ROCKINGHAM — Jeffery Linton will be trading the sandhills for the rolling hills of eastern Tennessee to play his college football career.
Last week, Linton announced his verbal commitment to play at Tusculum University, becoming the first member of the Richmond Raider football team to do so this school year.
Making his announcement on Twitter, Linton posted two photos from his visit to Tusculum earlier this summer.
He wrote, “After discussing with my parents and coaches, I am blessed to announce that I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at Tusculum University. #pioneerup”
A three-year starter for the Raiders, Linton has played mostly left tackle at Richmond. He’s also served as the team’s backup center, and was recruited by Tusculum as an offensive lineman.
“It feels good to finally be committed,” Linton said. “It’s a big achievement and it helps get the pressure off my shoulders.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work for several years,” he added. “It makes all of the 6 a.m. workouts and extra work with Coach (Errol) Hood worth it. I’m glad to see it pay off.”
At 6-5, 310 pounds, Linton has been a staple on the Raiders’ offensive line since his sophomore year. A four-year member of the program, Linton has been a part of an offense that has won two of the last three Sandhills Athletic Conference titles.
Drawing the attention of several college programs over the past few years, Tusculum offensive line coach Jason Randall first reached out to Linton in July.
Linton also had an official offer from Marist College (New York), and Catawba College, Charleston Southern University and Presbyterian College all expressed interest.
Taking a visit to Tusculum in July, Linton said the program stayed in contact on a regular basis, helping him feel at home.
“Recruitment was up and down, but I had a lot of schools look at me,” Linton explained. “Tusculum was the school that came in and stayed with me and that made me feel really good.
“I really like the coaching staff there,” he added. “Tusculum also has a rich history, a lot like Richmond. The coaches told me it’s going to be similar when I get there, and I really liked the brotherhood the players share.”
This season, Linton helped the Richmond offense average 23.7 points per game by creating time and space along the front line. The Raiders finished the regular season with a 5-5 record and clinched the No. 25 seed in the 4A East state playoffs.
The Pioneers, coached by Jerry Odom, are a Division II program that competes in the South Atlantic Conference (the same conference as Wingate University).
Currently 8-1, Tusculum has won its last six games and is tied for first place with Mars Hill University in the Mountain Division. The Pioneers have two more games on their schedule against Mars Hill and Lenoir-Rhyne.
While he’s focused on helping the Raiders advance in upcoming playoffs, Linton is also excited to start his next chapter. He credits his success to a lot of people, including his parents, and said playing at Richmond helped him achieve this milestone.
“Being a part of the Richmond football team gave me a normal routine that made me a better player,” Linton said. “Whether that was weight training, conditioning or learning the game, my hometown team really helped me a lot.
“One of the best pieces of advice that I got was from Coach (Kemp) McSween. He taught me that if I want to learn something I have to keep working for it, and if that doesn’t work, I should just run through it.”
Planning to major in business management, Linton said he wants to continue building his craft before he reports to college next summer. He wants to continue getting faster and stronger, and said he’s looking forward to “learning from new coaches to get better.”
Linton and the Raiders will travel to Holly Springs High School on Friday to start the 4A East playoffs.