Best player in school history: Region 5-AAA schools

Georgia kicker Kevin Butler kicks a 51-yard field goal against Clemson in 1984. (BILLY DOWNS/AJC staff)

The best NFL player to come out of the current Region 5-AAA schools is probably Robert Mathis of McNair. The former Indianapolis Colt recently retired after a career that netted him 129 sacks, six Pro Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl championship ring.

Another outstanding pro was Terance Mathis, current coach at Pinecrest Academy in Cumming. Mathis, a Redan alumus, was an all-Pro wide receiver with the Falcons who set college records at New Mexico.

But GHSF Daily’s choice as Redan’s all-time best player went to another NFL player, Kevin Butler, who is best known locally as a former Georgia kicker now in the College Football Hall of Fame. Butler was a quarterback and defensive back at Redan and kicked the winning field goal in the 1979 state championship game against Marist. He was a member of the famous Chicago Bears Super Bowl champion of 1985.

Marcus McNeill of Cedar Grove and Da’Norris Searcy of Towers are other former NFL players here.

Perhaps Andrew Thomas of Pace Academy is headed there, too. He and McNeill are the only former AJC Super 11 players on the list. Thomas is starting on Georgia’s offensive line as a freshman. He also won a high school state title.

Phil Ashe is a name that old-timers will remember. The Stone Mountain graduate played in a national high school all-star game in 1956 and on Georgia’s 1959 and 1960 teams at center behind left guard Pat Dye and in front of QB Fran Tarkenton.

The best players at Lovett and Westminster require extra thought.

At Lovett, Knox Culpepper, Whit Marshall and Torrey Evans all became captains at Georgia. Zach Boden is the all-time leading rusher. George Lombard was the USA Today national back of the year. But it was Grant Haley, now at captain at Penn State, who led Lovett to its 2013 state title as a two-way starter.

Westminster won a state title in 1978 with back-of-the-year QB Gordon Beckham, who threw 24 TD passes (that was a bunch back then). WR Cole Egan caught 22 of them, a state record. Beckham’s son, Gordon Beckham III, broke his dad’s passing records and went on to a career in the major leagues.

But the most decorated Westminster player is a recent one, Isaiah “Zay” Malcome. The 5-foot-4 running back holds school records for rushing yards, all-purpose yards and touchdowns. He got first-team all-state recognition for three seasons and led Westminster to a state title in 2015.

*Cedar Grove: Marcus McNeill (2001)

*Lovett: Grant Haley (2013)

*McNair: Robert Mathis (1998)

*Pace Academy: Andrew Thomas (2016)

*Redan: Kevin Butler (1980)

*Stone Mountain: Phil Ashe (1956)

*Towers: Da’Norris Searcy (2006)

*Westminster: Isaiah Malcome (2016)

Best player in school history series

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