Five T-Breds sign to play college football
An extra table was once again necessary Wednesday in the gym at South Aiken High School as the T-Breds celebrated their five college-bound senior football players on National Signing Day.
It’s becoming a yearly tradition under head coach Chris Hamilton to send at least a handful off to college programs, and that trend continued with Jack Howard, Deshun Kitchings, DJ Parker, Chris Roberts and Marin Sanders signing.
“These guys, they were freshmen when I first came in. ... They really bought in and believed in what we were doing and selling, and they really worked hard,” said Hamilton. ”... You’re just excited to see that for them and excited for our program, and just hopefully this expectation continues.”
Howard, a 5-foot-10, 230-pound interior offensive lineman who helped guide the T-Breds to 5,000 yards of offense this past season, signed with a Brevard program he said felt like home. He called it a “very personal experience” and was also drawn to the Tornadoes’ coaching staff.
“It’s good to go out and sign with all my brothers that I played with, all the people we grew up with,” said Howard, who plans to study business and major in marketing. “And we changed the program around. South Aiken’s now viewed as one of the big powerhouses in the state, and that’s all because of what we did and Coach Ham.”
Kitchings, a first-team All-Aiken Standard athlete, is on his way to Newberry. The 5-11, 165-pound speedster accounted for nearly 1,400 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns this season, and he’s an ace kick returner.
He said Newberry has shown interest in him and remained loyal since first reaching out to him during his sophomore year. He likes the family-oriented feel there, and he said his whole family liked it there, too. He wants to study sports management.
“It feels good. All that stress of recruitment is finally over with. It’s stressful,” he said. “That’s one thing they did not tell you when you first go into it is that recruiting is stressful. But I’m glad it’s over with. I know I picked the right choice.”
Parker, a second-team All-Aiken Standard linebacker with 229 total tackles and 32 for loss over the last two seasons, fell in love with UNC Pembroke as soon as he stepped foot on campus. The 6-foot, 200-pounder feels like he can connect with the coaching staff with his underdog story.
“It feels amazing. I never thought – I mean, I had a feeling I’d get here,” he said, adding that he wants to study business. “But over the time it’s been stressful, and I thought it wasn’t going to be the way I thought it was. But then God looked out for me and got me to UNC Pembroke.”
Roberts, an Aiken Standard Player of the Year finalist and last year’s Offensive Player of the Year, cashed in on a full ride to Mars Hill University.
The 5-10, 210-pounder accumulated more than 4,000 yards of total offense and 49 touchdowns over the last two seasons, and he said Mars Hill is a program that was there at the start of his recruitment. He plans to study pre-med and become a pediatrician.
“It feels like I’m a newborn baby – I don’t know,” he said. “Waking up Christmas morning is just how it feels, like I’m a little kid. It’s a great feeling. I’m blessed to get this right here. Not everybody sees this.”
Sanders’ hopes of playing college football were down during his senior season, and when he was summoned to assistant coach – and public safety officer – Marcus Lawrence’s office, he thought he was in trouble.
Instead, waiting there for him was Presbyterian College assistant coach Taylor Cornett. It was then that Sanders, who had planned to go to the University of South Carolina to study business management, knew that kicking in college was possible for him.
“I mean, It’s crazy. Starting off when I kicked sophomore year, I never really thought I’d be signing to play D1 football,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of good experiences and a lot of bad ones. ... Playing D1 football, I mean, that’s insane. I never imagined playing D1 football. Just getting to sign here is crazy enough, as it is.”