
Also on that list are his teammates fullback Jeramie Griffin, ranked No. 2, with a 6.52 rating and quarterback Leroy Diggs, No. 16, with a 6.49 rating. ( Players who are rated 6.49 or better are National Top 250 Players.)
Strong, who stands 6’2" and weighs 240 pounds, said he feels no pressure with the national ranking. He clocks a 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds.
"I can handle it," he said. "I’m ready for it."
Strong expects that same attitude from his team which was ranked No. 6 by the USA Today and No. 4 by the National Tony Poll at the end of last season.
"No, it doesn’t bring any pressure at all," he said. "We go out every game just like there ain’t no tomorrow."
For the team, Strong asks himself to be a leader.
"I try to keep the team motivated, keep laughing, don’t let anybody bring themselves down, have self-esteem for themselves and stay strong," he said.
He admitted it does get tough in some of the games to remain that strong. One game in particular was last year’s regular season game with Columbus when Columbus pulled within three points of the Tigers.
Even during the tough times, Strong said the coaches expect him to be a leader on and off the field.
"They expect me to show some leadership at school," he continued. "They expect me to be the key player on defense."
In talking about the upcoming South Panola schedule, Strong named Starkville, Clarksdale and Moss Point as the toughest opponents this year.
Strong led the team in tackles last year with 81 total, 67 solo tackles. He caused one fumble and recovered one fumble and had four sacks.
As for following in his uncle Eddie’s footsteps, Chris denied facing a lot of pressure to perform as Eddie did on the field.
"Some, but not a lot" is what he said. Eddie Strong was the player who inspired Chris the most.
"He gave me plenty of advice," Chris said. "He told me don’t worry about winning or losing, just go out hungry every game, try to stay healthy and stay on my grades."
Strong has verbally committed to play for The University of Mississippi Rebels where Eddie made a name for himself, wearing No. 1 and playing four years for the Rebels. He said he has never considered playing anywhere else.
Strong chose Ole Miss citing its proximity to Batesville; it’s in the SEC; he knows half the team and has family members there.
"I know the coach (Ed Orgeron) real good. He always wants to win," Strong said. "The top linebacker (Patrick Willis) is about to leave so that will give me a good chance to come in and start as a freshman."
Strong attended a 7-on-7 camp at Ole Miss recently and said he went one on one with some of the best offensive linemen there. He said the best team from Florida was there also.
He is the son of Brenda Strong and Keith Holmes.
His nickname is Peanut which one of his aunts gave him when he was little.