A legendary career: local coach first football player inducted into Point’s Hall of Fame

Published 7:07 pm Friday, March 22, 2024

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Point University’s athletic program released the inductees for the inaugural Hall of Fame Class on Thursday, and a local standout player and coach made the list. 

David Strickland, a Beulah High School graduate and Valley High School assistant coach, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame as the first and only football player. 

“It’s an incredible honor, and I’m deeply humbled by that,” Strickland said. “It just shows a testament to your hard work, your dedication and the passion that you’ve had for the game throughout your career.” 

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Strickland is being inducted into the Hall of Fame as a punter, and he put together one of the best careers in program history. Strickland graduated from the university in 2014 after joining the football team in 2012, the Skyhawks’ first year as a program. 

In his first season, Strickland finished in the top 15 for punting average in the country. Strickland was the second-ranked freshman punter, and he was named an All-American, becoming the first All-American in Point’s history. 

Strickland continued building on his resume over the next three seasons with the Skyhawks, finishing as the third-ranked punter in his sophomore season and becoming the top-ranked punter in his junior season. After his junior season, Strickland had racked up three Punter of the Year awards, four NCCAA All-American nods and several other awards and recognitions. 

Strickland’s career as a punter with Point was nothing short of game-changing, but it was never a part of his plan. At heart, Strickland was a baseball player. Strickland started his college career at Wallace State Community College as a pitcher and third baseman. 

Strickland transferred to play baseball for the Skyhawks after one year, but an arm injury kept him off the diamond. 

“Baseball was really my number one,” Strickland said. “I always tell everybody, if I wouldn’t have got hurt playing baseball, I would have never gone back to football.” 

Strickland played both sports at Beulah, and he had a natural talent for punting. With baseball no longer being an option, Strickland decided to put his all into football. 

“Kicking was just kind of a hobby,” Strickland said. “I was good at it. I had a big leg. I wasn’t very accurate on field goals, but I had to do it. Punting was just something that kind of came natural.” 

Even after an illustrious career, making the Hall of Fame as a punter seemed like a far-fetched idea. Making the Hall of Fame at any level as a specialist is virtually impossible. Just two college punters are in the Hall of Fame, those being Ray Guy and Randall Cunningham, and Guy is the only punter in the NFL Hall of Fame. 

“It was definitely a surprise,” Strickland said. “There are so many good athletes with football that have come through the program and had very good careers. To be nominated to be that person that is the first one selected, it’s just something you’re humbled by. You wouldn’t think the first person that gets inducted would be a punter.” 

Strickland had the natural talent to be a great punter, but the confidence was not always there. Strickland gained confidence during the offseason competing against guys like Alabama punter Cody Mandell and Auburn punter Stephen Clark. 

“When I go up against those guys, [I’m] beating them,” Strickland said. “I can do this a little bit and be pretty productive at it. Kicking against those big guns during the offseason really helped me confidence-wise.” 

The accomplishments for Strickland are great, but being a leader and a role model has always been more important than all the accolades. 

Being a leader eventually led Strickland to coaching at Springwood and now at Valley as a pitching coach and assistant coach on the football team. Strickland’s leadership also led to some standout memories from his time as a Skyhawk. 

“My senior year we had a long snapper who couldn’t travel with us,” Strickland said. “We had to break out a new long snapper, a true freshman who had never played. He was extremely nervous, and I was a senior so I had to try to pick him up. First punt, we barely get it off. The second punt was blocked. I was extremely upset, and my long-snapper was hanging his head. I just remember going over there and trying to pick him up. I didn’t notice it until after the game, the next four punts we landed inside the three-yard line.” 

Strickland’s time at Point was filled with some accomplishments, but there were also some lowlights. Strickland set several records for the program, but he also set a record in college that most players would like to forget. For Strickland, it is a moment to laugh at and appreciate. 

“My first ever punt was against an NCAA program, they took it all the way to the house,” Strickland said. “My first ever field goal attempt was my junior year, 57 yards, they took it all the way to the house. My first-ever kickoff was against an NCAA program, they took it all the way to the house. I had a punt after a safety, the first one I had ever done, they took it all the way to the house. Probably not one of the ones you want to brag about, but it’s like, what are the odds?” 

Strickland had three different head coaches while at Point, but Mike McCarty had the biggest impact on him McCarty became Point’s coach heading into Strickland’s senior season. McCarty along with special teams coordinator Chris Couch provided an atmosphere unlike any other Strickland had experienced as a specialist. 

“When you’re a specialist, you’re kind of kicked to the curb,” Strickland said. “Just go do what you do. But those guys really showed some attention to us, and that went a long way.”

Before his career ended, Strickland had the opportunity to go to bigger programs as a punter. However, the area surrounding Point had always been home to him, and Strickland felt at home within the program 

“When I was at Point, I had the opportunity to transfer if I wanted to some Division I programs and SEC programs,” Strickland said. “Why I chose to stay at Point, it’s tough to say. I just felt like they were taking care of me at the time. They just always gave me that attention and showed me that they cared for me.” 

Being a specialist has given Strickland a different perspective now as a coach. Strickland works with the specialists for Valley’s football program amongst his other responsibilities. Strickland has made sure to pay extra attention to the position due to how undervalued those players can be in high school. 

“Just go out there and try to be around the kids and show some love towards them,” Strickland said. “That way they buy into what you’re trying to do and what you’re trying to tell them. At the end of the day, you want to be able to coach them to do the sport, but you also want to make them into better young men.” 

Even after excelling on the gridiron, Strickland has not been able to give up his first love. Strickland now leads Valley’s pitching staff. The Rams are currently 14-2 with one of the best starting rotations in the state. 

“It’s still my number one,” Strickland said. “Football has got a big part in my life, but baseball was definitely my first love. That’s what I enjoy to do.”