The Havelock High School library was the place to be on Wednesday, and not just for the scholarly offerings on the book shelves.
Dozens of students, staff and parents came out to watch five Rams sign to play collegiate sports on national signing day.
Running back Derrell Scott had always been popular. After all, he was recruited by just about every major college football program in the country.
But when he announced his decision last week to attend Tennessee, the four-star recruit became an instant hit on social media sites.
“Coach (Butch Jones) told me once I committed how crazy it would be, but I never believed him,” Scott said. “Like an hour later. I had like 3,000 more followers. Once I committed, I had like 2,000 retweets. It’s crazy. I got some fan mail the other day. Some fan sent some mail to my house. I don’t know how he got my address.”
But, it’s that rabid fan base, along with the Tennessee coaching staff, that he said sealed his decision to become a Volunteer.
“The people there really got me,” he said.
Scott ran for 6,096 yards at Havelock and never missed a start, helping the Rams to three consecutive 3A state championships. And after signing with Tennessee on Wednesday, he called his football experience “a dream come true.”
On top of that, he was excited to see his teammate and fellow running back Taylor Woods sign with James Madison on Wednesday.
“Taylor, that’s my boy right there,” Scott said. “We’ve been playing together forever. He did a lot for me. Sometimes, I get a lot of the recognition that he doesn’t really get, but without Taylor, I wouldn’t have been able to have a lot of the runs and a lot of the holes that I was able to have this year and the years before.”
Woods admits that James Madison was a late comer to his recruiting party. But when he visited the campus last month, it didn’t take him long to commit to the Dukes.
“It was the campus and the coaches, especially coach (Everett) Withers. He sold it to me,” Woods said. “He told me that I could come in and play as a freshman, and that was a big thing for me.”
He called signing day special.
“It’s once in a lifetime,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to get a full-ride scholarship, and it’s great knowing my parents don’t have to pay for anything, so I can be successful in life.”
James Madison will soon be joining the Mid-American Conference, and Woods said he was excited to be on the ground floor as the Dukes build their program to a Division I level.
“They’re on the rise right now,” he said. “ ... It’s a great opportunity to play for them.”
Woods ran for 1,001 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2013, ending his career with a third state title and by signing with James Madison.
“It’s like a movie,” he said.
Natalie Johnson is believed to be Havelock High’s first women’s Division I soccer player, something of which she was unaware on signing day Wednesday.
“I didn’t realize that, but it feels pretty good,” she said.
Johnson, who has been named to the all-state team the past two seasons, had 20 goals last year as a junior, leading the Rams to a 15-7 record.
She said Old Dominion just felt like the right place to be.
“I went on a couple of official visits, but none of the schools felt the same as Old Dominion,” she said. “On the official visit, I had a lot of fun. I enjoyed the school a lot. The recruits, getting to meet them, we all clicked very quickly, and they definitely helped me make the decision.”
George Mason had everything Noah Kemble could want in a school — a top-notch music program located near the nation’s capital with relatives close by and an improving soccer team that made the NCAA tournament last season.
“It just felt like home,” he said of the Fairfax, Va., campus. “They have a great soccer program and the coaching staff is fantastic, and with what they’ve done previously I felt like they would prepare me for the next level. ... It’s just a great school overall.”
Kemble becomes Havelock High’s first men’s Division I soccer recruit after scoring 20 goals last season and leading the Rams to the playoffs.
“Being in a football town, it’s kind of different for me being a soccer player and kind of under the radar,” said Kemble, who also kicked on the football team.
He called signing day a feeling of relief.
“It’s been a long road up to here, but I’m looking forward to improving at the next level,” he said.
Pitcher Josh Little is excited about the future after signing with Pitt Community College.
“It’s a big stepping stone in my life,” he said.
He has plans to transfer to a larger school but wants to contribute at Pitt first.
“I’m coming in hoping to win and hoping to go to the JUCO (junior college) World Series,” he said.
Little was 4-6 with a 1.75 ERA last season, striking out 74 and walking just 14 in 68 innings.
He said he appreciated the chance to continue playing.
“I feel blessed and honored and I thank God every day for it,” he said.