NSA places 3 in Div. 1

Published 10:17 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy football standouts Daniel Griffith, Cole Christiansen and Noah Giles sign to play at the next level on Wednesday.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy football standouts Daniel Griffith, Cole Christiansen and Noah Giles sign to play at the next level on Wednesday.

The 2015 Nansemond-Suffolk Academy football team helped Lew Johnston become a first-time state champion head coach in the final game of his storied career, and on National Signing Day, it yielded another perfect moment at the end of his tenure.

Saints linebacker/running back Cole Christiansen, running back/defensive back Noah Giles and linebacker/running back Daniel Griffith signed to play football at the NCAA Division I level.

Griffith will be a preferred walk-on at Virginia Tech, Christiansen is officially committed to play for the United States Military Academy at West Point and Giles is set to play for the College of William & Mary.

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“With a state championship and three guys signing Division I — again, the storybook ending,” Johnston said. “I guess this is the postscript, so it is really exciting. I’m just so happy for the three of them — not just great football players but great young men. That makes it extra special.”

A large group of family, classmates, coaches, teachers and administrators gathered in Nansemond-Suffolk’s upper school gym to watch the trio sign.

Griffith said that to have the opportunity to sign “really means the world to me and my family. We’ve been waiting on this for a very long time. A lot of hard work and a lot of people helped me get here.”

Christiansen described the event and his signing as “just a culmination of the last four years, and it’s just so exciting to have it done.”

Giles said the day and his signing means “that I can start looking forward and thinking about college, too, and just preparing for that now, and I’m just really excited to go to William & Mary. It’ll be a great experience for me.”

Griffith’s transferred to Nansemond-Suffolk from Western Branch High School as a rising senior after he and his family reached out to Johnston for guidance on how he could best reach the college level of play.

He attended camps in the offseason, including one at Virginia Tech, where he impressed then-head coach Frank Beamer and defensive coordinator Bud Foster.

A hamstring injury suffered at that camp, though, lingered and limited him for much of his season at NSA. He saw playing time in a few games during the regular season, though, and came on strong in the postseason to earn a second-team all-state honor.

“There were schools who showed interest and then backed away, because he didn’t play much,” Johnston said. “Old Dominion kind of hung in there, Wake Forest kind of hung in there, N.C. State expressed some interest, JMU, but he’d been up to Tech several times.”

Griffith said he knew he wanted to play at a tier one level in college, and Virginia Tech fit that bill.

When Beamer announced his retirement, Johnston waited until new coach, Justin Fuente, was hired and then contacted Bud Foster again to promote Griffith.

“I said, ‘Look, the guy is willing to come as a walk on,’” Johnston said. “’He’s not even asking for a scholarship.’”

Johnston said that Foster wrote back excitedly, and stated, “I would love to have him at linebacker for us in our program.”

Griffith passed muster academically, and a recruiter invited him to join the program.

“This is not a tryout,” Johnston said. “He is on the roster, he’s just a non-scholarship player right now.”

“I think by next spring when he’s got a full spring and a season behind him, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that they would offer him a scholarship at that point,” Johnston said. “He’s that good.”