Six Vicksburg High football players sign with college programs

Published 7:41 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Three years ago, Vicksburg High’s Class of 2023 started to break into the starting lineup with the goal of turning around an ailing football program.

A sign that they succeeded was seen Wednesday morning in the school’s fine arts room that overlooks the field.

Three players signed with Mississippi junior colleges. Another took a four-year offer. Two others had already signed Division I scholarships in December and joined their teammates in celebrating a job well done, as well as the chance to play at the next level.

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“We accomplished so much. I’m so proud of what we did. We said we were going to do it our freshman year and we did it,” said Vicksburg linebacker Wallyeke Curry, who signed with Copiah-Lincoln Community College. “It was a lot of work to get to this point, but I’m proud I got it done because it helped me to get into this position.”

In addition to Curry, defensive backs Kearris Gilliam (Hinds) and Nicholas Mickey (Southwest Mississippi) are headed to the junior college ranks.

Offensive lineman Dareh Minor signed with NAIA member Louisiana Christian University.

During the December signing period, defensive end Caleb Bryant signed with Mississippi State and defensive back J.D. Kelly with Alcorn State.

“It feels great. Everybody wants to play SEC. The SEC is where it’s at. It’s the best of the best. To be able to be called an SEC athlete is just great,” said Bryant, who played in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game and was a first-team Class 5A All-State selection.

Bryant was the highest-profile recruit in Vicksburg’s Class of 2023. His selection of Mississippi State ended a long and winding recruiting process in which he received dozens of Division I offers, committed and then de-committed to Utah, and finally settled on the Bulldogs.

Although jetting around the country for official visits was “fun and exciting,” Bryant said he always preferred staying closer to home.

“It was going to be a lot easier for my people to get to my games. Mississippi State is known for putting out good D-linemen. It’s always been the school for me. This shirt? I’ve had this shirt since I was in ninth grade,” Bryant said, pointing to his polo shirt with an MSU logo on it. “Mississippi State has always had a place in my heart. It was always a place I wanted to go to.”

Kelly felt the same way about Alcorn State. He committed to the Braves early in the recruiting process and never wavered.

“At first I was kind of cold on them. Then I took that first visit and I was home,” said Kelly, who was also a first-team Class 5A All-State selection and a Mississippi-Alabama all-star. “The winning tradition, and going down there everybody talks about winning SWAC championships. It’s the place to go if you want to win SWAC championships.”

Minor, Vicksburg’s other four-year signee, said Louisiana Christian just felt like the place to be.

“The campus was nice, so it felt like I could be there,” he said.

Minor added that he was trying to soak in the signing day experience and the journey to get to it.

“It’s a great experience. Everybody doesn’t get to do this, you know? So I’m going to take it all in, prepare to go to college and ball out,” Minor said.

Vicksburg’s three junior college signees were all part of a defense that allowed just 10,8 points per game while leading the Gators to the MHSAA Class 5A semifinals for the first time since 2001.

Curry led the team with 100 tackles, to go with seven sacks and eight tackles for loss.

“What sold me on Co-Lin was when I went down there I just fell in love with the things they’ve got down there,” he said. “It means everything to me to get a second chance doing what I love to do.”

Gilliam and Mickey both played in the secondary. Gilliam, who is headed to Hinds, led the Gators with four interceptions and scored three defensive touchdowns.

“I settled on Hinds because they play the same kind of defense as us, basically man-to-man defense,” Gilliam said. “I talked to everybody and chose Hinds because I feel like it’s going to be at home for me and develop my skills.”

Mickey totaled 72 tackles, along with six tackles for loss and three interceptions. He also returned a kickoff and an interception for touchdowns. Like his teammates, he was both excited for the opportunity to continue his football career and thankful for the opportunity to do it.

“It’s great. Seeing all the people come in here watching us, supporting us, it’s great to see my teammates continue their dream,” Mickey said, “It’s humbling. Not everybody gets this opportunity. For me to get this opportunity, I thank God to be in this position.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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