Warriors commit to college gridiron

Published 10:21 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Nansemond River High School football players Tracey Parker Jr., Andre Butler and Marvin Branch participated in National Signing Day on Wednesday. (Robin Hirsch photo)

Nansemond River High School football players Tracey Parker Jr., Andre Butler and Marvin Branch participated in National Signing Day on Wednesday. (Robin Hirsch photo)

Nansemond River High School saw three more of its football players join the college ranks during a ceremony on National Signing Day.

Marvin Branch committed to Christopher Newport University, Andre Butler made St. Augustine’s University his college home and Tracey Parker Jr. signed with Bluefield College.

Butler, who was a defensive end for the Warriors and a two-year letterman in the sport, explained what signing to play football in college meant to him.

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“It’s a dream come true to me, because I always grew up watching college football and hoping one day I’d be able to sign, be able to go to a school to play football and get money for it,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable to me. I always thought about it, never thought it’d come true.”

He said he started playing at an early age, but then started participating in baseball. He returned to football in seventh grade, “and ever since, I’ve been playing every year.”

The college search was not an easy one. He was not getting any looks from Division I or II schools, and so he began pursuing D-II and D-III schools, hoping he would get picked up. About two weeks before signing day, he communicated with St. Augustine’s.

“As soon as possible they wanted me to come down on a visit, see if I liked it, and they offered me a scholarship for football,” he said.

He said they will be using him on special teams and defensive end.

His high school coach, Tracey Parker Sr., described Butler’s assets, including his 6-foot-3-inch height and current 200-pound size.

“That’s what colleges look for, and he can run,” Parker said. “So, I guess those are the things that St. (Augustine) saw and they were looking for, and it was a plus for him.”

Branch was pleased by the possibilities CNU offers.

“It feels good just to be able to play football for four more years and also go to a school that’s really high on academics and they win in football, so I’m excited,” he said.

Coach Parker spoke about seeing this batch of players advance to the next level after having played under him as their coach.

“I think that’s what it’s all about for me — kids having the opportunity to go on beyond high school and continue to further their academic and athletic careers,” he said. “That’s why I do it.”

Today was particularly special because his son was one of the players signing, so he asked assistant coach Brian Maus handle the ceremony.

“I was going to be a parent today,” he said, and a proud one.

Tracey Parker Jr. placed great value on Wednesday’s event.

“I’m just feeling very blessed because not everybody gets to go to the next level and play, so I’m real fortunate,” he said.