Boyd-Buchanan's Jim Cardwell Grew Into Football Stardom

Tutored By His Father, Bucs QB Leads With A Defensive Mentality

Thursday, August 15, 2013 - by Larry Fleming

Production.

That’s the foremost admonition Boyd-Buchanan quarterback Jim Cardwell adheres to and it comes on a weekly basis from his father/coach, Carter Cardwell.

Jim Cardwell, who has been at the private school since kindergarten and powered the Buccaneers to the Class 2A playoff semifinals in 2012, has followed his dad’s advice almost perfectly throughout an impressive high school career.

It was never more evident than last season.

Cardwell, then a 5-foot-9-inch, 180-pound junior, produced as well as any player in the Chattanooga area as a dual-threat quarterback while leading the Bucs to their 16th postseason appearance in 17 seasons and 15th in a row.

“My dad always tells me he wants 100 yards out of me every game,” the Bucs’ offensive leader said. “It doesn’t matter how it comes, passing or running, but that’s my goal. Or, he says, if I can get 100 yards from anybody else that’s OK, too.”

Well, Cardwell managed to meet his objectives a year ago, and then some.

Guiding the Bucs to a 12-2 record, he put up 2,314 yards of total offense, or 165.3 yards per game. Cardwell had 1,224 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns and 1,090 yards and 11 scores through the air.

In 415 offensive snaps, Cardwell averaged 5.6 yards per play with his legs and strong right arm.

Also, when it came to all-purpose running yards – rushing, receiving, kickoff returns, punt returns and interception returns – Cardwell ran, dashed and darted to 1,574 yards for a 112.4-yard per-game average.

That’s just what his father looks for.

“From the time we first talked about it, I’ve told him that we needed a hundred yards out of that position, and he’s built on that over the years,” Carter Cardwell said. “Growing up in a football family – my dad was a high school coach and my wife is a great football fan – helped him with the finer points of the game. He’s a focused kid who understands the game.”

Jim Cardwell’s source for his gridiron guidance is a treasure trove of football knowledge nurtured over three-plus decades.

Carter Cardwell played on two state championship teams at Loudon High School and was a walk-on defensive back at Middle Tennessee State University. He graduated in 1981 and went straight into what has become a 30-year coaching career.

He’s coached at Loudon, McMinn County, Red Bank and Boyd-Buchanan. Collegiately, the elder Cardwell had stops at Clemson, Auburn, Virginia Military Institute, Catawba, Maryville and Sewanee. And there were a couple of stops at UT-Chattanooga.

Jim Cardwell became a starting quarterback on Oct. 8, 2010, when the Bucs took on No. 2-ranked South Pittsburg on the road and took a 41-6 shot to the gut. The Pirates went on to capture the Class 1A state championship by beating Jo Byrns, 41-6.

“In that first game,” Cardwell says, “the game and South Pittsburg players were moving really fast. I remember that. I got hurt – the trainer thought I had a concussion – and took me out. I didn’t play in the fourth quarter.

South Pittsburg was the last league opponent to beat the Bucs, that coming in 2008 when the Pirates claimed a 7-6 victory on Oct. 10 with both teams competing under the same Region 3 umbrella.

The following year Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association divided schools into districts – South Pittsburg wound up in District 6-A and Boyd-Buchanan 5-A.

The Bucs are 12-0 against district foes – the Bucs play up one classification for playoff purposes – since 2009.

Cardwell recalls the game pace slowing in his sophomore season and he was able to “catch up” with the speed of other players.

“And last year, everybody seemed slow around us because everything was clicking for the team and it seems like that so far this year, too,” he said.

The Bucs reeled off eight straight wins opening the season before Class 4-A  Maplewood ended the run with a 36-16 victory. Boyd-Buchanan rebounded to win four in a row, including playoff wins over Rockwood (27-19), Oneida (21-6) and Knoxville Grace (35-13) on its way to the semifinal showdown against powerful Friendship Christian School that resulted in a season-ending 27-6 loss.

Due to a serious leg injury to running back/safety John Hale, Cardwell was forced into playing offense and defense last season. In 2011, Hale became ill halfway through the Donelson Christian School game and coach Grant Reynolds turned to Cardwell to step up in a relief role in that game as well.

He enjoys the double-time duty.

“I like offense, getting to score and the explosiveness of the offense,” Cardwell said. “I also like contact and hitting people.”

In addition to his 100-yard per game goal, Cardwell has season goals of 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 throwing, and has achieved them in the past two seasons.

“Ultimately,” he said, “I want to win the game. You can throw for 300 yards and lose by 40 points and that’s not so good. I’d rather win by 40 and throw for 8 yards.”

In looking at the Bucs’ 2013 season, which begins Aug. 23 at Red Bank and ends with an anticipated league title showdown at home against Silverdale Baptist Academy on Nov. 1, Cardwell sees a somewhat different team, one that has shed size in favor of speed and athleticism.

“With the loss of (all-stater) Malik Brewer and some other guys up front, we’re losing size and experience,” Cardwell said. “But when we were at camp up at Fort Bluff we scrimmaged Bledsoe County and they had two defensive tackles over 300 pounds. Our line, I think, averages around 190 and they were moving those Bledsoe guys out of the way. We had 150 yards rushing.

“I think just about every back and receiver we have on the varsity can run. They can really roll. Our speed is definitely better than it was last year.”

Cardwell says he is often asked about his height and whether it is a drawback in handling his offensive duties.

It’s obvious that Cardwell doesn’t believe he is a “short quarterback.”

“Doug Flutie, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson are always asked how they see over the big (NFL) linemen,” Cardwell said. “And their response is, ‘Well, I don’t.’ They see between them. If you know where a receiver is going to be, you look between the shoulders and helmets of linemen, or throw to the outside. And if it opens up in the middle, you just step up into the hole and it’s clear as can be.

“It’s like throwing in seven-on-seven games. There’s nobody there.”

Flutie is listed at 5-10, but is probably closer to 5-8. Wilson comes in a 5-11 (maybe) and Brees is 6-0 (possibly). They all have done, or are doing, quite well in the National Football League. Brees won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2010 and was the game’s MVP.

Last season, Cardwell completed 59.9 percent of his passes (94-for-157) for 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He connected with 10 different receivers, including senior Grant Mathis for 337 yards on 27 catches and four touchdowns.

How advanced were Cardwell’s skills when he reached the Boyd-Buchanan varsity?

“It helped him a lot being a coach’s son,” said Reynolds, entering his 17th year with the Bucs, eighth as head coach (63-27). “He knew how to study film and how to practice hard. He brought those things with him.”

Despite playing some at wide receiver his freshman season, Reynolds always envisioned Cardwell behind center in the Bucs’ fast-paced spread offense, but admits the youngster has enormous value to the team on both sides of the ball.

“He’s just a good athlete,” Reynolds said. “He’s probably as valuable as our starting safety as he is at quarterback. He’s really a safety that plays quarterback with that same mentality. He runs hard and tackles hard.”

Reynolds doesn’t believe Cardwell’s football career won’t end when the 2013 season comes to an end.

“He’ll succeed at the next level because he’s an overachiever,” the coach said.

Cardwell said “a few schools” have shown interest in him, although none have made scholarship offers thus far.

(Southern Conference), Mercer, which joins the Southern Conference in 2013-14, Division III Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., Middle Tennessee State (Conference USA) in Murfreesboro and the NAIA’s Lindsey Wilson in Columbia, Ky, are recruiting Cardwell.

He’s being recruited by Furman as a safety, Mercer and Huntingdon as a quarterback, MTSU as a slot receiver and Lindsey Wilson as an athlete.

“I definitely would like to play as long as I could,” Cardwell said.

(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)


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