Awards: Gamecock of the Year
The Gamecocks of the Year meant more to their team’s success than anyone. Not only did their dominance play a vital role in their team’s success, it virtually guaranteed it. They cemented their legacy and almost certainly punched their ticket to the Jacksonville State Hall of Fame. Gamecock Illustrated is proud to name this year’s Gamecocks of the Year Tiffany Harbin and Griffin Thomas.
Women’s Athletics: Tiffany Harbin
If you watched senior pitcher Tiffany Harbin play at any point this season, you probably wondered if she was human.
A native of Hazel Green, Harbin’s constant otherworldly performances in the pitcher’s circle pushed her to an 18-8 record, enough for nearly half of the Gamecocks’ 40 wins this season.
Her season began in dominant fashion. She pitched in the first of back-to-back no-hitters on opening day. She struck out 12-of-16 batters in her five innings of work. It was the last of her five career no-hitters. But it was definitely not her final shutout.
She pitched a nation leading 14 shutouts. When she hit her groove mid-season, Harbin pitched without allowing an earned run in her last 48.2 regular-season innings. The streak grew to 58.1 innings before it was snapped in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, good enough for a 2.13 earned run average.
She rewrote JSU’s record book. putting her name at the top of the list in wins (77), strikeouts (923), starts (125) and innings pitched (787).
The OVC named her Freshman of the Year in 2011. It served as an omen as she dominated the OVC for three conference championships. She finished as a three-time all-OVC first team and one time second team performer. She was named most valuable player in the 2013 OVC Tournament and OVC Pitcher of the Year in 2014.
The National Fastpitch Coaches Association named her to its second team All-Region team. She was one of two Gamecocks to earn the honor in 2014. Sara Boarders was named first-team.
In April, Harbin earned the coveted Eagle-Owl Award, the highest honor a JSU student-athlete can receive. Gamecock Illustrated is proud to follow suit and give Harbin its highest honor.
If there was an FCS All-America team Griffin Thomas wasn’t named to, Gamecock Illustrated never found it.
The senior place-kicker from Snellville, Ga. earned All-America honors from Beyond Sports Network (first-team), The Sports Network (second team) and Walter Camp (third team).
The honors were earned after a season in which Thomas set OVC and JSU single-season records in field goals made (24), attempted (32) and points scored by kicking (134). His 134 points finish only second to DaMarcus James’ 174.
When he took the field, it was not considered a failed drive by the offense or a type of consolation prize. Thomas was a weapon, and the OVC knew it.
The OVC named him Special Teams Player of the Week five times his senior season and first-team All-OVC. He earned the Fred Mitchell Award for Kicker of the Month twice and finished as one of ten finalist for its annual award. The Sports Network even named him National Kicker of the Week twice.
He’s probably most remembered for his comfort in the clutch. He hit four game-winning field goals in his career, two in 2012 against Chattanooga and Tennessee State and two in the 2010 and 2011 spring games. This year, he nailed five field goals, including two in overtime, to lift JSU to a 24-21 win over old rival North Alabama.
Thomas has been called a lot of things in his career: Griff, walk-on, backup, starter, weapon and All-American. Gamecock Illustrated is proud to call him its first men’s athletics Gamecock of the Year.