Six Lincoln County football players signed their names to the dotted line on Wednesday for National Signing Day.
Gardner-Webb University nabbed three players from Lincolnton High Schoolâ€™s 2A state runner-up team with Dee Littlejohn signing on as a running back, Jonathan Sherrill as a defensive back/safety and Michael Cunningham at outside linebacker.
Gardner-Webb head coach Ron Dickerson Jr. said it wasnâ€™t unheard of for a university to pick up multiple players from the same school, but that signing three high-caliber players was somewhat less common.
â€œThe thing about it is that these guys have known each other since they were young so they become best friends in high school and then they want to play together,â€ he said.
â€œHigh school players try to package each other together, but itâ€™s rare to get three great players to come to the same school. Thatâ€™s just a wonderful compliment to my coaching staff and Gardner-Webb to get three outstanding players from the same school.â€
Dickerson said all three players had an opportunity to make an impact during their freshman year if they enter into the program with the right preparation.
â€œI donâ€™t label anybody coming in, itâ€™s up to the young men,â€ he said. â€œDee is a great running back, and we run the ball here. Just because of his size heâ€™s in a situation where if he comes in healthy and learns the offense, heâ€™s going to play as a freshman.â€
Gardner-Webb is in need of defensive backs, and Sherrill and Cunningham may also see time on the field as true freshmen.
â€œIf Sherrill comes in and can handle the work requirements of college and learns the defense, he could walk into a situation where if the numbers were thin â€” which is one of the reasons weâ€™re excited about him â€” he has a chance to play,â€ Dickerson said.
â€œThe area that has the most opportunity is for Peanut (Cunningham), which is what Iâ€™ve already classified him as, is Peanut. Linebacker is the number one position we went after this year, and thatâ€™s an opportunity for any of those guys that we sign to come in and contribute. The thing about Peanut is that he loves the game, heâ€™s a leader and he has a passion for it. I look for those three to be in the hunt in all three positions.â€
Cunningham said he was looking forward to beginning the next chapter in his career, with two of his good friends alongside him.
â€œItâ€™s lovely that I can go down there and go with people that I know and have a new start on life,â€ he said. â€œPeople will migrate down there because they know me and Dee and Sherrill will be down there; it brings more people to watch us play since itâ€™s closer to home.â€
Lincolntonâ€™s Wesley Perkins committed to St. Augustine College in Raleigh, while defensive lineman Dakota Fish will begin his college career at Lenoir-Rhyne with former Lincolnton teammate Brandon Wilson.
Fish said that, like his teammates attending other schools, the coaches with Lenoir-Rhyne told him that if he came into his freshman year healthy and prepared he would have an opportunity to make an impact immediately.
North Lincoln lineman Major Kay committed to N.C. A&T in Greensboro, and said the family atmosphere of the Aggie coaches and team helped him make his decision.
â€œWhen I first went up there all of the coaches were there to meet me and talk to my family and before they even started talking about football they took the time to welcome all of us,â€ he said.
â€œTheyâ€™re very family oriented down there, nobody is left out of the group and all of the coaches have good chemistry with each other, so I feel like Iâ€™m going into a great program thatâ€™s already well grown and blossomed.â€
Kay said that he plans to spend his first year getting acclimated to his studies. He plans on majoring in architectural engineering.
â€œI want to stay on the books a lot,â€ he said. â€œThe social life will always be there, thereâ€™s no use for me going straight out to meet as many people as I can. I want to get my grades right and have a solid base. I feel like if I have a good foundation itâ€™ll just go up from there.â€
Kay said the main emotion he felt was relief when he finished signing his Letter of Intent.
â€œIt feels like a weight has been lifted off of me, thatâ€™s the bottom line,â€ he said. â€œWhen I was a little kid I remember signing my signature and figuring out how I was going to do it, and I went through about 10 different signatures. I feel like just being able to actually put something down on paper that meant something was the best feeling in the world. Everything that I trained for and accomplished in life, putting it all on paper, is a great feeling.â€
Cunningham expressed a sentiment that most young athletes probably feel when they commit to playing at the college level.
â€œI feel scared, no lie,â€ he said, â€œbut thatâ€™s just how it is, becoming a man.â€