Decisions didn't come easy
Wed. February 05, 2014 at 8:25 p.m. | By Eric Detweiler | StarNews Staff Writer | Eric.Detweiler@starnewsonline.com
New Hanover football coach Kevin Motsinger watches as players Ramone Simpson (left), Marcel Anderson (center) and Rome Murphy prepare to sign letters of intent. (Photo by Mike Spencer)
New Hanover football coach Kevin Motsinger's voice caught with emotion Wednesday afternoon, telling the assembled crowd in the Brogden Hall lobby what it was like to watch seniors Marcel Anderson, Rome Murphy and Ramone Simpson grow into college-ready players.
Motsinger spends the offseason working his connections with college coaches in hopes of finding options for his players at the next level, and the latest crop of college-bound Wildcats took full advantage of his efforts. The eighth-year coach believes the group handled the recruiting process right, evaluating offers to find the perfect fit.
Murphy (Winston-Salem State) and Simpson (N.C. Central) signed to play on full scholarship, while Anderson will head to East Carolina with a promise of a spot on the 105-man roster and the chance to earn a scholarship.
"We've had kids that I felt took things that looked pretty on the outside, but you can't judge a house by the porch," Motsinger said. "All three of these guys took their time as far as talking to the coaches and going through it."
Motsinger's players weren't among the group that dominated the national headlines Wednesday, but each faced a difficult decision.
Murphy emerged as a serious college prospect only after he led New Hanover with 861 receiving yards in the fall. The 6-foot-3 tight end has packed 39 pounds onto his frame since he joined the Wildcats as a junior.
His college decision came down to family. He had the chance to walk on at East Carolina where his brother, Jacen, is already on the roster. Instead, he opted for Winston-Salem State, the school from which his oldest brother, Brandon, graduated. Murphy took his time, waiting until Tuesday to finally pick the Rams.
"(Jacen) said it would be good to play with each other at ECU, but he knew at the same time that I wanted to make my own way, too," Murphy said. "I knew that any decision I made he was 100 percent behind me."
Anderson was a rare varsity contributor as a freshman at New Hanover and became a three-year starter. The 6-foot-2, 303-pound lineman had several full scholarship offers, including Western Carolina.
Last week, he had scheduled an official visit with the Catamounts but couldn't make the trip because of bad weather across the state. The Greenville native decided he'd rather stay closer to home and join a Pirates roster that features three other former Wildcats.
Anderson won't start on scholarship but believes four years under Motsinger have prepared him to make the jump.
"If you can survive out there on (the practice field at) 15th and Ann and in the weight room (as a freshman), then you can make it anywhere," Anderson said.
Simpson put up nearly 2,000 yards of total offense and 22 total touchdowns during his senior season, but the impressive stats didn't immediately translate into college opportunities. Some coaches had concerns about his size and speed.
Simpson spurned several other offers and Division I walk-on opportunities when he committed to the Eagles during a campus visit Jan. 26. He expects to play a running back/slot receiver role, similar to what he did with the Wildcats.
"I kind of want to cry, but you know I don't want to do it in front of my friends," Simpson said after inking his National Letter of Intent. "It's a lot of stress going into the offseason wondering, ‘Where am I going to go to school?' Nobody wants to come talk to you, and it seems like you just went through a good season that was a waste. … It hurts, but I found me a home, and it means a lot."
A list of local athletes who signed their national letters of intent to play collegiate sports in the fall.
Marcel Anderson, New Hanover: East Carolina (preferred walk-on)
Coult Culler, Laney: N.C. State
Frankie Keller, Ashley: Presbyterian
Tyler Likens, Wallace-Rose Hill: Wingate
Kirk Messick, Hoggard: Gardner-Webb
Rome Murphy, New Hanover: Winston-Salem State
Jabril Robinson, North Brunswick: Clemson
Ramone Simpson, New Hanover: N.C. Central
Marcelias Sutton, James Kenan: N.C. State
Ali Frankeny, Hoggard: Western Carolina
Charlotte Pearsall, Ashley: East Carolina
Stephanie Smith, Hoggard: UNC-Asheville