Friday, January 25, 2013

What happened to the 16 football players who signed to attend college?


National signing day is a big deal for a high school athlete.  The day has evolved over the years, with cameras to broadcast the selection of blue chip studs.

Athletics take precedent over academics. The ability to run, jump, shoot and pass overshadows the ability to excel in the classroom.  Fans obsess over the incoming freshman class.  Visions of championships linger as the announcement of approaches. The life of young athletes is minimized by the echoing cheers of those who place championships over degrees.

Lost in the shuffle for athletic supremacy are the myriad of men and women who feel through the cracks.  The exhilaration overshadows the sad memory of those who could have made it, yet failed to fulfill the promise of the day they signed their name to attend college.  Many athletes never make it past the first year.  Far too many leave us wondering what could have been if they had passed the grade.

The signing of Tyrone Outlaw, Jr. to attend the University of North Carolina – Greensboro rekindles memories of the man he’s named after. Tyrone Outlaw, Sr. was arguably the most sought after basketball player in the history of the PAC 6 athletic conference.  He shared player of the year honors with Courtney Alexander, a freak of an athlete at Jordan High School who signed to play at the University of Virginia before transferring to Fresno State to play for Jerry “The Shark” Tarkanian.

Alexander was the 13th player selected in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic.  He was named the Rookie of the Month in April that year after averaging 22.9 points per game, and was named to the NBA-Rookie Second Team.  Outlaw, in the eyes of many, was better than Alexander.  Outlaw Sr. out played Antawn Jamison in the East-West All-Star Game, and was set to play at North Carolina State University.

Outlaw, now 36, has a criminal record dating back to 1996, and is now facing federal drug charges.

It’s not what shows up on signing day, it’s what shows up in the classroom after names are signed.  The cheers from people packed in bleachers on signing day are the barometer of success after seasons of more wins than losses.   Students and parents at Durham Hillside held their heads in pride after 16 football players from the 2010 state championship team signed national letters of intent.  It was viewed as evidence of both athletic and academic prominence.  Those familiar with the travails of the school celebrated the good news of a long season of bad headlines.

It was proof of a new day.  Signing day meant a new day.  16 players headed to college.  16 reminders of hope springing from a field of unrelenting failure.  Poor academic performance.  A high dropout rate.  The presence of gangs and violence.  Both students and parents craved more than the bad news connected with the school they were proud to call their own.  The answer was football.  16 examples of good things coming from a school so many viewed as the least of these.

An undefeated season was followed by the state championship.  The championship was followed by the signing of 16 football players to attend college.  What happened to the 16?

Vad Lee, the quarterback, signed to attend Georgia Tech, and led the Yellow Jackets to a win over the University of North Carolina on November 10, 2012 at Keenan Stadium. Lee rushed for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns, and passed for 169 yards and another touchdown.

Where are the other members of that championship team? Of the 16 players, only five were on the roster at the school they signed with this past football season.  Treshawn Council, who originally signed with East Carolina University, played at Louisburg College, but has transferred to play at East Carolina University.

10 players from that team can’t be accounted for on the team roster of the school the signed to attend..  Myer Krah and Jamaal Williams remain on the roster at the Navy Academy.  Derick Vereen is at Elon University and Zac Giles is on the roster at North Carolina Central University.  What happened to the rest? 

It’s critical that we refrain from making assumptions related to those who can’t be accounted for on the roster of the teams they signed to play for back in 2010.  Some may have transferred.  Others may have dropped from the roster for other reasons.  It’s a mystery, yet one worthy of solving.

We cheered with them on signing day.  Should we forget them after the promise of free educations is fulfilled, or should we question what happened to prevent them to make it to the end of the game?

The game doesn’t end on signing day.  The clock stops when they walk across the stage with a college degree.

3 comments:

  1. Word got around Durham that some of those that signed were "pushed through the system." Could be just rumors but some say grades were changed to keep them eligible during the season. If players are not given the proper tools in the classroom to prepare them for college then they are destined for failure. And further on that I don't think that the coaching set them up for success either. From games I have seen in the past there does not seem to be a lot of discipline and character building from the coaches and it seems to be more about winning at all costs. It would be interesting if you could to compare all Durham high schools statistics in this manner.
    Players that only have dreams about playing college football will be sadly surprised when they step onto campus and realize that college athletes have to perform at a high level on the field and even higher in academics. Coaches as well as teachers need to prepare them for this challenge and not just look at letters of intent as the final goal. Players need a firm foundation to fall back on when they get knocked down at college so they realize they can get back up. Very few people can go through college/college athletics without getting knocked down. College athletics are a way to challenge yourself and further your education not the other way around.
    It is a culture shock for young athletes to step onto predominately white campuses. Football teams are usually the most diverse group on campus. From race to income to hometown/state, however, when they step out of the locker room that diversity goes away for the most part. My team was exactly this way at a medium size private university. A lot of my team mates felt out of place in an environment dominated by a different race. Durham is a pretty diverse area which most students take for granted. When they step on a campus they might go to class/live with other students have never been to school or been around a different race. So this young athlete feels the pressure of playing a collegiate athletics and the pressures of fitting into a new world and it can get the best of him. He is going to school far away from home so he does not get to see his parents as much as he would like and the only family he has are in the locker room. The task of constantly trying to prove himself on the field and in the classroom can wear on him and he might shut down and quit so he can come home.
    We need to prepare our Durham athletes for “life”. We do not need to focus everything on getting a scholarship to play football or any other sport for that matter. We need to create character and morals in our athletes to succeed at whatever they go after. Their goal needs to fade from getting their name on a back of a jersey and more on getting their name on a diploma.

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  2. Students were not passed through the system. They made the grades! I know them, most got in trouble with marijuana related incidents.

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