Signing Day 2009

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 6, 2009

Signing day pride shines through senior eyes

By Myra Bean and Angie Ledbetter

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National “Signing” Day has become an event looked forward to each year by thousands of athletes nationwide. It is a day in which they can declare by signature the university, college or junior college of their choice at which they will play a particular sport.

Everything in making the dreams come true hinges on the athlete completing their high school course of study with acceptable grades, and the NCAA clearinghouse giving the ‘A-okay.’

The first Wednesday in February is like a holiday to football athletes who have received scholarship offers and it is the most popular of the signing days. Other sports have different months in which athletes begin and end signing.

South Panola has had a plethora of athletes sign scholarship offers. Many do not fulfill the academic part of that equation and have to settle for less than what they originally signed for, but they do usually get to play football on the next level.

One such player is Darius “Tig” Barksdale who refused to go through the signing of a scholarship to The University of Mississippi last year because he did not have the grades to get cleared through NCAA clearinghouse. He chose to attend Hargrave Military Boarding School and Wednesday made good on his verbal commitment made in 2007.

Barksdale was one of the most highly decorated high school players to come through South Panola. He was named Mr. Football 2008, Pop Star, Red Zone Player of the Year, Parade All-America, rushed 327 times for 2,917 yards and scored 35 touchdowns. The list goes on and on.

The Tigers finished the season with a 14-1 record where their 89-game win streak came to an end in a 26-20 overtime loss to Meridian this year. None of the Tigers were offered scholarships to any of the SEC schools, but did receive offers to other Division 1 schools.

Signing to play from South Panola were David Conner and Marvin Burdette, The University of Alabama-Birmingham; Kenterrius Williams, Itawamba Community College; Lareco Lee and Anthony Ladd, Northeast Community College; Jonathan Hardin, Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark.; Marjarvin Chapman, Northwest Community College; Draylon Sanford, East Mississippi Community College; and Reuben Corley, Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Two other players were reported to have signed later in the day. Northwest reported two players from South Panola signed, but the second name was not released. The Clarion-Ledger reported Xavier Lee signed with Jackson State.

South Panola head coach Lance Pogue was excited about national signing day for his players on Wednesday morning as nine of them signed to continue playing football on the next level.

“It’s a great day but kind of a sad day for me,” Pogue said. “We’re losing a bunch of great football players and on top of that, a bunch of great kids. At the same time, it’s fun for them. The goal for every kid in high school for the next step in their life should be to get an education and move forward in a positive direction. They’re taking those steps and I’m very proud of them. Football is fun but education is number one and without that the football part is out of it. We stress that. Anytime you get a chance to get a free education and play football on top of it, it’s a great experience.”

“We had two guys that signed with UAB, the Division 1 school in Conference USA, and had a lot of guys that signed with different junior colleges throughout the state from all the way north down to the Gulf Coast.”

Pogue said this is big for the program.

“When you have a football program, you lose some but next year somebody takes their place,” he said. “We want to keep our program on a solid balance with going to school, doing well in the classroom, winning football games and winning championships. ”

Pogue spoke about Barksdale’s year at Hargrave.

“Tig is an outstanding football player. He went to Hargrave and did a lot of hard work on his academics and had a great year.

“Ole Miss will be getting the 2007 Mr. Mississippi Football, the absolute best player that the state had to offer,” Pogue added. “He is going to be an impact player no question about it. He can play anywhere on the field. To get a guy like him just improves your program immediately.”

Ole Miss head football coach Houston Nutt met with media on Wednesday after a day of signing with high school football players from across the country. Thirty-eight players were listed as signing.

Barksdale is listed as a 6-0, 190 defensive back. He was rated the No. 3 safety in the nation by He was listed as the No. 13 prep school player in the nation by

“We all know Tig is a great football player,” Nutt said. “He has proved it in high school. We thought that we were going to sign him last year but for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. But the bottom line right now is that he is an Ole Miss Rebel and we’re excited to have him in our family.

“I have an awesome respect for South Panola,” Nutt continued. “When I think of South Panola, I think of Peria Jerry and Jamarca Sanford. That is the first thing that comes to my mind. I know how much heart they had too and to see the tears they had in that Cotton Bowl locker room, I’ll never forget. I feel like those guys will be givers back to Ole Miss. They’re going to have such pride going into the NFL camps.”