Vicksburg-Grambling pipeline gets stronger

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 15, 2004

[1/15/04]Two more Vicksburg High players have moved into the Grambling State pipeline.

Running back Michael Rainey and offensive lineman Mike Smith verbally committed to play for the Tigers on Wednesday, becoming the latest in a long line of Gators to head west on I-20 to the Louisiana school.

“My brother and a good friend of mine go there and they told me about the program,” Smith said. “I went on a campus visit and felt like I fit in there.”

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If Smith and Rainey make good on their verbal commitments and sign a letter of intent with Grambling on national signing day, Feb. 4, they will be the fifth and sixth ex-Gators to play there.

Linebacker Terry Cooper, offensive linemen Charles Wilson and Andre Bennett, and defensive back Antonio Rainey Michael’s older brother are all currently at Grambling.

VHS coach Alonzo Stevens said it was a combination of the Tigers’ success and the skill of offensive coordinator Melvin Spears, who recruits northeast Louisiana and Mississippi. Grambling had its string of three straight Southwestern Athletic Conference championships snapped this season.

“It’s just one of those things where the coach did his work. Coach Spears comes over and talks to the kids, and goes to the camps with them,” Stevens said. “You’ve just got to get in and put the time in, and Spears does a good job of that.”

The former VHS players also played some part in landing the latest recruits, and in Michael Rainey’s case it was a deciding factor. He had been pursued by other programs and still plans to take some more campus visits, but wanted a chance to play on the same field with his brother.

“He’s three years older than me, and I never got a chance to play with him here,” said Michael Rainey, who rushed for 359 yards and one touchdown and caught 22 passes for 207 yards for the Gators last season. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do all my life.”

Smith will join a Tigers’ offensive line that seems to gain more Gator green every day. Bennett and Wilson both started at tackle last season. Smith said Wilson played a part in selling him on Grambling.

“I talked to Charles almost every day about it, and he told me how good it is down there,” Smith said.

Rainey and Smith are the first VHS players to make their college intentions known, but certainly won’t be the last. Three Gators wide receivers Ben Shelton and Maurice Taylor, as well as linebacker Rory Johnson are being wooed by Division I-A schools, and several others are getting looks.

Johnson, one of the top defensive prospects in the country, still has campus visits planned to Ole Miss, Marshall, and Jackson State, and has not made a decision.

Marshall and West Virginia were showing interest in Shelton, a wide receiver who led Warren County with 38 catches for 579 yards and six TDs last season. Shelton said those schools had backed off a bit, however, and he was still weighing his options.

Taylor, meanwhile, is getting looks from Mississippi’s three Division I-A schools, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Southern Miss.