Playing football and basketball throughout his Southeast Whitfield High School career left Adam Sowder, a member of the class of 2020, with not only a treasure chest of memories, but also helped to forge his character.

"You meet great people, and you make great friendships with those guys you fight and sacrifice with," said Sowder, who on the gridiron was a quarterback and on the diamond was a pitcher and center fielder. "It brings you closer together, and you grow as a person."

"Sports have been really important to me and really helped my development," he said. Especially in times of adversity, such as a winless 2019 football season, "you stick with it, you don't quit, and that shows you're a man, I can't say it any other way."

While his senior football season didn't have as many wins as he would've hoped, it was still memorable for Sowder. Last September, he broke the school's single-game record for passing yards, with 385, and even though his team lost his final game in November, Sowder scored five touchdowns.

"I played a good game in the last one, and that's all you can hope for," he said. "I ended it right, I guess."

He didn't have that luxury in baseball, because that season was cancelled due to the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic after only a few games.

"Obviously, it was super disappointing for it to end like that, and I was expecting to have a big season," he said. "I feel I still have some (baseball) left in me."

Sowder began playing with Southeast's summer travel team in seventh grade, joining his older brother, and "that was really good for me," he said. "I got a lot of exposure to competition early on."

His football history dates back even further, as he started playing at age 5, and "I've always played quarterback," with the exception of a brief interlude to wide receiver to fill an injury gap, he said. Quarterback "is my home position," he said.

In the offseason between his sophomore and junior years "we worked on his footwork and mechanics, and he worked really hard during that winter, spring, and summer," said Levi Sams, who was Southeast's quarterbacks coach during Sowder's tenure. He "was extremely coachable and wanted to learn, (and) I think he showed a significant improvement throughout that year."

Sowder is "very respectful, a hard worker, motivated and does everything that you ask him to do," Sams added. "He's super smart in school, and I think it translates well to the football field."

Indeed, Sowder is much more than just an athlete. He was a member of Southeast's Raider Ambassadors, a leadership group at the school, as well as National Honor Society, and he dual enrolled at Dalton State College, accumulating more than 30 hours of credits.

Sowder "has the leadership qualities that coaches like to see in the school and on the field," Sams said. "We're super proud of him and really can't speak enough to his character and personal values."

He is "a big math guy," valuing the way the subject has a definite answer, Sowder said. "You work it out, then find the answer, and there's no denying it."

"Fascinated by space," Sowder has "wanted to be either an engineer or a professional athlete my entire life," and he opted for Georgia Tech to study aerospace engineering, he explained earlier this summer. "I'm excited to move to the big city and see what Atlanta has to offer."

Sams is glad Sowder chose to Tech, because it's "a very rigorous school."

"He's going to have to step outside of a comfort zone, and it's going to require the best out of him, (but) he is more than capable of doing whatever he wants to do academically," Sams said. "I'm happy that he chose to challenge himself, (because) he will grow tremendously and be an even better leader and person."

No teacher meant more to Sowder during his Southeast tenure than Levi's wife, Hannah Sams, a math instructor who was more of a friend than an educator to Sowder.

"I could talk to her about anything, and it was important for me to have a friend like her," Sowder said. "She helped me through a lot."

Sowder is "a really good kid, a hard worker who does everything asked of him, and we're very excited to see what he'll do at Georgia Tech," Hannah Sams said. Sams and her husband "were able to mentor him, talk through college decisions with him, and it's really cool to see him be so successful."

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