Sign on the dotted line

Published 5:02 pm Friday, December 20, 2019

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AHOSKIE – Hertford County head football coach Terrance Saxby will tell you he usually has an easy week during the three-day college football early signing period. None of previous Bears’ players he coached inked National Letters of Intent until the spring.

2019 was a little bit different.

Not only did the Bears have one FBS signing, this marked the first year they had two. It was also the second Power-Five signing under Saxby and first since Jaquarii Roberson at Wake Forest in 2016.

6’ 5”, 285-pound defensive end Jaylen Smith signed with the University of Oregon of the Pac-12 Conference, while 6’ 3” 175-pound receiver Armand Vinson inked his NLI with Hampton University of the Big South Conference.

Two Hertford County High football players signed National Letters of Intent on the first day of the Early Signing Period Wednesday at the school: Jaylen Smith (3rd, right) with the University of Oregon; and Armand Vinson (3rd, left) at Hampton University. They posed for photos along with their parents and (back row) administrators HCHS Principals Camille Moore and Earnest Coley, along with football coach Terrance Saxby. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

“This team went to the third round of the state playoffs three out of four years, so that’s pretty darn good,” said Saxby. “They were a couple of good ones, and they’re going to be missed, for sure.”

Smith was rated as one of the top-five defensive tackles in the state of North Carolina. He led the Bears this past season with 12 sacks, recording 24 tackles for loss while making 67 total stops along with forcing five fumbles while recovering one and breaking up four passes.

“I feel really good about this opportunity, moving all the way to the West Coast because I feel (Oregon) has a lot they’re cooking up and I feel really blessed,” said Smith. “I’ve had a lot going through my head during this whole process.”

Smith had several East Coast opportunities: Wake Forest, Virginia, Virginia Tech, UNC, ECU, and Florida State; but, most notably N.C. State, to whom he verbally committed following his junior year, but after a recruiting trip to Corvallis, Oregon, he changed from Wolfpack fur to Duck feathers.

“I didn’t weigh all my odds out before committing,” he explained. “I didn’t look at all the schools I wanted to look at, I just went with what I had. After looking at Oregon, the fans are electrifying, the stadium is huge, my (family) likes it, and I really think I can’t go wrong with it.”

The fleet-footed Vinson has been called by his future Pirate head coach and former ECU Pirates assistant coach Robert Purdy as a big play receiver with great size and running ability who can stretch the field vertically and isn’t afraid to catch balls across the middle.

“He is one of the most athletic players in this year’s class,” said Purdy.”

Vinson only starred for the Bears over two years, but made an impact. Averaging over 19 yards per catch, and last year finished with 455 receiving yards while scoring seven touchdowns.

“It’s great to have this honor – and this offer,” said Vinson. “I’m looking forward to continuing my education and taking my talents on the football field to the next level.”

Vinson drew interest from similar schools to the same ones as Smith, but was only offered by Hampton.

“When I first went there a lot about the campus impressed me,” he declared. “I liked the way it’s made, the way the people are – how so many of them I’d never met came up and greeted me. And, I really liked the coaches.”

“This is a decision that will affect me for the next four to five years,” said Smith. “I’m going to take the time to work out, graduate and then head out west.”

Vinson will also workout leading up to and after graduation in the spring and says there’s a big benefit to signing early.

“It takes a lot off your head, for one thing,” he noted. “I’m not constantly thinking about whether I’m going to be offered, whether I would get a chance to show my talents. By getting this offer it’s a big relief.”

“I want to be able to bring my agility, my height, speed, my hands, my eyesight, and my football IQ to the game,” Vinson said.

Former Hertford County and Chowan University player Leon Eason will work out both players, aiding them with diet, weight training, and calisthenics.

“You’ll see me in the backfield a lot,” warned Smith. “I intend to be shown a lot of times sacking the quarterback.”

“Both of these guys set a good foundation for our football program (at Hertford County High),” said Saxby. “These are two fine young men, their schools are getting couple of great kids, and maybe next time we’ll have five kids signing on Early Signing Day.”