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Dennis' 1984 senior year photo
Photo by Jimmy Ballentine

"Grits" was one of the Tigers' best

By Michael Butler

Michael "Grits" Dennis was a multi-sport athlete who excelled for the Tallassee Tigers in the early 1980s. He passed away on Monday.

Dennis was an all-state lineman at Tallassee High School in 1984. The team went all the way to the semifinals of the state playoffs in what many recall as the "I Believe" season.

Shane Yankey was the all-state quarterback on the team.

"If it was 4th and 1 and a quarterback sneak was called, there was no doubt which side I was going," Yankey said. "Grits was a good teammate and friend. Most people didn't realize how mobile and agile he was which was unique for a big man. He was a big guy with a big heart."

Trey Taylor was also a senior on the '84 squad.

"Grits and I ran a 5.0 in the 40 in high school," said Taylor, noting Dennis' athletic ability at 300 pounds. "He gave everything in 1984. He was a mammoth of a man but as gentle as a baby. I loved him to death. You couldn't ask for a better person."

Dennis (74) towering over his senior teammates in 1984
Photo by Jimmy Ballentine

Ronnie Baynes coached Dennis in baseball at THS. Dennis played first base and was known for his flexibility and ability to do a full split when stretching for balls at the bag.

"He was one of the most enjoyable kids I ever had the pleasure to coach," Baynes said. "He had such agility for a big man. He probably hit some baseballs further than anybody at Tallassee."

Baynes remembered one of those long balls at Lafayette.

"The fence was 350 feet to center. On the other side of the fence was a yard and a house. Grits hit it over the house. When he rounded third, the pitcher was so impressed that he shook his hand. It might have been the longest ball I've ever seen hit, maybe somewhere between 450 and 500 feet.

"Grits was among the group of seniors that I always attributed to turning baseball around."

The Tigers baseball team finished as runners-up in Class 4A in 1985. Tallassee went on to win seven state titles from 1986-1998.

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