Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times
Most high school football players have aspirations of continuing their career at the next level.
For those who get that opportunity, no day is bigger than national signing day. Six Valdosta High Wildcats participated in the signing day celebration held at the VHS Performing Arts Center on Wednesday with Nelson Herring, Ricky Small, Alex Cason, Darrius Sapp, Malcom Joseph and Mac Loudermilk all signing their letters-of-intent.
“I’m extremely proud of each of the players that signed,” VHS coach Rance Gillespie said, adding that a few more of the Wildcats’ 18 seniors will probably sign prior to May. “I wish them the best in college and hope that they all remember that grades are just as important as football at the next level.”
Herring, a running back, will attend Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College after rushing for 837 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. Herring gained more than 1,700 yards and scored 24 combined touchdowns in his last two years as a Wildcat and plans to expand his resume in college.
“It feels real good to be able to go to college,” he said. “I’m glad I got the chance to sign and I just want to thank God.
“I’m excited to continue playing football and hopefully I can be a weapon for them; bring my speed like I did as a ’Cat. Hopefully I can just encourage my teammates to be great and better people.”
Small chose to stay home to attend Valdosta State. The 6-foot-3, 295-pound offensive lineman hopes to help anchor the Blazers’ offensive line as they search for another Division II national championship.
“Being able to play in front of my family again is a big plus,” Small said. “I hope to continue the tradition of hard work in Valdosta. Hard work attracted me to VSU; the coaching staff and atmosphere, it’s more like a family and not just a school and I feel more at home there.
“The fact that VSU has won a few championships was a big part of my decision. I wanted a state championship in high school but we weren’t able to get one. Hopefully with coach (David) Dean, I can help them do work and get another national championship.”
Cason was one of three Wildcats to sign Division I as he will travel to Huntington, W.V., to attend Marshall University. Cason was a leader on the field for the Wildcats, especially at the wide receiver position as he was the only senior at the position. Cason finished with 550 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s feels great to be going to college to play football,” Cason said. “It didn’t even have to be a Division I school.
“I can bring that south Georgia football style to Marshall. A lot of up north players aren’t going to be ready for the physicality I bring.”
Sapp will also be attending a Division I college as he will join the ranks of brand new Sun Belt Conference member Georgia Southern in Statesboro. The defensive tackle was an undisputed leader of the ’Cats defense and made major plays all season, including an interception against rival Lowndes in the Winnersville Classic.
“It’s a dream come true,” Sapp said. “Everyone dreams to play football in college but everyone doesn’t get that chance.
“I will bring more talent to the Eagles team.”
Joseph will take his talents to Mississippi as he signed with North Mississippi Community College in Booneville. As a senior, the running back gained 905 yards and rushed for 10 touchdowns, and combined for close to 1,800 yards the past two years.
“It feels great to go far away so it gives me an opportunity to experience more things in life,” he said. “It’s a whole new state with new people and new things for me to experience.
“I feel like I can bring some excitement to the team.”
The final Division I signee was Loudermilk, who had been verbally committed to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., from the start of the season. Loudermilk was a punter, tight end and quarterback for the ’Cats and ended his senior season as the special teams Player of the Year for Region 1-AAAAAA.