Pats Football Sends Five to Next Level
A new tradition head football coach Chris Metzger hoped to bring to Pinecrest when he arrived at about this time last year came to fruition Friday morning.
Five senior student-athletes committed to continue their playing careers in college during a ceremony held in the school cafeteria.
All-purpose kicker Danny Heimrich, offensive lineman Ryan Murray, running back LeDarius Graham, wide receiver Mitch Johnson and defensive lineman Freddy Davis will all be attending NCAA Division III or junior colleges in the fall.
Metzger, a wide receiver at Kentucky Wesleyan in his playing days, is a firm believer in the opportunities offered by small schools.
"Just having the opportunity is an awesome thing," he said to an audience that included teammates, band members, other classmates, assistant coaches, boosters and parents. "This is a big payoff for the kids, their parents and the community because everyone has invested so much.
"And this is a motivation for the young kids to work hard in the classroom."
Murray, whom Metzger described as an "anchor" and a "rock" in the Patriot program, thinks he will have a chance to play early at Methodist University. Sharing the moment were his parents, Jerry and Marti Murray.
"My whole dream throughout life was to play college football," the All-Mid-Southeastern Conference honorable mention selection said. "I'm just really happy to be getting the opportunity."
Greensboro College, another member of the USA South Athletic Conference, is the destination for Graham and Johnson. Former Pinecrest player Torrey Lowe has been an offensive star for the Pride the last three years.
Even though Graham was sidelined by an injury for all but four games last season, college coaches were impressed by his accomplishments in the weight room. He is the son of Derrick and Criptal Graham.
Metzger says that Graham once told him that things needed to be livened up and brought "old-school" praise and worship music into the football activities.
"The coaches taught me valuable lessons," Graham said. "I thank God for the opportunity."
The son of Dennis and Rhonda Johnson, Mitch Johnson had not played high school football until last fall. He gradually increased his playing time, finishing the season with seven catches.
"He's an unbelievable student-athlete," his coach said. "He's going to get a good education and a chance to continue playing."
During the all-conference selection meeting in November, league coaches heard about Heimrich's three punts of over 50 yards in a game against Jack Britt.
One that covered 58 yards was downed at the Buccaneer four-yard line. He also put a kickoff in the end zone.
The son of John and Jodi Heimrich was awarded an all-conference spot as a punter. He will continue his football career at Louisburg College.
"A lot of coaches say special teams are special, but don't live by it," Metzger said. "You see the talent Danny is blessed with and he could be in 'The League'" (NFL).
Heimrich thanked his teammates and coaches, and said that he hopes to finish up at a four-year school.
Also committing to play for a junior college is Freddy Davis, the son of Guy and Helen Ellison. He will be traveling to Cloquet, Minn., to play for Fond du Lac Tribal Community College in its second season with a football program.
Davis wants to continue playing football and said that he knows that the best is yet to come. He also thanked God for the opportunity.
Each of the athletes is getting aid through packages that include various grants, some obtained locally.
"You have to want to play, and for them to get this opportunity is a great thing," Metzger said. "And the kids want to get a great education. That's what we focus on more than anything. "
Many of the 25 seniors on last season's squad that finished with a record of 3-8 are still undecided about their futures.
Trevor Szewczak and Ricky Hess, who were team captains along with Murray and Suave Cain, plan to try to walk on at the University of Colorado and East Carolina, respectively.
Cain, James Douglas and Vince Brower are leaning toward careers in the military.
Metzger expressed his approval upon noticing someone in the audience, working on his homework.
"College coaches look at the academics, attitude and work ethic -- then they look at film," he said.
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