March 6, 2013 12:05:55 AM
The New Hope High School football program extended its reach Tuesday throughout the state of Mississippi.
Last month, Trae Collins (the University of Southern Mississippi), Juan Cedano (Itawamba C.C.), and James Hill (Coahoma C.C.) signed scholarships to continue their careers in college.
On Tuesday, Ryan Lee (Northwest Mississippi C.C), Marcus Johnson (Coahoma C.C.), and Q Newby (East Central C.C.) added their names to the list. Johnson and Newby signed their scholarship papers last month.
Lee, a 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver, visited the NMCC campus in Senatobia and liked the atmosphere and new coach Brad LaPlante, who brought in a signing class of 37 players last month.
"Northwest is where I fit best and I will be in my comfort zone," Lee said.
Lee also attracted interest from ICC, which he said offered him to come to school in Fulton and play cornerback. Lee said that really isn't his position and that he is more of a wide receiver/free safety. He liked the fact NMCC is giving him a chance to be an athlete who has a chance to make an impact at a variety of positions.
After preparing for the next step all of his athletic life, Lee said he didn't the time to make a decision would come so fast. He said he saw so many friends and teammates sign to play sports in college and never thought it would as quickly as it did for him.
"I saw the players who came before me and the work ethic they put in," Lee said. "I felt if they did that I would have to put double time in to do something greater and bigger in life.
"The journey is just starting. It is time for me to seize every moment I get. I have seen from my high school days how fast my four years went, so every moment I get I am going to seize and anything I have to do to seize my moment I am going to do it."
Johnson, a 6-2, 280-pounder, played on the offensive line at tackle and guard last season. The coaches opted to move him to the defensive line this season.
"He did a great job for us on defense," Bradley said. "He was kind of an anchor on our defensive line, and since the season ended he has continued to work tremendously hard and has lost quite a bit of weight. He looks better now than he ever looked as a high school player. The chances for him having a good junior college career improved just because of the way his body looks."
Johnson feels he stayed humble and kept working hard and praying to realize an opportunity years in the making.
"It is easy playing with my teammates (at New Hope High) and people I know," Johnson said. "I am getting out of my comfort zone, so that is my biggest challenge.
"It gives me a fresh start. In ninth grade, you don't really know what you need to do to be the best. Now I know what I need to do and I get a fresh start. I just need to continue to work hard and take no days off."
Newby, a 5-10, 220-pounder, moved from defense to running back this season. He said the coaches at East Central C.C. in Decatur envision him as a running back at the next level. Newby said former New Hope High standouts Terrence Dentry and Johnny Beamon, who are at East Central C.C. put in good words for him with the ECCC coaches. From there, it didn't take long for him to accept an offer.
"They told me I am a very versatile player who can play on either side of the football," Newby said. "They asked me what position I wanted to play, and I just told them whatever they see as the best fit for me I will do whatever is best for the team."
Newby said he learned nothing is easy moving from defense to offense. He said he had to get used to taking hits instead of handing out the hits. Despite enjoying the transition, he admitted he still enjoys giving a hit than taking a hit.
"I really don't know what to expect. I am just going in open minded," Newby said. "I am going to continue to work hard until we get to the put the pads on."
Bradley praised Newby's effort on defense for three years, and said he helped make up for a shortage of running backs.
"He did a good job for us at running back," Bradley said. "I am really excited for him and for all three guys to get to go to school and get their school paid for."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.