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QB Larkins has the right stuff to lead Pioneers

Douglas Fritz • Aug 2, 2019 at 7:00 AM

JONESBOROUGH — If Cade Larkins had been born in the 1950s, his high school days might have played out on a different path.

First, passing the football wasn’t much of a thing, so he might have played a different position. Second, his general approach to life more closely resembles Mayberry than California.

But Larkins was born in the new century, and the reason local football fans know his name is because he moved from Texas to Tennessee prior to becoming a standout athlete at David Crockett.

Yes, he’s a dandy of a quarterback — one of the best this area has ever seen — but you can’t define Larkins solely on the football field.

“As good of a football player as he is, he’s a better young man,” said Crockett coach Hayden Chandley. “I can’t say enough about him.”

Larkins credits his mom and dad for the seeds of respectfulness planted in his life.

“Ever since I was little, my parents instilled it in me, and it’s a big part of my life,” said Larkins. “Respect is what is going to get you places. If you don’t respect people, you can’t expect to get respect back.”

“He has a great support system at home,” said Chandley. “You can see that in how good of a job his parents have done raising such a good young man. It’s a good Christian family, and they will do anything you ask them to do.Chandley said Larkins is part of an amazing family.

“They are great supporters of our program. His dad hauls a trailer for us on away games.”

And Larkins has been know to haul his teammates to victory from time to time. In the span of three years, Larkins became the central component to Crockett’s rise from middle of the road to exceptional. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior helped the Pioneers go 12-0 last year before losing a tough one to eventual state champion Knox Central in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.

Larkins reaped rewards along the way, including a special honor of being a finalist for the Class 5A Mr. Football award, given annually to the state’s best player. He was also the Johnson City Press/Times-News Elite 11 player of the year.

CHASING AKIN

Trinity Christian’s Kyle Akin, who played from 2011-14, holds the state record for career passing yards with 11,122. Larkins has a realistic shot at the mark, entering the 2019 season with an unofficial total of 8,398.

But he said chasing records isn’t part of his mindset.

“I’m a competitive person,” he said. “I just want to win. So whatever it takes for us to win, that’s what is on my mind.”

THE EARLY DAYS

Larkins and his dad developed the pitch-and-catch fun nearly every son longs to enjoy.

“My dad would always go out and throw with me,” said Larkins, who was born in North Carolina, moved to Tennessee when he was 2 years old, and moved to Texas at age 6. “I always loved throwing, whether it was baseball or football.”

Larkins loved baseball first, and he’s pretty good at that sport, too. Football didn’t take center stage until Frank Stone Middle School coach Fred Nutt saw the potential for Larkins to be a quarterback.

“He noticed something in me, I guess,” said Larkins. “He put me out there. Ever since then, it has been my spot.”

But Larkins wasn’t destined to play at North Lamar High School in Texas. Ironically, his future was targeted for a high school located near a different Lamar, the elementary school that feeds into David Crockett.

Larkins’ grandmother, who lived near the elementary school in Jonesborough, had a relapse of pancreatic cancer. That was one of the reasons Larkins and his family moved to Tennessee before his ninth grade year.

“Not only that, but it was a better opportunity,” said Larkins. “It is a great school and we love the place. It worked out great.”

VISION FOR 2019

Larkins played at 220 pounds last season, but knocked 15 off the scales in the offseason.

“I amped it up a little bit,” he said. “I wanted to cut a little bit of weight, so I could get a little faster. At 205 pounds, that’s where I want to be. I feel pretty solid right there.”

Larkins will have a more prominent role in terms of leadership this season. But Chandley sees it more as an extension of last year.

“He was one of our captains as a junior,” said Chandley. “He carried us every single game. You didn’t have to worry about him doing the right thing. He’s a lot more vocal this year, and he’s getting comfortable in the leadership role.”

Larkins will be relied on heavily, but Chandley said that doesn’t mean Larkins needs to do it all.

“He can’t put any extra pressure on himself,” Chandley said. “He just has to do what Cade Larkins does every Friday night. We’re not asking him to win the game on one throw. He just has to make the correct reads and check us into the right play. At the end of the day, if he’s himself, we’re going to have a chance to win the game.”

Certainly Larkins understands he needs 10 helpers on every snap, starting with the biggest guys.

“The O-line is everything in football,” said Larkins. “Without your O-line, you’re nothing. I am so grateful for my O-line. Without them the past few years, I wouldn’t have any of the yards or any accolades.”

BEYOND HIGH SCHOOL

Larkins has the grades (4.1 GPA) and ACT score (26) to open college doors. His football prowess might not turn Power Five heads, but if that changes, Larkins has two schools in mind.

“Growing up I was a Tennessee fan, so that would be great,” he said. “My time in Texas made me fall in love a little bit with Texas A&M.

“Realistically, I’m probably going to compete at the FCS level. I’m getting a lot of looks there.”

Included among the schools that have offered are ETSU, Chattanooga, Tennessee Tech, and Ivy League school Columbia.

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