Bear gridiron trio ready for next step

Published 4:36 pm Friday, March 24, 2023

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AHOSKIE – They say good things come in threes.

That was true here Wednesday when three seniors and former Hertford County High School football players revealed they were headed to the next phase of their gridiron careers at the college level.

Former Hertford County High School football player Dawon Speller (seated, center) signed his National Letter on Wednesday to play football next season for Shaw University in Raleigh. With him were (front, from left) Zariah Eley, sister; and Kisha Ashe, mother; and (back, from left) Terrance Saxby, HCHS football coach; Ronica Watford, HCHS Principal; and Correy Hines, Assistant Principal. Photo by Gene Motley

Lineman Dawon Speller (6’4” 270 lbs.) inked a grant-in-aid with NCAA Division II CIAA member Shaw University in Raleigh, while ex-linebackers Christian Brown and Ahmad Rodgers have both been designated preferred walk-on status at NCAA Division III USA South Conference member North Carolina Wesleyan University.

All three players helped the Bears to the third round of the 2A state playoffs last fall, finishing their careers with an 11-2 team record and a second-place finish in the Northeastern Coastal Conference.

Speller was the second-leading tackler on the team with 65, 50 were solo and one of those was for a loss. He also had a pair of sacks. Brown and Rodgers were almost book-ends with their defensive play. In limited action, Brown had 30 tackles with Rodgers right along side with 29 stops.

Christian Brown (seated, second from right) was on hand with members of his family as he has been invited to make the team as a Preferred Walk-on to play football next season at NC Wesleyan University in Rocky Mount. At the signing were, seated from left, Dejah Chamblee, sister; Antony Brown, father; Christian Brown; and Brenda Brown, mother; and (back row, from left) HCHS coach Terrance Saxby; HCHS Principal Ronica Watford; Miyah Robinson, niece; and Correy Hines, Assistant Principal. Photo by Gene Motley

“These were three hard-working young men,” said Bears head coach Terrance Saxby. “They were great for the program; good students, good athletes, and I’m really just excited at them being able to just play at the next level. And, they’ll be playing close to home which will allow the Hertford County family to go and see them play.

“They didn’t start out as big-time contributors, but they kind of worked their way up and were a big part of our success over the past two seasons. They know going into (college ball) what’s expected of them because early on here there wasn’t much expected of them, but they sort of grew into their roles,” he added.

Speller wants to study Criminal Justice at Shaw, hopefully leading to a post-college career he envisions with the U.S. Marshal’s Service. He says he says he wanted to attend an HBCU (Historically Black College/University). Speller liked the atmosphere of the campus in the state capital, and after speaking with assistant coach Ken Hill, who primarily recruited him, admits that made him feel right at home. While he’s small now for a college player. He plans to work hard to grow and develop his skills.

“When I went up for my (official) visit I weighed about 271 and they say I need to get up to about 290, 295. I’m up to 293 now,” he declared. “My bench press also needs to be at 215, and I’m about at 195 now, so I’m getting there. I’ll be there.”

Speller’s confidence does not belie arrogance, just a dignified belief in himself.

“If they want me in the rotation as a rookie, I’ll play as a true freshman if they need me to,” he reasoned. “I handled jayvee and then moved right into varsity. It’s a different speed, but I think I can live up to it.”

HCHS senior Ahmad Rodgers (seated, center) has also received an invitation to join the NC Wesleyan football team for next season as a Preferred Walk-on. He signed with family present: (front, from left) Antonial Rodgers, father, and Shalonda Wiggins, mother; along with (back row, from left) HCHS Assistant Principal Correy Hines, Principal Ronica Watford, and head football coach Terrance Saxby. Photo by Gene Motley

Brown and Rodgers have the comfort of both attending the same school and hopefully playing together. They’ve already made plans to room together in Rocky Mount. As walk-ons they hope to use their passion and determination as motivation.

“Having somebody there already is like having a connection, it’s a chemistry,” Brown acknowledged, as he says he would like to study Psychology and become a Sports Psychologist. “Being a walk-on will be tough, but I still have to make the team. Nothing will be handed to me. I want to do well in my classes, and I want to do well in football.”

“I’m going to turn on any channel I can in order to assure my success,” noted Rodgers, who says he plans to major in Marketing, with an eye toward a future in real estate.

“I want to learn, but I also want to play,” he added. “When they send the information I need to know I’m going to study as hard as I can.”

“I won’t try to predict their on-field success,” Coach Saxby proclaimed. “They’re all different; unique in their own special way, and that’s the formula you need to succeed.”