Contributed Kelby Hallmark of the Tharptown Wildcats drags a would-be tackler during a game against Brilliant this spring at Brilliant. Hallmark is the definition of a multi-sport athlete at a small high school, as he plays three varsity sports for the 1A Tharptown High School Wildcats: baseball, basketball and football.

Archived Story

THS junior plays it all

Published 6:00am Wednesday, August 15, 2012

If you go to school in, teach at, live in or have heard of Tharptown High School, then you have probably seen or heard of Kelby Hallmark.

Hallmark is a young man who is only rising to his junior year at Tharptown High, but he has already made quiet a name for himself.

He is a multi-sport athlete, which is not something that everyone can say. There are smaller schools across the state that have kids that play more than one sport, but how many can say that they have a kid that plays three of them.

Hallmark is a member of the Tharptown baseball, basketball and football varsity squads and has been over the last couple of years.

What makes Kelby remarkable isn’t just the fact that he plays three sports, but he excels at them.

He is the starting shortstop and a starting pitcher for the Wildcats’ baseball team. He is the starting point guard on the basketball team, and he is the starting quarterback on the football team.

“I have been playing sports since I was 5,” Hallmark said. “I’ve played all three since then. I always played baseball and basketball growing up. I decided to try football in first grade, and it just stuck with me.”

It is hard enough to be in high school and keep your grades up, by try playing three sports while completing all of the homework that students complain about these days.

“It keeps me busy,” Hallmark said. “Each sport helps me out with the next one. I try to get my work done during class. Before we play I try to get my mind off things so there won’t be much pressure.”

There may not be much pressure before a game, but pressure must exist when you have to budget your time like Hallmark. The only moments that he seems to have free time are “mornings during the summer.”

High school players are usually held to high expectations by their coaches, and having three of them is probably not making anything easier. Still, these coaches have nothing but good things to say about the 1A school’s star athlete.

“Kelby is a wonderful kid and he’s a great baseball player,” said Derek Ergle, Tharptown’s head baseball coach. “He can do things on the baseball field that are really hard to coach. He’s been playing baseball a long time, and he can make the plays and he’s smart, he knows what to do with the ball. Kelby is a great leadoff hitter. He can get on base, he can score runs and he can steal bases. He can do just about anything. One thing he helps us with the most is pitching. He’s excellent on the mound. His pitch speed has gotten a lot faster over the past two years, and he’s striking out more batters now because he can throw the ball harder. To me Kelby’s biggest attribute to the team is his knowledge of the game of baseball. Kelby is clutch. When the game’s on the line he’s ready to make the play. You know when he’s in there he’s going to do whatever it takes to win.”

“Kelby is a natural born leader,” said Jonathan Odom, head basketball coach for Tharptown High School. “He’s not really very vocal, but he’s a lead by example type of player. He’s always working hard and doing what it takes to get better. The other players see that and respond to that. They try to work as hard as he does. He’s the best player on whatever playing surface he’s on, be it court or field. He’s a good athlete and good at everything he does.”

“Kelby is as good of an athlete as there is out here at Tharptown,” head football coach Bill Smith (Kelby’s great-uncle) said. “He’s probably as good as there is in the county, I think. I just hope we can help keep him healthy the whole season. He makes a big difference to us on the football field. He’s our quarterback. He’s really smart in sports. I’ve watched him since he was a little bitty fellow and every sport he plays he puts everything into it. He’s not a really talkative guy; he’s quiet and keeps to himself. He plays with all he’s got.”

Hearing things like this makes it easy to see why Hallmark is so important to Tharptown’s athletics.

A knee injury sidelined the young man in December, but he was back on the basketball court for the county tournament, and just his presence seemed to make the Wildcats play harder.

“Some guys had to step up without him there, so when he came back it made us better,” Odom said. “Some of the guys had to step up and play harder, and when he came back they continued to do that. Any time you can get him on the court it’s going to make everyone else on the team better.”

High school athletics are not likely to be the last stop for Hallmark, who wants to continue playing ball at the collegiate level.

“I’m going to college for sure,” he said. “I want try to get a baseball scholarship. If I had to choose I’d like to play at Florida State or Florida.”

Gary Odom, the principal at Tharptown High School, probably puts it best when it comes to the impact Hallmark has had during his tenure in high school.

“He is very important to us,” Gary Odom said. “He’s just a junior now, but he’s probably the leader of the whole athletic program. We wish we had a bunch of them like that. We have some good ones, but Kelby just does it all. There’s no way around it.”

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