12/08/12 — Uncertain freshman blooms in final season

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Uncertain freshman blooms in final season

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 8, 2012 11:54 PM

A raw and wide-eyed Asunji Maddox became the first freshman to make the varsity team during Eric Reid's tenure as head football coach at Goldsboro High School four years ago.

Maddox is leaving as a well-respected team captain who set an example on and off the field with his actions and a young man who's future is as bright as his infectious smile. Following a senior season in which he recorded 82 tackles, six interceptions and a blocked punt at his safety position, Maddox has been selected the 2012 News-Argus All-Area Defensive Player-of-the-Year.

As a freshman, Maddox was a talented player in need of the right coaching to help polish his skills. He intently watched the upperclassmen around him and soaked up information from the Cougars' coaching staff like a sponge.

"Asunji took an unfashionable position and made it fashionable," Reid said. "Most of the time your linebacker is your quarterback on defense and he changed that rule. Asunji came into this program hungry as a ninth-grader and he saw the upperclassmen at work.

"The main reason I played him on varsity as a freshman was his maturity level. He would ask for film to take home, and he would ask to come in and work out on days we weren't lifting. You don't find that very often with 16- and 17-year-old kids."

Maddox committed himself to improving his speed and becoming more reliable in pass coverage. Under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Mike Harper, Maddox learned to read opposing offenses, get teammates in the right position and became a turnover-creating ball hawk.

"I would definitely say I got faster," Maddox said. "I remember my freshman season we did a test drill where I ran a 5.1 40. This past offseason I went to the Carolina camp and I ran a 4.58. I felt like I was dominant in supporting the run, but this year I was more under control going up for the ball and trying to become a ball hawk and make plays."

With Maddox thriving in the role of field-general, Goldsboro's defense forced 31 turnovers and held six of its 12 opponents to 14 points or fewer. The Cougars posted those numbers while facing an array of different offensive schemes throughout the season.

The defense that stood tall late in a 30-25 victory over Ayden-Grifton that sealed Goldsboro's third Carolina 1-A Conference title in the last four years. Maddox's blocked punt with fewer than two minutes to play and his ensuing 39-yard touchdown run that helped Goldsboro rally past Ayden-Grifton.

As Maddox prepares to continue his football career at Elon University, he has much more to reflect on than the 39-14 record and the three conference championships the Cougars compiled during his career.

The successes and the adversity he and his teammates experienced during his four years in a Goldsboro uniform have helped Maddox gain valuable perspective on life.

"This season really taught me about fighting and not giving up," Maddox said. "During the season we went through plenty of adversity and it prepared us for the postseason. We didn't reach our ultimate goals, but I feel like we gained some bigger values than just wins and losses."