The 2018-2019 calendar year in Catoosa County was one full of outstanding individual accomplishments by multiple male athletes on regional, state and even national levels and this year’s choice for Catoosa County Boys’ Athlete of the Year certainly epitomized that.
Even before the school year began until several weeks after it officially ended, Ringgold’s Andre Tarver was simply a model of excellence.
One of the most naturally-gifted and talented all-around athletes that the county has ever produced, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Tarver helped the Tigers to the state playoffs in both football and baseball, while also collecting a boatload of individual honors along the way.
“It’s pretty awesome, honestly,” he said of earning the award. “All the work and dedication that I put in this year has paid off and I’m pretty excited about it.”
Tarver’s senior year highlights began even before the first day of classes as the Mississippi State baseball signee played in the Under Armour All-American Game at historic Wrigley Field in Chicago last July, showcasing his skills before scouts that would be paying numerous visits to northwest Georgia before the year was through.
“It was insane getting to play with all the top recruits in the country,” Tarver explained. “It just made me a better as a player and as a person. I went into this year already knowing what was going on, so I just tried to keep focused and keep grinding.”
But before he could get back to the diamond, he had business to attend to on the gridiron.
After coming off a junior season that saw him named All-Region first team at receiver, All-Region second team at linebacker, All-State first team by Recruit Georgia and All-State honorable mention by the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Tarver was named preseason All-State by Georgia High School Football Daily and followed up with another outstanding campaign.
A first-team pick as an athlete in Region 6-AAA and a first-team All-State pick as an athlete by the Georgia Sports Writers Association, Tarver caught 34 passes for 405 yards and six touchdowns, rushed for 525 yards and five more scores and racked up 50 tackles, 40 assists and eight tackles for loss on defense as Ringgold earned its first state playoff berth since 2015.
Those numbers and accolades had more than a few schools interested to see if Tarver might be persuaded to make football an additional part of his college plans.
“It was my last year for football, so I had to go as hard as I could,” he said. “I love football, so I just wanted to go out there and do the best that I could. There was a little thought to playing football in college, but I thought it’d be too hard with baseball and going to school, but I did think about it.”
Once the football season ended, Tarver jumped back into the swing of things with baseball and delivered a virtuoso performance in his final season with the Blue-and-White.
Coming off an All-Region and All-State season as a junior, Tarver turned in one of the top offensive seasons of any player in the state as he hit .561 as a senior with 10 homers and 36 RBIs. He had an on-base percentage over .650, scored 55 times, was 19-of-22 in stolen base attempts and struck out just four times all season long.
Those impressive stats helped Ringgold win a fifth consecutive region title as they advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
“Baseball season was awesome,” he beamed. “(Former Ringgold) Coach (Brent) Tucker was a great coach and all the players were just behind me in every way. We all just played together. It was great.”
More honors came in after the season, including All-Region and first team All-State honors once again. Tarver was one of just three outfielders nationwide selected to the Prep Baseball Report first team. He was a second team All-USA selection by USA Today and the 2019 Catoosa County Player of the Year.
At the time of this writing, Tarver was still facing a decision whether to attend and play baseball for Mississippi State, whom he committed to as a sophomore, or sign to play professionally with the San Diego Padres organization, who drafted him in the 15th round of the June Amateur Draft.
But no matter where the game of baseball takes him next, Tarver said he will always have fond memories of his time as a Ringgold Tiger athlete.
“I’m just going to miss my friends and (having) my family being able to come and watch me every game,” he said. “They won’t be able to come to a lot of games once I leave. I’ll miss all of that and all my coaches and everything.”