After tonight, Piedmont’s Sloan Garner will be able to.
Last summer, the 6-foot-7, 185-pounder was one of 24 players chosen to play in the exhibition basketball game that showcases the state’s top seniors-to-be. Tonight, he’ll suit up for the North squad when the football game kicks off at 7 p.m. at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.
Garner signed a basketball scholarship with Gadsden State Community College after averaging nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game this past season. He was named a second-team choice to the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 3A all-state squad and The Star’s 2012 Class 3A Calhoun County Player of the Year.
“I’ve actually started to like football since coming to Piedmont. We’ve been pretty successful at it,” Garner said. “I love basketball but it’s always nice to put on a pair of pads, meet these guys from different schools, see how they play and they see how we play.”
In just his second season on the gridiron, Garner became Piedmont’s go-to option in its passing game. He hauled in 36 passes for 597 yards and 10 touchdowns and was a first-team choice to the all-state squad as the Bulldogs advanced to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
Piedmont offensive lineman Jameson Trammell, a first-team all-county selection, will join Garner between the sidelines. The 6-3, 320-pounder led the Bulldogs with 68 pancake blocks and signed to play at West Alabama.
Piedmont coach Steve Smith will head up the North’s coaching staff which also consists of Fultondale’s Keith Register, Clay-Chalkville’s Jerry Hood, Rogers’ Dan Beavers, Pickens County’s Patrick Plott, Ider’s Brent Tinker and Susan Moore’s Bryan Jennings.
“The coaches don’t get to attend the clinics throughout the week, but there’s a tremendous amount of knowledge being passed around in our coaches’ meetings,” Smith said. “I’ve got six other head coaches with me and we’re learning from each other.”
Oxford defensive lineman Dez Swink, defensive back Monte Bass (Coahoma Community College), athlete Coty Spurling (North Alabama) and wide receiver Dominique Williams (Coffeyville Community College) are all expected to be in action tonight as well.
In 53 meetings, the South holds a 29-22-2 edge against the North. The South prevailed 37-33 a year ago.
Smith, who has worked primarily with the North’s quarterbacks, said the team will run a simplified version of Piedmont’s spread attack. Garner, who played out wide, will move to the slot for the all-star game.
Garner said he got back out on the field with former Piedmont quarterback Chris Strott before going down to Montgomery for practices and believes he’s still got it.
And he may not be all the way done with football after tonight, he said, noting the success of former hoopers turned NFL standouts such as Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham.
“I was thinking about trying to walk on somewhere if I go to a bigger school once I leave Gadsden State,” he said. “You never know until you try.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.