February 7, 2013 11:31:06 AM
Scott Walters - email@example.com
MACON -- Even though he was a wide-eyed seventh-grader, Dylan Bradley thought his Noxubee County junior high football coach Tyrone Shorter was a little nuts.
"When I first started playing junior high football, coach Shorter told me I was going to be his first player to play Division I football," Bradley said. "I laughed and said there is no way. He told me to believe it and work hard at it and it would come true."
Shorter's words came true Wednesday morning when Bradley signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at the University of Southern Mississippi. Bradley was one of 12 Noxubee County High players to sign scholarship offers on the opening day of the 2013 signing period.
"Noxubee County has a proud tradition," Shorter said. "When other schools are fortunate to have two or three players sign (college scholarships), we usually have eight or 10. This year, we feel really blessed. We have three more working on getting their things together, so this number should grow and may even get to 16. We started the year with 23 seniors. This is a tremendous class. It has meant so much to this school and this community."
Other signees included: Deshawn Hopkins, Javoris Glenn, Jercovie Stewart, Antonio Ryland, and Martize Mitchell (Northeast Mississippi Community College), Javancy Jones (Jackson State University), Fernando Phillips and Dennis Brooks (Hinds C.C.), Charles Hughes (Alcorn State University)m D'Angelo Ballard (Miles College), and Darrell Robinson (Pearl River C.C.).
Noxubee County finished 16-0 for the first time in school history, and won the Mississippi High School Activities Association's Class 4A state championship for the second time. The school also won the state crown in 2008.
"To be able to go out with an undefeated record and a state championship ring is special," Bradley said. "I will remember my teammates and coaches and all the special times we had. There has been a lot of growth in each one of us. Coach Shorter has always been behind every one of us every day. It is a special bond. Being able to sign today just puts a great cap on a great career."
Bradley led the team with 96 tackles, including 21.5 sacks. He anchored a defense that allowed 7.6 points per game. Shorter saw the potential in his 6-foot-2, 255-pound standout from a very early age.
"Work ethic and desire," Shorter said. "I saw an incredibly gifted athlete who put his team first. You could tell he had an incredible amount of ability. Then, you find out if he is willing to be coached and willing to sacrifice. We had several players like that. That is how you win a championship."
Running back Darrell Robinson also made his college choice, signing with Pearl River Community College. At Poplarville, Robinson will play for new PRCC coach William Jones, who spent the past five seasons as associate head coach and defensive coordinator at East Mississippi C.C.
"I really like coach Jones a lot," Robinson said. "He has been recruiting me for a long time, and I thought this would be a special place to go play. Pearl River is going to run the type of offense that would be good for me. I like the campus and the teammates I have met. I am really looking forward to playing junior college football because it is the best in this state."
Robinson ran for 2,686 yards and a state record 47 touchdowns this past season. The 5-10, 191-pound speedster also had 219 yards receiving and two kick return scores.
"This is a special day because we have another group of African-American males having the opportunity to attend college," Shorter said. "This is a lifetime-changing day where you create a path for the rest of your future. These young men have the opportunity to get a college degree without their parents having to pay a dime. The thing we stress is that you make sure you use football instead of letting football use you."
Bradley looks forward to using football. He also looks forward to building his relationship with new USM football coach Todd Monken.
"They really picked the right man for the job," Bradley said. "There is no doubt about that. Things are headed in the right direction. I am excited to see what happens in the next four years. All I can promise is I am going to give them a lot of hard work and do the best I can to be a complete football player and person."
Being a complete player is something Shorter envisioned six years ago. After that, it was up to Bradley to follow through on the plan.
"The thing with coach Shorter is he has a plan for everybody," Bradley said. "He has been there with me every step of the way through my football career, and I know he will continue to be. He had a plan, and even when it didn't make sense, he always worked out in the end. Now, I can't wait to see what type of plan is in place for me at the next place."
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter