Devon King and family Photo by: Adam Minichino/Dispatch Staff
February 8, 2018 10:17:30 AM
Winning over family members is part of the recruiting game.
It also helps when coaches can convince the players their school is the right fit for them.
Kenneth Martin Jr. had a feeling Itawamba Community College in Fulton was the place for him. He liked the fact that the Indians gave him his first scholarship offer on his first visit to a college. Martin Jr. also was intrigued by the possibility of playing in an offense that features plenty or read-pass options and loves to throw the football.
It wasn't until ICC convinced his mother, Nicole Harris, that Kenneth knew he had found the place to continue his football career.
"The whole time they were in my house she had a huge smile on her face, so I knew I needed to hurry up and commit because this school is right for me," Martin Jr. said.
National Signing Day at Columbus High featured celebrations for the accomplishments of Martin Jr. and teammates Isaiah Karriem and Patrick Jackson (Mississippi Delta C.C), Chris Taylor (Northwest Mississippi C.C.), and Devon King (Copiah-Lincoln C.C.), who also finalized their plans to continue their careers at the next level.
Martin Jr.'s decision was especially sweet for him because he will follow in the footsteps of his mother and his older brother, Javarous Woodard, who also went to ICC and then transferred to East Mississippi C.C.
Martin Jr., a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, played wide receiver and safety for four years at Columbus High. He started to play safety this past season. He also played tight end and defensive end in pee wee football and in middle school.
"It is like a big old weight has been lifted off my shoulders," said Martin Jr., who had 24 catches for 364 yards and five touchdowns. "I am very happy and proud to sign. It is a great experience. It is another chance for me to play football and to get recruited, and another chance to get something I really want (an opportunity to play football at a four-year school)."
Taylor, a 6-1, 185-pounder, kicked, punted, did kickoffs, and kicked extra points, was a three-year member of the football team. A former soccer player, Taylor turned his love for that sport into an offer in another one. He said he used to go to the Magnolia Bowl near downtown Columbus to kick a football. Still, he wasn't sure if his new-found love to kick would turn into a scholarship offer.
"I did football as a second thing, but it just took up way more time," Taylor said. "My heart is in soccer, but apparently I am much better at football."
Taylor admitted Tuesday that it "blew his mind" that he planned to sign a football scholarship the next day. He said his coaches, including David Nelson, a volunteer coach who worked with him, had told him he had the potential to kick in college and that he couldn't let up if he wanted to realize that goal.
"I am proud someone thought enough of me to offer me a scholarship to come play ball for them," said Taylor, who averaged 36.7 yards per punt, was 3-for-3 in field goals (long of 39 yards) and was 14-for-14 in extra points.
King, a 5-9, 155-pounder, played cornerback for four years at Columbus High. He said Copiah-Lincoln C.C. "felt like home" and that he enjoyed the family atmosphere he experienced last week when he visited the campus and met the players.
"They had been showing me love since the spring and the summer," King said. "You could tell that they were interested, so that is why I liked Co-Lin."
King said he had received a scholarship offer from Copiah-Lincoln in the summer, but he said he waited to see if other opportunities came to him. He said he made Co-Lin the last stop to make sure his initial feelings were correct.
Karriem, a 6-foot, 200-pounder played outside and middle linebacker in his four-year career at Columbus High. He thanked the coaches at Mississippi Delta C.C. for the offer and for their belief in him in being able to make an impact.
"I was sad at first because not a lot of coached believed in me, so I fortunate to get the offer from Mississippi Delta," Karriem said.
Karriem said he plans to use the fact that other coached didn't believe in him as motivation when he starts his college career.
"I am looking forward to the summer and the whole summer workouts that the coaches have planned for me," Karriem said. "I am ready to play against every team that doubted me. When I blow up, they're going to wish they had me."
Jackson, a 5-10, 200-pounder, played running back and slot receiver for four years. He rushed for 385 yards and had 20 catches for 164 yards.
"I knew this day was going to come," Jackson said. "When you first get to high school, you think you're going to be this big five-star recruit, but it is hard to do. ... It is going to be good. This is a big day. It is up there with graduation. It is a big relief to know I am going to have a chance to play college ball."
Randal Montgomery, who served as Columbus High's football coach for the last four seasons, credited all five of the players for their hard work. He said they will have a special place with him because they were part of his first group at the school after he arrived from Hazlehurst High.
"The majority of these guys have played in some sort of fashion since they walked through the doors as ninth-graders," Montgomery said. "That just kind of gives you an idea of what kind of talent they have and shows you they are signing scholarships because of that."
Last month, Montgomery was hired as an assistant football coach at Louisville. He will take over the program after current head coach M.C. Miller retired following the 2018 season.
Montgomery was 20-26 in his tenure at Columbus High. Columbus qualified for the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A playoffs in 2015 and 2016. This season, the Falcons finished 2-9.
Montgomery said all five young men are "great guys, students, individuals, kids" He said all five never were in any trouble and always were accountable. Montgomery is confident they will continue to be that way in their new homes.
"When you look at them as a group, they enjoy playing football," Montgomery said. "They're not a group of guys or individuals who just played the game because their buddies were playing the game. They really wanted to be good at the game of football, and it is kind of showing off for them today."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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