ROCKINGHAM — Raider Magic was abuzz with the swirling of pens inside Richmond Senior High School’s media center Wednesday afternoon.
On National Signing Day, a nationwide celebration that allows high school athletes to sign to their respective college sports program, 12 Richmond Raider football players inked their futures.
The dozen senior players signed their National Letter of Intent (Division I and II) and letters of commitment (Division III and Junior College) in front of a packed room full of family, friends, classmates, teachers, coaches, teammates and Richmond County Schools officials.
Earlier in the week, offensive line coach Kemp McSween tweeted that the team would “need a bigger table” to have everyone sign.
Making their futures official were: Noah Altman (quarterback), Zyier Baldwin (defensive back), Dereck Barringer (defensive back), Brian Bowden (offensive line), Jaheim Covington (running back), Xavion Lindsey (defensive back), Javon Little (defensive end), Armond Martin (wide receiver), Omarion Mason (defensive end), Justin Morman (wide receiver), Gavin Russell (linebacker) and Joerail White (linebacker).
Joining the dozen Raiders was fellow senior teammate D’Marcus Harrington, who had already signed his National Letter of Intent to play at Campbell University in mid December.
Last year, there were also 12 Richmond student-athletes to sign, but those students were spread across football (six), baseball (four) and soccer (two). This year’s football senior class of 35 players matched that total, seeing players sign at all levels of the collegiate spectrum.
The large class signing didn’t come as a surprise to Raider fans and coaches alike, as all 12 had made verbal commitments on Twitter and other social media sites over the past couple of weeks. Many fielded several offers from a variety of schools.
This also marked third-year head coach Bryan Till’s largest signing class during his nine years as a high school head coach. The previous high was last year’s class of six players at Richmond, which was also tied with his 2016 graduating class at Terry Sanford High School (five D-I and one D-III).
“I am extremely excited for this moment in these guys’ lives,” Till said of the big day. “However, I want them to enjoy it, but also understand it means there are big opportunities ahead that will require them to continue to grow and stretch themselves in order to continue to build on what they have accomplished here.
“I think it really speaks to how hard all of our assistant coaches and kids work,” he added of the split between the seven defensive players and five offensive guys signing. “We have a true program here at Richmond and all the people involved work really hard, and days like today are the payoff for that work.”
Joining Harrington at the Division I level was Covington, who signed with South Carolina State University. As a senior, Covington rushed for 1,293 yards and 23 touchdowns and was named to his second All-SAC team. He set the program record with a 99-yard touchdown run against Hough in the second round of the playoffs.
White, who had an impressive senior season after missing his entire junior year with a knee injury, will be heading to Shaw University (D-II). Former Raider Devon Hunt will be a redshirt senior during White’s first season at Shaw. White was named all-conference after collecting 52 total tackles and four sacks.
Mason made his verbal commitment to Johnson C. Smith University (D-II) last week and will be playing against White in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Having a breakout year at defensive end, Mason finished with 46 tackles, four sacks and was named to the all-conference squad.
Something unique about this year’s signing class is that seven of the Raiders will be teammates at three different schools. Signing to Barton College’s inaugural football signing class were Barringer and Russell.
Barton will hold its first ever football season this fall, and Barringer brings with him 92 tackles (second on the Raiders), two interceptions and one sack as a senior. Russell, who emerged as a strong inside linebacker beside White, was tied with Little for the most sacks with six in 2019. He also recorded 79 tackles and 16 tackles for a loss. Both were named All-SAC.
Attending Fayetteville State University together will be Bowden and Lindsey. Bowden was an essential part of the offensive line this season, protecting quarterback Caleb Hood’s blind side and providing gaps for Covington to run through.
Lindsey was also a big piece to the Richmond secondary, picking off a team-high three interceptions this season, and he added 50 tackles. Bowden was named to his second all-conference team.
A trio of Raiders will be teammates at Greensboro College (D-III). Signing with the Pride were Little, Martin and Morman. Little fought through a couple of injuries throughout the season, but managed to still tie Russell for the team lead in sacks despite missing games. Fourteen of his 45 tackles came for a loss, and he was named to the all-conference team.
Martin and Morman fulfilled their roles as backup wide receivers and blockers. Martin caught three passes for 27 yards in one game, while Morman snagged one pass for 14 yards in one game.
Heading to the mountains will be Altman, who signed with Brevard College (D-III). After leading the junior varsity team to back-to-back undefeated seasons and conference championships as a freshman and sophomore, Altman continued to progress as the team’s backup quarterback the last two seasons.
He got considerable playing time as a senior, completing 11-of-19 passes for 109 yards and one passing score. On the ground, he added two touchdowns this season.
Lastly, Baldwin will take the junior college route and play two more years at Louisburg College. He’ll join former teammates Taveon Ellerbe and Rasheed Patrick, who will be sophomores this coming fall. As a senior, Baldwin was named to his first all-conference team and broke up 11 passes and caught one interception.
“It is great to see the number of kids we have with opportunities, but they are just that, an opportunity,” Till said. “They all will have the chance to make something great happen. That is what I am really wanting to see. Today is a lot of fun to celebrate together, though so I am just excited to enjoy this moment with these guys.
“The guys who are getting a chance to keep playing together is really a neat deal,” he closed. “That does not happen very often and I think one of the hardest things in college sports is that freshman year. Those guys probably have a little bit of an advantage over other freshmen since they will be coming in with someone they can lean on immediately.”