ROCKINGHAM — A journey that started with the uncertainty of the pandemic three years ago culminated in a National Signing Day celebration for three local football players.
Seniors Tyson Holloway, Jeffery Linton and Taye Spencer each signed to their respective college on Wednesday.
The soon-to-be graduates were freshmen when spring football went into lockdown in 2020, and the trio of Raiders overcame a shortened sophomore season before playing their final two years at Richmond Senior High School.
In front of a large crowd in the school’s media center, Holloway, Linton and Spencer signed their National Letters of Intent.
Linton, who verbally committed in October, signed with Tusculum University as an offensive lineman.
Both Holloway (offensive lineman) and Spencer (running back) made their final decisions over the last 10 days, choosing Brown University and Lenoir-Rhyne University, respectively.
Head coach Bryan Till noted that Holloway, Linton and Spencer all embodied the tradition and spirit of what it means to be a Richmond football player.
“Their work ethic is up there with anyone we’ve ever had, in the classroom and on the field,” Till said. “It’s impressive when you think about the careers they had. Freshman year was stopped halfway through and they were home their whole sophomore year.
“That’s a huge testament to their work ethic when no one was around,” he continued. “They’ve had to overcome something no one else in history has had to do. They’ve grown up so much and they were able to understand the longevity of working hard toward this goal.”
All three were multi-year varsity starters for the Raiders who each earned their second All-Sandhills Athletic Conference selection following their senior season last fall.
Continuing the string of recent Richmond football players to go to the next level, this year’s class joins the likes of Jaiden Covington (Lenoir-Rhyne), J.D. Lampley (East Carolina), Caleb and Kellan Hood (UNC), Dalton Stroman (Appalachian State), Jakolbe Baldwin and Jaleel Davis (N.C. State) and Mack West (Coastal Carolina).
The old adage of “hard work pays off” rings true for this group of seniors, Till explained.
“They are all very unique players with how their journeys have gone,” Till commented. “Tyson had a great year last year in physical development and Taye has slowly built each year. Jeff has been the biggest guy in his class his whole life.
“For them to end up here, it’s a huge takeaway for a lot of kids. Everybody’s journey is going to be different, but they can still have a great reward in the end.”
Tyson Holloway, OL
One of Richmond’s most physical players in the trenches, Holloway primarily played right tackle on the offensive line and also lined up on defense as a senior.
With his signing to Brown, Holloway became the second Raider football player in the last six seasons to join an Ivy League program.
Former running back Dante Miller (2018 graduate) played at Columbia University and was an All-Ivy League selection before transferring to South Carolina as a graduate student in 2022.
Receiving offers from Catawba, Lenoir-Rhyne, Mars Hill, Wingate and a preferred walk-on at North Carolina Central, Holloway chuckled as he said the offer from Brown “fell into my lap.”
The 6-foot-4 tackle went on an official visit this past weekend and verbally committed on Sunday.
“The opportunities not only during college with an Ivy League education, but after college made it something I couldn’t pass up,” Holloway explained. “Brown has great football facilities and is a strong program with great coaches and players who will soon be my brothers.
“Signing means a lot because of all the hard work I’ve put in the past four years. My effort in the classroom and on the field paid off. It was special to be surrounded by so many people today who helped get me to this position.”
Currently with a 4.4 GPA, Holloway plans to major in either computer science or human biology. He said he’s also excited to make an impact with the Bears, a Division-I team that went 3-7 in 2022.
“I’d love to start as a freshman, but if not, I’m going to put in all the work and playing time that I can,” Holloway said. “I hope to help the team out as much as I can.
“I’m excited to meet new people, be in new surroundings and experience a little bit of a culture shock in Rhode Island.”
Jeffery Linton, OL
Equally as daunting along the line for the Raiders, Linton protected the quarterback’s blind side with his 6-foot-5 frame.
He and Holloway were part of an offensive line that helped create time and space for Richmond to average 24.5 points per game last season.
With their help up front, the Raiders moved the ball for 2,069 rushing yards this season (188.1 yards per game) and 1,295 passing yards (117.7 yards per game).
“It feels great that I’m officially a part of the team,” Linton said of signing. “I’m a Pioneer now and I’ve been ready to say that for a long time. I’ve been coming to signing days for four years and it was special today to see everyone here cheering me on.”
Someone Linton credits for helping him join the college ranks is Richmond’s offensive line coach Kemp McSween.
“Coach McSween pushed me to be my best every day,” Linton said. “When I thought I did something right, he’d show me how to do it better. He gave me advice and said to not go into college thinking I’ve got it, but to keep working hard to help the team.
“I really want to make sure that I stay on the right path in the classroom, but I hope I can be All-Conference or All-American at Tusculum,” he added. “It’ll also be cool to play against some former teammates in the same conference.”
Spencer and Covington (Lenoir-Rhyne) and Tremel Jones (Wingate) play in the South Atlantic Conference (Division-II), which saw the Pioneers finish in second place in the Mountain Division with a 8-3 record last fall.
While at Tusculum, which is located in eastern Tennessee, Linton will major in business management.
Taye Spencer, RB
Rounding out the trio of signees was Spencer, who made his speed and running ability known the past two seasons as the Raiders’ leading rusher.
Fielding an offer from St. Andrews University, along with interest from Barton College, Spencer chose Lenoir-Rhyne following his visit there earlier this month.
“When I went on my visit, it felt like home,” Spencer smiled. “Their facilities are great and I live in the weight room, and I was impressed. The coaches really showed me a lot of love and have great character that I respect. The energy was great and I really felt welcomed.
“I came in here today ready to sign and make it all official,” he added.”I’m looking forward to getting on campus and starting my journey.”
Shifty and strong out of the back field at 5-foot-7, Spencer ran for 1,282 rushing yards on 210 carries (both third in the SAC) and added 12 rushing scores (tied fifth) as a senior. He was also the team’s leading receiver with 21 catches for 337 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Spencer’s 202 rushing yards, 297 all-purpose yards and 3 total scores against South View during the fourth game of the season were career-highs and he went over 100 all-purpose yards in eight games.
“Playing at Richmond really helped me because we go hard and workout unlike a lot of high schools,” Spencer said. “Coach Till has been in the system a long time and he knows how to help us. Coach (Patrick) Hope was helpful as the running backs coach and he took me to camps to better my skills.”
In 2022, the Lenoir-Rhyne Bears (Division-II) recorded an 8-3 overall record and finished in a four-way tie for first place in the Piedmont Division. Spencer plans to study sports management and exercise science.
“As a freshman, I want to go in ready to learn,” Spencer closed. “I want to continue to get bigger, stronger and faster and take all of that experience and help the team. It’ll be great to get to run behind Jaiden (Covington) again, he’s a beast.”