ROCKINGHAM — As he sat in the conference room waiting for his players to arrive, Richmond Senior football coach Paul Hoggard’s cell phone rang.
On the other end was a college coach checking in to make sure his recruit didn’t waver and sign with another program.
Hoggard reassured the coach paperwork would be faxed once the signing day activities were over.
In the end, the Raiders had four players — Antoine Crouch, Steve Houston, Corey Smart and Dakota Truett — ink letters of intent Wednesday, the first day of the spring signing period. Crouch, Houston and Smart were named to the all-Southeastern Conference team this fall, while Truett was an all-league selection as a junior.
Before pens were put to the paper, Hoggard told his former players how proud he was of them because “1 million high school students will graduate this year, only 8,000 will sign scholarships to play Division I or II football.”
Crouch joined the increasing number of Richmond players making their way to Orangeburg, S.C. The Shrine Bowl participant became the fourth Raider in five years to agree to attend South Carolina State. Crouch joins Andrew Carter as well as Derrick and Tedarius Wiley as Bulldogs.
The interior defensive lineman finished seventh on the Raiders with 49 tackles and was fourth with seven tackles for loss.
While having familiar faces surrounding him was a plus, Crouch said he also selected S.C. State because of the coaching change at Coastal Carolina.
“I do know some people down there and it has good academics,” Crouch said. “And the coaches are good people.”
Like Crouch, Smart was drawn to his choice, Campbell, because of its academics.
“I have worked very hard in the classroom, on the football field and in the weight room during my time here at Richmond Senior, today this hard work is paying off,” Smart said. “I am very excited to have this opportunity today to sign a letter of intent to play Division I college football for the Campbell University Fighting Camels. The full package of a wonderful academic opportunity and an impressive football program is very exciting to me.”
Smart also thanked the Richmond coaches for giving him the opportunity to earn a scholarship.
“Words cannot express how much I appreciate Coach Hoggard and his staff for teaching me the game of football and for helping me grow to be a successful young man,” Smart said. “I love this school and Raider Magic.”
An offensive lineman, Smart finished with 27 knockdowns and graded at 89 percent on the season.
His fellow “Hog,” Truett registered 30 knockdowns and had a 90 percent grade. After signing with Presbyterian, Truett said the biggest attraction for him was the small school atmosphere on the campus in Clinton, S.C.
“I really like what they had to offer,” Truett said. “It’s not a big school and I really liked the teacher/student ratio. It was a nice place and the people there were really like a family.”
Truett added he also considered Western Carolina and Wingate, but felt Presbyterian was the right choice.
“Once I made the visit there, I was positive where I was going to go,” Truett said.
One of the most versatile athletes at Richmond, Houston said his decision to attend Georgia Military School will help him achieve his goal of playing big-time college football. Like Crouch, Houston represented North Carolina in the Shrine Bowl.
Houston rushed for a team-high 1,029 yards for the Raiders and 12 touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 59 yards and a score. Houston also played cornerback and had the game-sealing interception against Pinecrest as well as a game-saving tackle on a 2-point conversion by Purnell Swett.
He said he is not sure where his new coaching staff will have line him up.
“I really liked everything about the school,” Houston said. “I think they plan on playing me a little bit of everywhere.”
Around the region, Scotland had nine players ink letters of intent. Quarterback Kwashaun Quick, the SEC’s offensive player of the year, signed with North Carolina A&T. Expected to join Quick on the Greensboro campus are running back Tony McRae and wide receiver Seyyan Moody. St. Augustine’s reeled in defensive lineman Jaquice Bethea, running back Caison Murphy and wide receiver Marquis Peques. Defensive lineman Kris Tyndall and linebacker Ronnie Moore will both attend UNC Pembroke, while linebacker Red Covington will play at Elizabeth City State.
Pinecrest also has nine players moving on to college. Lineman Bryce Kennedy switched from his verbal commitment with North Carolina and enrolled at N.C. State in January. Quarterback Travis Scales and offensive lineman Tyler Conley will attend Lenior-Rhyne. Offensive lineman Mitch Monska became one of the first recruits to sign with UNC Charlotte. Offensive lineman Steve Pollard will be going to Fayetteville State, while fellow lineman Jerod McKenzie is headed to St. Augustine’s. Linebackers Dee Kirkpatrick and Julius Steele will be attending Rochester Community and Technical College in Minnesota, while wide receiver David Alston signed with Louisburg College.
Four players from Hoke County signed to continue their football careers. Quarterback David Walrath will attend UNC Pembroke, while defensive lineman Daquan Richards will suit up for Fayetteville State. Two others, lineman Henry Capers and tight end/linebacker Craig Johnson, inked LOIs with St. Augustine’s.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com