ROCKINGHAM — As he signed his name to the letter of intent, the weight of the world appeared to slide off the massive shoulders of Tyrone Crowder.
One of the country’s top recruits who remained uncommitted heading into Wednesday’s National Signing Day, Crowder had sliced his laundry list of schools down to three.
When it came time to make his selection Wednesday morning, Crowder went with Clemson over Georgia and Oregon. Crowder and his family drove to Charlotte in the afternoon to “reveal” his pick on ESPNU.
“There was a lot of pressure as it got closer to signing day…it was real intense,” Crowder said. “I got tired of different reporters calling me every day asking the same questions…I know that it’s their job. Coaches would call checking in especially close to signing day. I think I handled it pretty good. At least I think I did.”
Even though Crowder is from the Clemson, S.C. area and still has family in the vicinity, he said it didn’t factor into the decision. Instead, Crowder raved about coach Dabo Swinney and the fact the Tigers were the first to recruit him.
“It’s a great program and they have a versatile offense,” Crowder said. “They were the first to look at me as a freshman and have been in touch with me ever since. I really like the campus lifestyle there and I talked to several players about how things are there.”
The 125th-ranked high school player by ESPN, Crowder will move from tackle to guard at Clemson but said he “expects to be a starter as a freshman.”
Crowder wasn’t the lone Richmond player to sign his LOI Wednesday morning as running back Dakwa Nichols inked with N.C. State, defensive lineman Devant’e Covington is headed to the University of South Carolina, wide receiver Trent Bostick will go to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and offensive lineman Taivon Jones will attend Wingate.
Offensive lineman Alex Norton wasn’t at Richmond’s signing day event because he was participating in the International Bowl with the U.S. Under-18 team in Austin, Texas. He was expected to sign his letter of intent to fax it to the Air Force Academy.
Nichols, who committed to the Wolfpack last spring, said he got “nervous” following Tom O’Brien’s departure in November. He added it was almost like starting from scratch when Dave Doeren was announced as O’Brien’s replacement.
“The new coaches wanted me to come up and get to know them as much as they wanted to get to know me,” Nichols said. “He (Doeren) said he wanted to honor all commitments. They basically had to re-recruit me. I was still pretty much 100-percent solid. I didn’t really have many offers.”
Nichols, who ran for 1,083 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior, said it doesn’t matter if he plays as a freshman this fall.
“He (Doeren) said if I work hard enough I could be on the field,” Nichols said. “It didn’t matter because either way I still love the school and the fan base.”
Covington will be following in the footsteps of former Richmond standout Melvin Ingram, who earned All-America honors as a senior in Columbia, S.C. before being drafted in the first round by the San Diego Chargers. Covington finished second on the Raiders with 109 tackles and led the team with 16 tackles for loss.
Covington said he is not nervous about the comparisons with Melvin.
“It’s a school I feel very good about,” said Covington. “I’m going to USC and my coaches can help me make the same impact as he did.”
Joining a startup program can be a tricky proposition but one Bostick is set to embrace. UNCC will begin its first football season this fall with a matchup with Campbell.
“It’s exciting to be a part of the first team,” Bostick said. “It feels good to be with a starting team. The coaches said I could be a big asset to the team.”
Bostick, who had a team-high 45 receptions as a senior, added he was attracted to UNCC because it is a 70-minute drive from Richmond County and it will give him a chance to prepare for the rigors of college football.
“I’m a family person so it is nice to stay close to home,” Bostick said. “I wanted to be somewhere where I could live out my dream and still be close to my family. The plan is to redshirt me. I didn’t really care because it will give me a chance to get bigger, learn the playbook and work on my education.”
Like Bostick, Jones wanted to remain close to his family and for that reason, he picked Wingate over UNCP and Methodist.
“I liked the environment, the campus and the team,” Jones said. “I could see myself there for the next four or five years. Plus the fact it was so close to my family and I can get back to my mother and grandmother.”
Jones added he expects to redshirt this fall because “I need to get my weight up.”
Hamilton headed to Belmont Abbey
Richmond’s football players weren’t the only ones to make their college selection Wednesday morning as soccer player Tad Hamilton signed with Belmont Abbey.
Hamilton said he was accepted to the school early and was impressed with the coaches and the campus.
“I met with the coach (John Keating) and he is building a good program,” Hamilton said. “They have a large group of about 40 players. They have a developmental team and a first team. You get to play and develop before moving up to the first team.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.