“I wanted to rush for 2,000 yards and score 30 touchdowns,” he said.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
What’s crazier is that had it not been for a season-ending knee injury when he tore his MCL in the first half of the Bulldogs’ 54-8 blowout of Dora in the first-round of the AHSAA Class 4A state football playoffs, it’s almost certain he would’ve achieved it.
He crossed the goalline 30 times. However, the 5-foot-8, 185-pound junior running back finished just shy of the mark he set for himself with 1,895 yards on 224 carries to lead the Bulldogs to an 8-2 record in the regular season and a Region 6 title. He sat out the Bulldogs’ second and third round playoff games against Oneonta and eventual state-finalist Deshler.
He was an easy choice as The Star’s Calhoun County Class 4A-6A Player of the Year.
“I knew I could do it,” Pope said. “I felt like I had a good offensive line. (Former Anniston) Coach Wilson, before he left, he said he knew it was going to happen. He was the one that motivated me.”
Pope got behind the eight-ball early in 2010, rushing for just 54 yards in a 20-14 loss to Class 5A Erwin at Lott-Mosby Memorial Stadium in the season-opener. Then, he and the rest of the Bulldogs went on a tear putting together an eight-game winning streak and winning a region title along the way.
“I was just like, ‘I couldn’t go to college if I continued playing the way I was playing,” Pope said of his first outing. “I knew I had to play better than what I did. I wasn’t satisfied.
“We knew we could still be good.”
Pope rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown as the Bulldogs came back from down 17-0 to defeat Cleburne County 21-17 at home in Week 2.
But he was just getting cooking.
He followed up his first 100-yard rushing game with his first 200-yard rushing game when he ripped Alexandria for 275 yards and four touchdowns on just 13 carries in a 34-0 win.
Against Springville, he rushed for 167 yards and five touchdowns and caught at touchdown pass in a 54-21 win.
He rushed for 198 yards in a 45-9 win against Lincoln then went for 205 yards and three touchdowns in limited action against Locust Fork.
He carried the ball out of the wildcat formation on 32 of the Bulldogs 35 plays after quarterback Josiah Atkins was injured early in the second half against St. Clair County and led the Bulldogs to 34-33 overtime victory, rushing for 238 yards and four touchdowns on 43 carries.
Against Oneonta, he had 257 yards and five touchdowns on 31 carries in a 41-34 win that clinched the region title on the road.
Pope said he was able to run with a knee brace on the week of Anniston’s 35-14 loss to Deshler in the playoffs and would’ve played had Anniston coach Eddie Bullock agreed.
He’s already started working out in preparation for next season. As one of only three returning starters on offense, he knows he’ll have to lead off the field as well as on it next season.
“Whatever they see me doing, they’re going to do,” Pope said of his teammates. “I’ve got to stay being positive.”
And, yeah, he’s already set his personal goal for next season.
“Twenty-five hundred yards,” he said. “That’s my goal.”
Considering everything he did this past season, it doesn’t sound so crazy.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.