Garrison Hearst, the best player from the best Class A football program in state history, rushed for 5,122 yards and 52 touchdowns in a career that netted him three state titles. The third came in 1989, when Hearst was the all-classification player of the year on a 15-0 team that was probably the best of the 11 Lincoln County state champions coached by Larry Campbell.
“In high school, Garrison rarely got to play a full game,” said Johnny Walton, Lincoln County football historian. “Against one poor opponent, he scored on six consecutive carries – five touchdowns and a two-point PAT. Larry Campbell was never one to run up the score or run a player to death for the sake of stats.”
Hearst was an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist at Georgia, then played 10 seasons in the NFL, with 7,966 rushing yards, mostly with the San Francisco 49ers.
Hearst is one of seven former or current NFL players on our list of best players in the history of the current Region 7-A.
Those include Bud Dupree of Wilkinson County, DeAndre Smelter of Tattnall Square and Darqueze Dennard of Twiggs County (current NFL players) and Bill Hartman of Georgia Military College, Josh Nesbitt of Greene County and Le Kevin Smith of Stratford Academy (former NFL players).
Hartman is the most interesting of the group, if perhaps not the best player. He played on GMC teams that went 26-2-1 in three seasons (1932-34) under Wally Butts, was an All-American at Georgia and played a season in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, starting four games at quarterback on a roster that included Sammy Baugh. With not much money in pro football, Hartman then joined Butts’ staff at Georgia.
Also notable are Ben Zambiasi of Mount de Sales, a Canadian Football Hall of Famer who led the Cavaliers to a state title in the 1970s, and Daccus Turman of Washington-Wilkes, who merely set the state record for rushing yards in a season with 3,167 in 2000.
*Aquinas: Brendan Douglas (2012)
*First Presbyterian: Chris Wilson (1992)
*Georgia Military College: Bill Hartman (1934)
*Glascock County: Timothy Hatcher (1996)
*Greene County: Josh Nesbitt (2006)
*Hancock Central: Brandon Nolley (2006)
*Lincoln County: Garrison Hearst (1989)
*Mount de Sales: Ben Zambiasi (1973)
*Stratford Academy: Le Kevin Smith (2000)
*Tattnall Square: DeAndre Smelter (2008)
*Twiggs County: Darqueze Dennard (2009)
*Warren County: Bobby Thigpen (1968)
*Washington-Wilkes: Daccus Turman (2000)
*Wilkinson County: Bud Dupree (2010)
Best player in school history series
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