Athlete of the Year: Daniels, Fluker nominated for award

Published 11:44 pm Friday, April 24, 2009

The fourth pair of nominees for the 2009 Athlete of the Year award come from John Essex High School.

One is an icy cool leader on the basketball court and the football field. His love for roundball is surpassed only by his passion for John Essex.

The other is a hard-nosed, exceptionally physical linebacker who is currently adjusting to life as his team’s primary signal-caller.

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The tandem represents the third of seven sets of nominees to come from each high school in Marengo County.

The Times will announce the winner of the 2009 Athlete of the Year award in its May 23 edition.

Zackary Fluker

-Class: Senior

-Sports: Basketball and Football

– Athlete on Athlete: “If the ball is in his hands, I know most of the time he is going to make it. He gets us going. When people cry, he tells us to cheer up, have fun and go out there and play. He really just helps us out everywhere. If we need the ball, he’ll make a play on defense and come back down and score or set up other people. I’m going to miss him a lot. He was a playmaker. We had fun playing with him.” – John Essex football and basketball player Letrelle Griffin

-Coach Speak: “Zack Fluker, Mr. JEHS. Zack is a born leader. In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve had one serious talk with Zack about what he wants to do in life. Words can’t express how dedicated this kid is, especially to John Essex. Even his own classmates look up to him. He just started playing football his junior year. He told me, ‘Coach, my first love is basketball, but I’m going to do this because I want to help my school.’ He was able to adapt to the game with no problem. He had five interceptions in his first year playing. He was eager to play. He’s just a good athlete. Words really can’t express how good of a kid this is.” – John Essex athletic director Fentress Means

-The Skinny: Fluker is the genuine article. Perhaps no player in the county wants the ball in his hands in crucial moments more than Fluker. And there may be no player who knows better just what to do with that ball. Fluker is a multi-dimensional scorer who can penetrate, pull up and pull the trigger from long range. But he can also play defense and is especially adept at involving teammates in the offense.

His credentials, however, are not at all limited to the court. His leadership skills shine through in all that he does as teammates regularly look to him as the go-to guy in everyday situation. The John Essex High School senior also possesses an impressive academic prowess. His 3.5 GPA may be the only average that is more attention-getting than his 19 points per game.

Gerald Bruno

-Class: Sophomore

– Sports: Football and basketball

– Athlete on Athlete: “If Jamie is high, everybody is high. He comes out ready to hit. No matter what he’s been through at school, he comes out ready to play. No matter what. He can play an offensive role and defensive role. At quarterback, he showed he was the best for the position in those last two games. We should have had him in there the whole time. You can count on him.” – John Essex football player Zackary Fluker

-Coach Speak: “When I first got here, he was very, very eager. I sat down and had a talk with him. From that point on, he understood what I expected of him as a student-athlete. I’ve seen a major improvement in his grades. On the football field, Jamie is one of those athletes whose motor never stops running. His performance is high level every practice. Against Autaugaville, he had 22 tackles. At quarterback, fullback and linebacker, he’s going to give you everything he’s got. Putting him at quarterback I feel real comfortable. He know the plays and he wants to be involved in every play. He’s got those football smarts. He wants to play both ways.” – John Essex football coach Fentress Means

-The Skinny: Daniels is an oddly determined individual whose game speaks far louder than his words. At linebacker and fullback, he is a physical presence that adds legitimacy to the John Essex attack. But his coaches and teammates saw something else in him at the end of the 2008 season that prompted his shift to the top of the team’s depth chart at the quarterback position. True to his fearless nature, Daniels has embraced the role with open arms, studying the system and continually finding ways to improve his play. And the best part? For him, it’s all about helping his team.