ROCKINGHAM — Five Richmond Senior student-athletes put the pen to paper Wednesday afternoon, joining thousands across the country who saw their dreams come true on National Signing Day.
Carl Isaac, Steven Jones, Cassie McFayden, Antoine Shaw and Leon Zeigler all gathered in the school’s library amongst coaches, family members and friends and signed their letters of intent. Isaac, Jones, Shaw and Zeigler will have a chance to play college football, while McFayden will look to score more goals on the soccer field.
“It’s been an honor to have coached each of these young men,” offensive coordinator Steve Burdeau said of the four football signees. “I look forward to hearing and seeing their accomplishments over the next few years as they continue to make Richmond County proud.”
Isaac will be attending North Carolina Central, Shaw signed up to play at UNC-Charlotte, Zeigler will line up under center at Catawba and Jones is looking to make plays at Appalachian State.
“The players on the team, they just made me feel at home. That’s what really made me commit,” Jones said about his recent visit to Boone. “All the other schools didn’t make me feel like I was home. That’s why I made my decision so late.”
Jones had a few other schools — most notably North Carolina A&T — on his list before making his final decision. The senior, who finished his career with 10 interceptions returned for a touchdown, hopes to continue making big plays and scoring touchdowns as a cornerback for the Mountaineers.
Jones also celebrated his birthday Wednesday, saying he had no problem with sharing a moment of it with his teammates.
“It’s a great birthday present — especially to be able to do this with my boys. I’ve been playing football with Leon for a long time. He was the biggest name until we got together here. I had to change that, though,” he said with a smile.
Although happy for his and his classmates accomplishments, Zeigler admitted the day was bittersweet because he’s no longer able to take the field with his Richmond brothers by his side. The senior quarterback leaves Richmond as the school’s all-time leader in completions (season), passing yards (season), touchdowns (season), passing yards (game), touchdowns (game) and passing percentage (game).
“We’re still going to keep in touch with each other,” Zeigler said. “Those are my brothers for life and we’re going to remember this day.”
At Catawba, Zeigler will be joining former Raider running back Quientel Goodwin (‘16) and former Raider offensive lineman Kevin Norton (‘14). He says knowing those guys and feeling comfortable in Salisbury is what got him to commit.
“There’s going to be a lot of chemistry in the backfield,” Zeigler explained. “And it’s just like home. Not many malls and stuff, so it’s something I’m comfortable waking up with every day.”
Similar to Zeigler, Isaac will also become teammates with a Richmond County native when he goes off to Durham. Former Richmond standout Cyrus Stanback (‘14) is a starting defensive lineman for the Eagles. Since Isaac also plays on the defensive line, he believes he can see the same kind of success.
“He went in there and did his thing. I think it’s time for somebody else from Richmond to go there and do the same,” Isaac said.
Isaac, who recorded 102 tackles and six sacks in his career, recently visited NCCU and said the program made him feel like he was already a part of the family. Central being named the MEAC champions this past season — and co-champions in 2014 and 2015 — also helped Isaac make his decision.
“I thought this was the best school for me,” Isaac said. “I want to go there and make sure I get my grades right. Then I plan on going on the field and doing my job. I want to make the program great.”
Out of the four Raiders who signed Wednesday, Shaw was the only one who verbally committed beforehand. Shaw will play tight end at UNCC, after spending his time at Richmond blocking and shedding blocks on both the offensive and defensive lines.
He says the position change won’t be that hard for him due to his athleticism.
“It’s not really a big transition for me. I went up there on an official visit and the coach showed me some of the plays on film that I’ll be doing Most of the time I’ll be blocking — the same type of concept,” Shaw explained. “But when I do get a pass, I’ll be open by myself so it’s not going to be much of a difference.”
UNC-Charlotte’s football program is relatively new, beginning play as an FCS Independent team in 2013. The 49ers moved up to the FBS Divison two years ago and became a member of Conference USA. Although they have only won six of 24 games played since 2015, Shaw believes he has what to takes to make the team better as the program grows.
“I want to make them better as a team. I also want to make myself better because I want to get to the big leagues,” Shaw said. “I want to be the best that has ever came through that school in that position.
“I’m going to have to get my hands right, because right now they suck,” he continued, as he let out a laugh. “But I’m just going to have to work even hard than I’ve been working.”
McFayden, the only soccer signee of the day, is going to continue her career at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk. The senior midfielder still has one more season to play before she can officially call herself a Lady Bobcat, but being a part of National Signing Day was a proud moment.
“I didn’t think I was going to be a college athlete when I was little but I pushed myself and tried as hard as I could to reach my goals,” she said.
McFayden said the school’s coaching staff was patient with her throughout the recruiting process and made her feel at home. Lees-McRae also has a brand new nursing program that will help her earn a degree.
“It’s just the home-like feeling I get every time I go. When I first stepped out of my car, I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” McFayden explained. “I didn’t want to go somewhere big, I wanted to go somewhere small.”
With Lees-McRae bringing in a big freshman class, McFayden hopes to separate herself from the pack and make her presence felt on the field.
“I’m going to try my hardest to start,” she added. “I just want to be different. I don’t want to be like everybody else.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.
Richmond Senior saw five of its student-athletes sign national letters of intent in the school library Wednesday afternoon. Pictured above, from left to right, are Antoine Shaw (UNC-Charlotte), Carl Isaac (NC Central), Cassie McFayden (Lees-McRae), Leon Zeigler (Catawba) and Steven Jones (App State).