February 7, 2013 11:26:32 AM
WEST POINT -- Chris Chambless understand the value of tradition.
As much as he knows hard work has been a cornerstone of the West Point High School football program's seven state championships, he also knows players like to see tangible examples of how they will be rewarded for their investment.
That's why Chambless enjoys every time former players come back to the school to use the weight room. Chambless has used that example to stress what can happen when players buy into to the Green Wave style of football.
On Wednesday, Chambless and West Point added eight more players to the college fraternity, as Ed Brown (Coastal Carolina University, Freddie Reed (the University of North Alabama), Eric Lemus, T.J. Minor, and Mario Virges (East Mississippi Community College), Tez Lane (Northeast Mississippi C.C), and Antreon Bennett and Lindon Johnson (Holmes C.C.) signed their scholarship papers in a ceremony in the school library.
Lane and Virges were the final players to make up their mind. Both players weren't certain about their decisions when they entered the library shortly after 8 a.m.
"It is an extreme amount of pride," Chambless said. "I had a long talk with our underclassmen yesterday about today and what goes on. (Today's signees) were in their shoes last year, two years ago, or three years in this program, and the leadership and the hard work they have put in has culminated in them getting their school taken care of and to go on and play the game they love. It does nothing but put a smile on everybody's face."
The latest batch of signees also extended West Point's reach. In 2010, West Point defeated Mainland (Fla.) 14-0 in Daytona Beach, Fla., as part of the inaugural Gridiron Challenge Florida vs. USA. On Wednesday, Brown realized a dream, although he will wear different colors and assume a nickname he didn't expect.
"I always thought how I might be a good Bulldog or a Rebel, but God led me that way and I am just going to take it," Brown said.
Brown smiled when asked if he knew what a Chanticleer, the Coast Carolina mascot, was before he made contact with coaches from the school and visited the campus. He admitted he knew the term is for a "fighting rooster."
Brown will get to be a "Chant" thanks in part to West Point's use of Hudl. The video software and applications for coaches, student-athletes, and recruiters enables high school coaches to send film to college coaches all across the country. Chambless said the Coastal Carolina assistant coach Nick Jones, a former player at the University of Georgia, liked what he saw on film and came to Clay County for a visit.
Brown said Jones and the Coastal Carolina coaches like how he comes off the ball as a rush defensive end. Brown led the Green Wave in sacks the past two seasons. He looks forward to attacking the quarterback at the next level.
"I always thought I would go somewhere, but I kind of lost faith when I didn't get to plain the All-Star games this year," Brown said. "But I prayed about it and God just made a way for me."
Coastal Carolina, which competes in the Big South Conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision, went 8-5 and lost in the second round of the NCAA playoffs. The campus in Conway, S.C. is more than 10 hours and 600 miles away from West Point, but Brown said his family already has started to think about what are the best dates and ways to get to see him play.
Chambless said the hard work every player has experienced is just the first step. He and his coaches have stressed even more work needs to be done at the next level. He feels the eight players who signed scholarships Wednesday understand they now have to make the most of their opportunity and outwork everyone.
"That is the one good thing about the guys in college now who come back," Chambless said. "They talk about what is done and what is expected of them. On this stage in high school, they come in and a lot of them are 'The Man'. They are going to be the starters and the leaders. Now you have to go back to kindergarten again. You have to start over and grow again in another program. As long as you have the right mind-set, which our guys do, they will make it, and they understand the process. They are going to be fine. They are going to be outstanding students as well."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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