Local Friendship Head Coach Aazaar A. Rahim poses with his five scholarship
student athletes. Courtesy Photo
Friendship senior Jaron Gillespie had to overcome many academic hardships during his high school career. As he stood at a podium on National Signing Day, the struggles were clear worth the effort.
â€œI came from nothing, a year ago I wasnâ€™t even thinking about football. Coach [Rahim] helped me change my life. I worked a lot to be good academically,â€ said Gillespie.
National Signing Day is the day that high school seniors announce the schools they have chosen to attend, and play football for. Held this year on Wed. Feb., 4, it has become a day of celebration from high school athletes across the country, many of whom were heavily recruited by some of the top colleges in the country.
Last modified on Friday, 13 February 2009 14:55
Friendship Public Charter School celebrated National Signing Day this year with an unprecedented five student athletes signing letters of intent for the colleges of their choice. Gillispie chose Eastern Michigan University.
â€œI am happy these kids donâ€™t have to pay for college, especially in this current economy. It is really important is that they believed in us as coaches. We are a charter school and to have five Division I players is big,â€ said Friendship Head Coach Aazaar A. Rahim.
Looking on as Gillespie signed his letter of intent was his mother, Buffie West.
â€œI prayed for him a lot. But really he did it on his own. And I was speechless when he signed that letter. Itâ€™s not being a single parent and raises a young boy to become a man. I am truly overjoyed,â€ said West.
But despite the emphasis National Signing Day places on athletics, Rahim wants to make sure his players also keep their minds focused on academics.
â€œWe donâ€™t even talk about the NFL here. There is so much talent in the district any young man can get a scholarship. So we treat the NFL like a desert, if itâ€™s available then good, but if not you always have an education,â€ said Rahim said.
Rahim also stressed that hosting a National Signing Day at Friendship should serve as motivation for the other student athletes.
â€œWe want them to work hard so they can be on this stage next year.â€
The five Friendship athletes and their schools of choice are:
Jaron Gillespie â€“ Eastern Michigan
Gabe Smith â€“ Hampton
Richard Washington â€“ North Carolina A&T
Anthony Elliot â€“ Morgan State
Nick Walker â€“ Elizabeth City State University
Also receiving scholarship offers, but undecided about where they will attend college are:
William Gary (linebacker)
Chris Mason (cornerback)
Russell Jackson (offensive lineman)
Kevin Gadson (wide receiver)
Jenkins Chooses Gators
Another local athlete garnering national attention was Good Council linebacker Jelani Jenkins, the All-Met Defensive Player of the Year. Jenkins selected the University of Florida Gators, making his choice known by putting a white Florida cap on his head in front of a bank of television cameras. Jenkins had narrowed his choice down to Penn State or Florida, but claimed he actually came to a final decision several weeks earlier after a recruiting visit from Florida head coach Urban Meyer last month.