Ramon Ward’s message is similar to that of other assistant football coaches around DeKalb County—hard work on the football field and in the classroom could result in a free college education.
More than 100 football players across the county heeded that advice as they signed scholarships last week on National Signing Day.
“The main thing is I let these guys know that there are opportunities on the next level,” said Ward, in his fourth year as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Columbia.
The Eagles, under second-year head coach Mario Allen, had a school-record 15 players sign scholarships on the first day of the national signing period, second only to Stephenson which had 20 players sign.
Columbia linebacker Demarcus Sherod, who signed with Oklahoma State, was the only Columbia player to sign with a Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) school. Of the 104 county public school signees, 22 signed with FBS schools, 17 to Football Championship Series (formerly Division 1-AA), 45 to Division II, one to Division III, seven to NAIA, six to community colleges and six to prep schools.
Sherod turned down offers from Auburn and Alabama to choose Oklahoma State.
“Coach Allen has definitely made a difference and made it comfortable for everybody,” said Sherod, who helped the Eagles make the playoffs for the first time since 2005. “He helped me grow as a person and mentally got me ready to be on my own at Oklahoma State.”
Among the other top signees in the county were James Vaughters (Stanford), Chris Sanders (Georgia) and Justin Garrett (Auburn) of Tucker, Cedar Grove’s Vincent Dallas (Tennessee), Demarco Robinson (Kentucky), Southwest DeKalb’s Terrance Smith (Florida State), and Kadetrix Marcus (South Carolina), Jared Boyd (Duke) and Willie Davis (South Florida) of Stephenson. Lithonia’s Cedric Cooper was the only top signee in the county to announce his decision on signing day. Cooper chose South Carolina.
Columbia defensive back Demarcus Brock also had a choice, which he would not have believed two years ago. Brock is among the group at Columbia who benefited from Ward’s perseverance. Brock had been accepted to Georgia Southern and had not planned on playing football in college.
“Two years ago I didn’t see this at all,” said Brock, who signed a scholarship to Clark Atlanta University, an NCAA Division II school. He chose Clark over offers from Trinity University and Concordia College.
“I was rehabbing my knee during my freshman year and missed the whole season,” Brock said. “Now that the day is here it’s a good feeling.”
Brock, who carries a 3.3 grade point average and scored 1100 (out of 1600) on the reading and math portion of the SAT, said he plans to study engineering at Clark.
“He’s not a world-beater on the field, but you ask him to do something and he does it,” Ward said. “Plus, he does what he needs to do in the classroom. You have to work hard for a kid like that.”