CHARLOTTE — Caleb Hood’s play on the football field, coupled with his character and leadership as a high school student-athlete, has seen his name up in lights in Richmond County for the last three years.
Now the senior quarterback for the Richmond Raiders is in an even brighter spotlight as part of WSOC-TV’s “Big 22 Players to Watch.” The accolade is in its 11th year and now Hood is counting on support from his local fans to help him win the contest.
The opening round of the contest began Monday at noon on WSOC-TV’s website. Fans can vote up to nine times per day using an account they have to create, and the voting period will be open for over three weeks before the list is cut to five finalists.
Following the determination of the top five, another round of voting will be held to crown this season’s “Player of the Year.”
“It’s such an honor to be noticed as one of best high school players in North Carolina,” Hood said. “Getting to see my name up there with so many great players shows me that my hard work has paid off.
“I’m hoping Raider Nation will support me because it’s also about supporting our program, which is the most important thing,” he added.
Raider Nation has had success in the past couple of years helping Richmond win a variety of online voting competitions. Last fall, Richmond voters beat out numerous other schools in the Carolina Panthers’ “Wear It Like A Pro” contest, held in conjunction with Blue Cross Blue Shield.
That win saw tens of thousands of votes come in over a six-week period to give the Raiders 24 brand new Riddell SpeedFlex helmets from the Panthers, which included a surprise visit to practice from Carolina’s defensive end Efe Obada.
In April 2019, voters also helped Richmond top the polls as part of the “Best Rivalry in North Carolina” with Sandhills Athletic Conference foe Scotland High School. That poll was hosted by Friday Nights in Carolina, an online media outlet that covers the sport across the state.
“We are known statewide for our community support,” Richmond head coach Bryan Till said. “Caleb is obviously deserving of our support given everything he has done for this team over the last three years.
“I fully expect to see Raider Nation support him and help him win this competition,” he continued. “We were able to win the helmets last year because of our support and this is just another way to show how we can all pull together. Caleb is representing us all in this.”
In his introduction video for WSOC-TV’s competition, Hood was described as an “A-List” celebrity in a town where all football players are looked up to. Hood said his role as a high school quarterback requires him to “do the right things on and off the field.”
Some of the highlights included Hood attending youth birthday parties, reading to local elementary school students, volunteering with the special olympics and helping coach a local youth football team.
Hood is a University of North Carolina verbal commit and is expected to join the Tar Heels and head coach Mack Brown following his graduation from Richmond.
But he’s not the only future Tar Heel to be spotlighted this year, as seven other players will don Carolina blue in the future.
Those players include: Gavin Blackwell (WR, Sun Valley), DeAndre Boykins (RB, Central Cabarrus), Power Echols (LB, Vance), Drake Maye (QB, Myers Park), Dontavius Nash (DB, Hunter Huss), Kobe Paysour (WR, Kings Mountain) and Gabe Stephens (ATH, Mountain Island Charter).
“There are several of us who are going to Carolina and it’s really cool to have such an elite group of teammates going into college,” Hood said. “We’re all really close already and no one acts like he’s better than the next guy. I already consider them my teammates.”
Although it’s a simple voting competition, Till said the decision to keep it going helps bring some normalcy back to a time when week six of the high school season should be getting underway.
“I am really glad that WSOC kept this (competition) alive because it gets communities back to focusing on the most important part of football and sports seasons, working together,” Till shared. “Sports teach teamwork, but sometimes we need real life opportunities to show we have learned the lesson they teach.
“We have a great opportunity with our circumstances right now, and to a lesser degree this competition, to show we have learned how to work together. I’m looking forward to showing we know it better than most.”