December 20, 2012 12:15:15 AM
Scott Walters - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- East Mississippi Community College lineman Martavius Foster likes to travel.
This passion will serve him well as the Starkville native prepares for the next chapter in his football life.
Foster signed a national letter-of-intent with Colorado State University Wednesday afternoon, which was the first signing day for junior college graduates from this term.
Foster was one of five former Starkville High School standouts to sign at the school's new field house Wednesday. Overall, a total of 10 Lions completed deals to play on the senior college level.
Other former SHS/EMCC players signing included Quez Johnson with Florida Atlantic University, Billy Shed with Alcorn State University, Jarrod Atterberry with Mississippi Valley State University and D.J. Jordan with the University of Tennessee, Martin.
Former West Point/EMCC standout Justin Cox signed with Mississippi State University. Greenville, Ala., native Za'Darius Smith is headed to the University of Kentucky. Oak Hill, Fla., native Darious Cummings is headed to the University of Florida. Madison Central's Maurice Bennett is headed to Western Kentucky University. Nick Brassell will re-enroll at the University of Mississippi after spending the past season at EMCC.
A total of 11 players were eligible to move to the next level thanks to completing coursework at EMCC in December.
Leading rusher Rodriguez Moore is expected to complete the signing day activities today when he chooses between the University of Cincinnati, Texas Tech University and Kansas University.
While choosing a college is never an easy task, Foster fell in love with the CSU campus in Fort Collins, Colo., rather quickly.
"Once I got out there and saw everything, I knew it was the right place to be," Foster said. "They are building all new facilities. They have a new stadium planned. I really like the fit all the way around."
At EMCC, Foster played defensive end. Second-year Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain has offered Foster a chance to a return to offense, where he will play tight end.
"I really liked the coaching staff," Foster said. "You can tell things are headed in the right direction out there. A chance to play tight end was too good to pass up. I am excited about the new position."
Already a talented pass catcher, Shed heads to Alcorn State after two seasons as a top receiving target for the Lions.
A participant in this season's MACJC all-star game, Shed had 39 receptions for 477 yards and five touchdowns this season.
"This is going to be a good place for me because of their type of offense," Shed said. "Plus, it is a chance to play close to home. If you have a chance to play close to home, that is certainly something you want to do."
Shed is thankful for the opportunity which was provided by EMCC.
"I feel really close to the players I played with," Shed said. "It was a really great experience. I am appreciative of the coaches being patient with me and working me hard to put myself in this position. I will really miss being on the field with my old teammates."
Shed is not the only former Lion now playing in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Also a participant in the all-star game, Atterberry looks forward to a chance to play center at MVSU.
"If I couldn't play at a big school, I wanted to play in the SWAC, so this is a dream come true," Atterberry said. "They really have a great family atmosphere there and the opportunity to come in and start at center was very appealing."
Jordan heads to UT-Martin after a brilliant two-year run at linebacker at EMCC. In his sophomore season, Jordan had 52 total tackles, two quarterback hurries and three pass break-ups.
"I was really impressed with UT-Martin from my first visit," Jordan said. "I knew this would be an opportunity to step in and play. They have made a lot of strides in the last couple of seasons and I am looking forward to doing my part."
Jordan felt like his playing experience at EMCC helped mold him to contribute on the next level.
"This was an incredible experience," Jordan said. "We learned how to become better football players, but we also learned how to become better men.
"We won a lot of football games and had a lot of good times. I am grateful everything the coaches did for me and I look forward to playing at a senor college."
After recovering strong from a shoulder injury, Johnson looks forward to the opportunity to continue his quarterback play at Florida Atlantic.
"They told me I would have the chance to start for three seasons and that really meant a lot to me," Johnson said. "Boca Raton is a great city. I think I will have fun for the next three years of my life."
Johnson sat out the 2011 national championship season at EMCC rehabbing the shoulder, which was injured in his final high school game.
This season, Johnson completed 59.3 percent of his passes for 2,846 yards, 27 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
For his efforts, Johnson was named an honorable mention NJCAA All-American, as well as Region XXIII Offensive Back Most Valuable Player. Twice, Johnson was named national offensive player of the week.
"I learned so much from my first year when I got to watch (former EMCC and current Ole Miss quarterback) Bo Wallace every day," Johnson said. "I wish we could have won the national championship this year, but I think I really improved my game a lot this year and had a successful season.
"I learned a lot about myself in those two seasons at EMCC. My game has come a long way and I am looking forward to seeing what is next."
In Clay County, Cox signed with MSU on the West Point High School campus.
A first-team NJCAA All-American at defensive back, Cox had 52 total tackles and a team-best six interceptions this season.
"Mississippi State was my choice from the beginning," Cox said. "I like the coaches and I know several of the players on the team. The opportunity to play in the Southeastern Conference and to play this close to home is exciting."
While some prefer to stay close to home, others will travel. In Foster's case, it will be traveling a lot. The CSU campus is roughly 1,300 miles from where Wednesday's signing day took place.
"Sometimes, you get real excited about an opportunity," Foster said. "The distance does not matter to me. This is the type of opportunity you have to be excited about."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter