Colby Yancey

Walnut Grove’s Colby Yancey (27) has been one of the hardest workers in the Warriors’ program over the past four year. That work ethic has helped earn him a starting spot on defense, where he’s been a leader on the field. Off the field, it has made him one of the leaders helping to turn around a struggling program.

High school football player previews: Now that the Georgia High School Association is allowing players to participate in preseason workouts, the prospect of a football season in the fall has improved greatly. As a result, area players will soon be hard at work in the weight room and on the practice field preparing for the new year. Each week during the summer, The Walton Tribune will highlight the top returning players who are expected to make a major impact for their respective teams.

Colby Yancey has had a hard-luck high school football career.

He was an eighth grader, just a year removed from getting a shot to earn a spot on the varsity, when Walnut Grove made the state playoffs for the first and only time.

Twice in the past two years, he’s created a turnover to send games into overtime, only to see his team lose a heartbreaker.

Now that he has one last chance to go out a winner, the Warriors senior utility man finds himself preparing for a season that might never come thanks to a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.

Despite the setbacks, Yancey remains one of the most positive faces of a struggling program.

“Literally from day one, he’s one of the guys you take notice of,” Robert Andrews, who took over as Walnut Grove head coach two years ago, said. “He’s one of the best overall kids I’ve ever coached.”

At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Yancey isn’t an imposing presence when he steps off the bus. But when he steps onto the field, he makes an impact from any number of positions. He’s played inside and outside linebacker on defense and fullback and halfback on offense. 

Heading into his final season, he’ll get a look at safety and receiver. 

“No matter where we’ve put him, he’s come through,” Andrews said. “He’s got good speed, plays hard, and he understand the concepts we’re trying to use.”

Yancey says running back is his favorite position, but he’s been most effective on defense, where he played nearly every snap last fall. His strength is reading opposing offenses and being a sure tackler.

He’s also opportunistic. In a showdown with Apalachee his sophomore season, he scooped up a fumble and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown in the pouring rain to send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the Wildcats won 14-13.

Last October, he stopped a potential game-winning drive with a fourth-quarter interception against Johnson-Gainesville, forcing overtime. Again, the Warriors lost 24-22.

Since he joined the varsity full time in 2018, Walnut Grove has won just two games, including last year’s winless season. 

“It’s been tough,” Yancey said. “I mean, everybody wants to win. But you just keep moving forward and you learn that there’s more to football than just winning and losing.”

Heading into his final year, his most important task is being a mentor a leader for the younger players. During the down time, when player weren’t allowed to congregate at school, he’s organized workouts with teammates at local recreation fields and anywhere else they could find.

“We’ve put together some seven-on-seven teams, just thrown the ball around,” Yancey said. “Anything to try and get ready for the season.”

And he’s ready to finish out his career on a positive note.

David Johnson is a correspondent for The Walton Tribune.

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