Commitments signed

Published 10:22 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Nansemond River High School seniors, from left, Willie Gillus, Shakeela Saunders, LaMont Brown, Corey Barnes, Brent McPherson and Corinth Cross signed athletic and academic commitments to attend various colleges during National Signing Day on Wednesday.

By Titus Mohler

Special to the News-Herald

The excitement and promise of National Signing Day filled Nansemond River High School on Wednesday morning, as four students signed athletic commitments and two more received academic scholarships.

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All but one of the students was from the school football team, and head coach Tracey Parker was excited for them.

“As a coach, it’s a great accomplishment to have young men to have an opportunity to not only go on and play football at the collegiate level, but to get an education as well and to get an education that’s paid for,” Parker said.

Running back LaMont Brown rushed for over 1,500 yards this season, second in the Eastern region, and signed with Morgan State University. While introducing Brown, Parker told the story of how Brown’s father had encouraged the coach to play Brown as early as the eighth grade.

When asked what today meant to him, Brown said, “This is what every kid dreams about when he starts playing football when he’s little — to go D1 and hopefully get to the (NFL). This is where my dream begins. Hopefully, it carries me to where I want to go and I end up in the League. But if I don’t, I’ll still be happy.”

Defensive lineman Corey Barnes was a three-year starter for the Warriors, and he committed to Delaware State University. Parker said that even though the defensive line was Barnes’ preferred position, he had a willingness to play wherever he was needed.

Fulfillment defined Barnes’ thoughts of the day: “I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a little boy. For my dreams to come true, it means a lot to me.”

Defensive end Willie Gillus served as team captain for the Warriors and signed with Morgan State University. Parker described Gillus as being a standout because of his strong leadership and character.

Gillus was out with an injury for part of the season, but he returned to help lead the team to its best season in years.

Indoor track standout Shakeela Saunders signed a commitment to attend Kentucky University. For 2012, Saunders is currently No. 1 in the nation in the long jump and the 4×200 relay. Girls’ track coach Marissa Post praised Saunders for being a model athlete who has not only achieved great things personally but has also helped her teammates become better at the same time.

“This is a big step,” Saunders said, referring to the signing. She indicated that the coach from Kentucky had been recruiting her since July. Saunders confirmed that she has Olympic aspirations.

Brent McPherson signed an academic scholarship with North Carolina A&T.

When asked what impact the day had on him, McPherson applied football lessons to schoolwork and expressed what consistent, hard work can do.

“Football taught me all the necessary discipline to succeed in the class. It’s a lot to take in, because you’re studying stuff, you work hard every day, late nights, and it’s paying off right now.”

Cornerback/tight end Corinth Cross received an academic scholarship to West Point. Parker described Cross as an excellent student who would tutor others, including his teammates.

“It’s overwhelming right now,” Cross said. “All this work, all these four years of hard work is paying off finally (with) this last acceptance. I’m just happy, that’s all I can say.”