State Gazette Football Co-Offensive Player of the Year: Dyer County's Ja'bari Livingston

Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Dyer County Choctaw Ja'bari Livingston


With a strong offensive season which saw him help lead the Dyer County ground attack all the way to the TSSAA Class 4A State Quarterfinals for the first time since 2019, Dyer County junior running back Ja’Bari Livingston has been named the State Gazette Football Co-Offensive Player of the Year for this past football season.

Dyer County Head Coach David Whittle said Livingston has been on the field a lot during all three years of his high school career.

“Offensively, he’s 220 pounds with a low center of gravity,” Whittle explained. “He’s not easy to tackle.

“As the game goes on, defensive guys usually shy away from him a little. He’s a big, strong kid that runs violently. He’s done some special stuff.”

During the course of the 2023 season, Livingston eclipsed the 200-yard mark on a couple of occasions during a single game.

“The thing that impresses me more is when he gets the ball,” Whittle said. “You look at him and you think ‘if he gets the ball, we’re going to catch him’. But, he tends to pull away from people when he does break free.

“Probably the best run he had was when we played Haywood the first time this year. He got hit in the backfield and shoved a couple people off then ended up diving into the end zone.”

Whittle pointed out Livingston made this great play, basically, on his own.

“We missed a block on that play and the guy hit him,” the Choctaw head coach recalled. “He stiff-armed him off of him. That’s one of those things you can’t teach.”

Livingston’s ability to engage that burst of speed is a big asset to himself and the Choctaw offense.

“I can remember back to one of his very first carries during his freshman year,” Whittle said. “He broke free for a 60-yard run against Crockett.

“I kept waiting for them to catch him and he was actually pulling away. You look at him and he’s just one of those guys that’s faster than what he looks.”

In fact, the overall speed of his game is pretty fast, too.

“He runs the ball pretty hard, too,” Whittle said. “I think his power is his biggest thing. People don’t realize until they’re out there playing him that he’s pretty shifty, too.

“He can jump over guys if he has to and can fit through a small hole.”

But, with the ability of being able to squat over 600 pounds in the weightroom, the nod goes to his power as his biggest asset.

One thing which tends to get overlooked is his ability to catch the football.

“A lot of people don’t realize that he’s actually got really good hands,” Whittle explained. “He’s got some of the best hands we’ve got on the football team.

“Coming out of the backfield, he catches the ball really well. That’s kind of an underrated thing.”

Whittle agreed that adds another weapon to the offense.

“When the quarterback drops back to pass and your back gets out against a safety and things break down, the quarterback can always find the back,” Dyer County’s head coach added. “A lot of times, the back gets lost in pass coverage and he can make a play when he gets the ball.”

Whittle expects Livingston to have a big year during the 2024 season.

“He’s going into his senior year so we’re expecting big things this season,” Whittle added. “The experience is invaluable. He’s been there on Friday night games and he knows what to expect.

“He’s been in a lot of big games on Friday nights. He’s got more experience, probably, than anyone on the team.”

Whittle said one thing the team needs from Livingston is to step up and be a leader.

“We’ve got several guys that are going to be able to run the ball with him,” Whittle added. “I think that is going to help. Korey Taylor came in and did a really good job. That way, people couldn’t just concentrate on him last year. I think that’s going to be really good for Ja’Bari.”

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