WEST ORANGE —
Cool, calm, and definitely collected.
That’s the best way to describe West Orange-Stark senior quarterback Jimmy Salter.
That’s the way Mustang head coach Cornel Thompson describes him as well.
He’s been the quiet leader of some pretty darn good football teams over the last three years.
People may not know it, but Mr. Salter’s is the storied program’s all-time leading passer.
Some folks may not realize that Salter will be starting his ninth playoff tilt when the Mustangs (12-0) take on the Lorena Leopards (10-2) Friday night at 7 p.m. in Waller.
The young man will actually be making his 35th start as the Mustang quarterback and, yes, the Mustangs carry a “salty” 28-6 record since he started taking the snaps.
“Wow, it just doesn’t seem that long,” said Salter. “Coaches told me at the beginning of this year that it was going to go by fast, and, Man, has it ever. It feels like yesterday that I was just a sophomore. I know one thing, it sure has been fun and God has blessed me with some amazing teammates and coaches.”
Salter became WO-S’ all-time leading passer midway through District 21-3A play this year.
In his three-year run, he’s completed 326-of-567 passes for 4,532 yards and has 49 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. He’s also rushed for 902 yards and 17 TDs.
“Jimmy Salter, what a pleasant young man to work with over the last several years,” said Thompson. “He’s a quiet and calm leader on and off the field. He has such a tremendous demeanor. He very seldom shows a lot of emotion and has never been a ‘look at me’ type of guy. He’s the type of kid that you want leading your football team. He’s a competitor and does everything the right way.”
Three years ago, Thompson thought Salter would never be the possible all-time passing leader at WO-S.
“We all saw this wiry, skinny kid come in here,” said Thompson. “We knew he was a pretty good athlete. Maybe more of a receiver or defensive back type. Boy, did he fool us all. We’ve had some pretty darn good quarterbacks roam this fieldhouse so what he’s accomplished is truly remarkable.”
This year, he’s completed 112-of-192 passes for 1,525 yards and 19 TDs to go along with just two interceptions.
“The biggest thing I wanted to do this year is to not turn the ball over like I did last season,” said Salter. “I think I had 15 interceptions last year and that was unacceptable. I tried to do too much and forced some things in there last year that I shouldn’t. I went into the last offseason determined that I was going to be more disciplined and polished and for the most part, I think I have been.”
“Jimmy is definitely more confident as a senior,” said Thompson. “He hasn’t forced the issue and has played within himself. Nineteen touchdowns and just two interceptions, you’ll take those kinda numbers any day of the week. He can also run the ball up in there hard despite his size. What he’s really been special at is when a play breaks down, he can scramble and make something nice happen. He’s done that a lot this year.”
Salter has been in awe of the way the Mustangs have played this season.
He has watched the Mustang defense force eight shutouts while holding opponents to just 42 points for the season and just an average of 130.6 yards a game.
“It’s kinda funny when you think about it because a lot of people always wonder why we don’t have those big offensive numbers,” said Salter. “It’s usually because we’re always starting on the opponents’ side of the field when we get the ball or our special teams will get a huge return. We have such a strong defense, believe me, I see those guys in practice every day. I have no problems at all starting on the other teams’ side of the field. It’s just a shorter distance to try to get into the end zone.”
Salter feels his demeanor is what works best for him.
“I just want to set a good example for my teammates, especially the younger ones,” said Salter. “It’s all about setting the tone at practice and in film study. For us, playing on Friday nights are fun. Where we win, though, is out here in practice and in the film room. It’s all about attention to detail around here, Coach T (Thompson) stresses that, and that’s what has made this program special each and every year.”
Salter was forced into his first start ever as a sophomore against Kirbyville in early October of 2010. It was a bittersweet one for not only him but the entire WO-S community and the entire Southeast Texas area.
Outstanding senior quarterback Reggie Garrett, a standout at quarterback, passed away due to a rare heart disease Sept. 17 in a non-district game against Jasper at Hooks Stadium.
No doubt, Garrett was a mentor for the young Salter.
“Reggie was larger than life and was such an inspiration to me,” said Salter. “That night was so tough. I looked to my right on the sideline and there was Reggie just laying there, a guy I truly looked up too. Then in the second half, little kids were running around the sidelines telling us that Reggie had passed. We were all like, ‘Not true, not true, not true.’ Then we saw a lot of the fans leave and so many people were crying. Players were crying. Jasper players were crying. Sometimes it feels like it all just happened last week.”
“Jimmy, just like me that night, thought we were going to have our arms folded on the sidelines and watch a pretty good football game but that was far from what happened,” said Thompson. “Reggie was such a super kid. And you know what, Jimmy Salter is a much better young man because of guys like Reggie. We had to thrust Jimmy in their immediately and he responded in fine fashion, taking the Mustangs two rounds deep into the postseason.”
The all-time passing mark doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal for Salter.
“Reggie wanted to set those all-time passing marks and I wanted to be the one to help him on the receiving end of some of his passes,” said Salter. “I wish it could’ve happened for him. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish and most of that has to do with honoring God and Reggie.”
One thing for certain, Salter doesn’t want the magic run to end.
“Playoffs are a whole different beast,” said Salter. “You slip up here and there, and it could be the little things that add up to big things, you’re season is over. I think Coach T has built us up with tremendous discipline and work ethic and that nobody is going to outwork us. If someone beats us, then they will have to be a much better team. We’ve got 12 wins in our pocket and four more of them would certainly make everything sweet.”
Thompson realizes that he has a pretty good one in his pocket as well.
“At this time of the season, you know everyone must have a dang good quarterback,” said Thompson. “Well, we know one thing for sure, we’ve got a tremendous one in the form of Jimmy Salter.”
WEST ORANGE —
Cool, calm, and definitely collected.
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