Thursday, 19 November 2020 12:57

Hood wins 'Big 22 Player of the Year,' secures $10K prize for Raiders

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Hood wins 'Big 22 Player of the Year,' secures $10K prize for Raiders Credit: Sally Steen Strickland and Raider Football.

ROCKINGHAM — Raider Nation has spoken and Caleb Hood is the “Big 22 Player of the Year.”

During Wednesday’s live broadcast on WSOC-TV, sports director Phil Orban announced that Hood, a senior quarterback at Richmond Senior High School, had won the 11th annual contest. 

The contest began earlier this fall with 22 candidates from schools all across the state. Last month, Hood was named one of five finalists. 

The others in the race to the finish were Julian Gray (Hopewell High School), Elijah Metcalf (Mallard Creek High School), Jordan Poole (West Stanly High School) and Travali Price (North Lincoln High School).

Hood was at home with his family watching the newscast when it was revealed he had received the most votes. Along with the newest addition to his impressive resume of accolades, Hood’s win also captured a $10K prize for the Raider football program.

“I was excited,” Hood said. “But at the same time, I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support. My family, teachers, coaches and teammates were the ones who made this happen, and I’m thankful for them.

“I just want to thank everyone in the community because every Friday they fill up the stands home or away and are always willing to help with things like this,” he added. “I’ll go into the grocery store and people will stop me and say they’ve been voting for me. It means a lot that people cared enough to vote.”

Orban said that Hood “was the top vote getter, both in the initial round of voting and the finalist voting,” and that “only about 250 votes separated Caleb and the second finalist, which is a pretty narrow margin.” He noted that public voting represents a third of the final vote tally.

WSOC-TV put together a video package on Hood that showcased game film, as well as Hood’s involvement in the community. The future UNC football player was highlighted for his willingness to help others, including taking photos with fans after games and reading to local elementary school students.

Bryan Till, who has been Hood’s varsity football coach at Richmond since 2017, said the community support speaks volumes about the Raiders’ fans base at home and across the state. That support, he said, is as important now as it’s ever been since high school football isn’t being played.

“It shows we are still all in this together. With everyone having to do this separately on computers all over the county, state and country, we were still able to find a way to work together to honor one of our own,” Till shared. 

“The ability to do that in this uncertain time is a victory on so many levels. In addition, it will be a win for all our players as Caleb's win means the whole program will benefit from the monetary award that is provided.”

Richmond’s football program has had a lot of success during Till’s tenure in securing funds and equipment from contests. Last year the Raiders were give 24 Riddell Speed Flex helmets after a voting competition done by the Carolina Panthers and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The past two years, Richmond has also received two $10K grants from the NFL Pro Bowl Champions Grant thanks to alumni and current Pro Bowler Melvin Ingram.

Till said the program will assess its needs and see where the newly acquired money will go. He added he wants “the boys to see an immediate benefit from it,” but will weigh the program’s expenses as it moves forward with the season and playoffs.

Hood has been one of several players to serve as the face of the Raider program the last several years, helping Richmond win two conference titles and make a run to the 4AA regional round last fall.

All of his work and selflessness, on and off the field, makes him deserving of this award according to his head coach.

“Since his first start his freshman year, he has put this community and team before himself in so many ways. I don't know that he has turned down a single birthday invitation by a young kid or an interview or picture,” Till said.

“Very few of the pictures you see of him in the community are ones he has taken. They are shots someone took of him and put out there.  He doesn't do it for attention. He plays this game as a competitor for his team and he does the community functions for those people. He and his family have been a blessing for us.”

Hood will receive his Big 22 Player of the Year trophy later this month. Orban said the tentative date is Nov. 30 and that this year’s presentation will be “different than years past.” 

Instead of a pep rally with the entire school in attendance, Orban explained it will be a more intimate affair with Hood, his family, coaches and principal there. 

“This is important to me because not a lot of people get to be in the situation I’m in,” Hood closed. “I feel like being a good example is big, especially for younger guys. I want to show them that if they work hard enough in the classroom and on the field, they can accomplish their goals.”

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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