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While it wasn’t National Signing Day inside the Fike High media center Thursday, it sure did feel like it.
Four Golden Demons seniors took the next step in their academic and football careers by signing with NCAA Division II Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association programs. Brandon Atkinson is headed to Winston-Salem State University while Lewis Pearce and Jalen Currie will continue to be teammates at Chowan University and A.J. Jolly will play at Saint Augustine’s University.
“It feels good,” Pearce said. “You go out there and work so hard for four years to get here and it feels good to sign with some of my best friends and brothers.”
The four newest signees make eight players from Fike’s 2017 football team to sign with collegiate programs. On National Signing Day on Feb. 7, Justin Daniels (Shaw University), John and Walker Gliarmis (Appalachian State) and Dangelo Hodge (Saint Aug’s) — giving Fike the most potential collegiate players in one senior class in head coach Tom Nelson’s seven seasons.
“That says a lot about their hard work and what they’ve put in in the classroom and the weight room and the football field,” Nelson said. “They really have been a pleasure for four years and it’s justly deserved what they’re getting now.”
Atkinson said that he waited to sign with the Rams because he wanted to do his due diligence on what would be the most important decision of his life to date.
“I took a process,” he said. “I talked to all the coaches and looked at the playbook and the formations when I visited colleges and Winston-Salem State was the best one for me.
“I wanted to visit and see how the campus was and see if I felt comfortable.”
Atkinson said that he was also recruited by Chowan, North Carolina Wesleyan College and St. Andrews University.
He signed his National Letter of Intent shortly after National Signing Day but waited to join his teammates for Wednesday’s celebration.
Atkinson, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound wide receiver/defensive back for the Golden Demons, said he will play offense at Winston-Salem State. He earned Wilson Times All-Area and 3-A Big East Conference all-conference acclaim after his senior season.
While adding weight to his slender frame will be priority, Atkinson believes his nose for the ball will give him a chance to play for the Rams.
“When the ball’s in the air, I can go up and make the play,” he said. “If it’s third and long and we need a big play, I think I can do it.”
Nelson said: “He’s going to get into a college dietary plan and he’s going to get into some weights. They’re excited about him coming and I think if he’ll get in there and work hard, he’s got a chance to really help them.”
The son of Bernice Atkinson of Wilson and the late Joseph Hilliard, Atkinson sports a 3.9 GPA at Fike and plans on majoring in business at WSSU.
“Now I can focus on football in the future and start working out more,” he said. “I can focus on finishing the track season and finishing school strong academically and making everybody proud.”
While Currie and Pearce plan to be roommates at Chowan, both indicated they independently arrived at their decisions to join the Hawks.
“Not at all. He plays offense and I play defense,” said Currie.
Indeed, Currie was a solid pass-rusher at defensive line while Pearce was the anchor of the Fike offensive line at left tackle. Both players earned Times All-Area and All-Big East honors.
While Pearce said he received interest from Winston-Salem State and Currie indicated that Saint Aug’s, Shaw and N.C. Wesleyan had shown interest in him, only Chowan offered either player and that was just fine.
“I just feel like the tradition there, the family; they’re all together,” Pearce said. “I just feel like it’s the best place for me because they have a good offensive line and if I go there, it’ll be the best experience of my life.”
The 6-3, 287-pound Pearce said that while he didn’t give up a sack this past season, he would need to improve his pass-blocking and get stronger overall as he transitions from Fike’s spread offense to the spread at Chowan.
“Tremendous work ethic,” Nelson said. “When I met him the first day he came over with the eighth-graders to lift weights, I told him, ‘If you’ll work hard here for four years, you’ll be a college football player.’ Because you could tell he had the body frame. He was a good student coming over and he’s done it. He’s worked hard and gotten a lot better over four years and gotten stronger and so hopefully he’s going to be able to go and contribute.”
The son of Sheila and Elijah Forte of Wilson, Pearce, who has a 3.5 GPA, said he intends to major in graphic design.
Currie showed a proclivity for making big plays for the Demons defense in 2018. He hopes to do the same for the Hawks, who run a 4-3 formation, not that different from Fike’s 4-4.
“I’ll still play the outside — push down and contain the outside. It’s still the same thing,” he said. “I need to work on my handwork, my footwork, get a little stronger in my core. I definitely have to work out this summer and keep myself in shape.”
Nelson said that the 6-1, 245-pound Currie, who has added weight since the season ended, has “a tremendous upside.”
“If he continues to grow and fill into his body and he goes there and works hard and makes sure he minds himself in the classroom, he has a chance to contribute,” Nelson said.
Currie, the son of Lafay Smith of Wilson, said he plans to major in sports management.
SAINT AUG’S FOR JOLLY
Jolly, a two-way player at Fike, said he will try to play either running back or wide receiver for the Falcons.
“I need to work on cuts better and get bigger and just go from there,” said the upbeat 5-10, 190-pounder who will walk on at Saint Aug’s.
Jolly said that he had been in contact with Virginia State and UNC Pembroke but chose Saint Aug’s, in part, because Hodge is going there.
“I know the team well,” he said. “I think it’s better for me to be there with somebody I know. I just like the way they play and I think it’s a good fit for me.”
Jolly was a dependable player for Fike on offense and defense and solid in the classroom with a 3.0 GPA.
“I think I should do well academically,” said the son of Quintina and Antonio Robertson of Wilson. He plans to major in sports management.