Vicksburg High has eight players sign with state’s junior colleges

Published 8:00 am Thursday, February 8, 2018

Vicksburg High School had eight players sign on to play football at the junior college level Wednesday morning, including the trio of Joe Johnson, De’Angelo Dixon and Jo’mon O’Neal that decided to take their talents to Coahoma Community College.

Years of battling in the trenches and crashing into their opponents on Friday nights came to fruition as all of the players finally got to sign their names along the dotted line and can now look forward to joining their teams in the summer.

The moment was still surreal to Johnson.

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“It’s crazy, I’ve been dreaming about this since I was little,” said Johnson, who was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Gators and finished his high school career with nearly 6,000 passing yards. “When I was 8 years old I used to write fake signatures just practicing for signing day and this day has come. I want to thank God for this opportunity.”

Dixon also was thrilled to sign, and chose Coahoma because of how its pass-heavy offense could utilize him at wide receiver.

“It feels good, I really want to thank God for giving me the ability to play, and I want to thank my coaches and everybody for believing in me,” Dixon said. “It feels pretty good to know I’m playing on the next level.”

O’Neal was also enthusiastic to sign with Coahoma and will have a chance to earn major playing time from day one. The 2015 Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year had more than 35 sacks in his high school career.

“They told me I’m the only mike linebacker they’re signing,” O’Neal said. “I’m going to stay humble, and go in there and put in everything I have.”

Dixon said he was excited to continue working with his high school teammates, and Johnson said that having his two teammates rooming with him at Coahoma would make the transition easier.

“We’re going to be roommates, we’re still going to be kicking it with each other, we’re going to keep each other safe,” Johnson said. “I’m excited that we can get better together.”

Former Vicksburg coach Lorenzo Breland said he was proud of all of the signees and their families. It was announced in December that Breland would not return for the 2018 season, but he was assisting with the recruitment of this year’s seniors.

“It shows their hard work and dedication over the years,” Breland said. “When we first got here they were freshmen, so just being able to watch them grow, watch them matriculate, and continue their football career is just a blessing and a great opportunity for them.”

Defensive back Roderick Hicks and linebacker Malik Shelley both joined Jones County Junior College and praised the program.

“It’s a big step,” Shelley said. “A lot more work, determination and dedication ahead, I’m just ready to show what I got.”

Hicks was humbled to continue playing football, but was even more grateful for the academic opportunities he could pursue at Coahoma.

“At first, with everything I’ve been through, I didn’t think I’d be here,” Hicks said. “I didn’t play football my first two years coming in and I was in and out of trouble. (Former defensive coordinator Bill King) actually got me on the team, and my life has just been better ever since. It’s a blessing to be here.”

Meanwhile, safety Gabe Washington said signing with Hinds Community College was a payoff for dedicating his life to football.

“Really, who helped me get here was my father,” Washington said. “I had a really bad past. He helped me get to Vicksburg and helped me start playing football and getting dedicated to it. I really feel like he helped me out a lot.”

To round out the signees, wide receiver Jeff Scott Jr. signed with Copiah-Lincoln Community College and defensive lineman Mike Sullivan signed with Southwest Mississippi CC.

Scott said that he felt Co-Lin was a good fit for him academically and athletically, and appreciated the coaches taking a chance on him. He was chomping at the bit to get started with the team.

Scott caught 79 passes in three seasons with Vicksburg. He played the 2017 season at Melbourne (Florida) Central Catholic and had 574 combined rushing and receiving yards and eight touchdowns. He returned to Vicksburg High for the spring semester.

“I’m going to go down there in the summer and work, and hopefully I get a spot,” Scott said. “I just can’t wait.”

Sullivan said Southwest Mississippi stood out to him in the recruiting process, which started during his junior year. Sullivan said it felt good to finally sign.

“Most people don’t get this opportunity, but when you work hard and take it every day at a time, it’ll all pay off,” Sullivan said.

The signees were all quick to shower their teammates, coaches, families and God with praise for instilling the work ethic and drive they needed to succeed and supporting them throughout their high school football careers. As they move into the next step of their careers in sports and academics, their future looks bright.

“Signing day was a good experience, we’ve been through a lot our high school years,” O’Neal said. “I’m happy for all my brothers signing with junior colleges, and from there we can go to bigger division schools. It’s just good that we’re all going to the next level and becoming better young men in today’s society.”