Four Vicksburg High players sign to play college football

Published 3:23 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Almost from the time they set foot on the field, Vicksburg High’s Class of 2024 was touted as the group that would put its football program back on the map.

They did, and on Wednesday some of them reaped the rewards.

Four football players put pen to paper on national signing day and signed with college programs. Wide receiver Tyler Henderson and defensive lineman Demarcus Johnson both signed with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, defensive back Koury Vample with Hinds Community College, and defensive back Keegan Ware with Holmes Community College.

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They joined running back Malik Montgomery (Mississippi Valley State) and defensive end Tyler Carter (South Alabama), who both signed in December, to bring Vicksburg’s 2024 signing class to six members.

“Most of these guys I’ve been playing with since junior high, so I consider them brothers. I feel happy seeing them going on because I know they deserve it just like me,” Johnson said.

Johnson was the 2022 Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year for Warren County, and a four-year starter who head coach Chris Lacey only half-jokingly called his “defensive coordinator.”

Johnson rotated from defensive line to linebacker and often called out defensive adjustments on the field. He had 30 sacks and 61 tackles for loss in four varsity seasons.

“It feels good. It feels like I completed something in high school. I went to the next level,” he said of earning a scholarship.

Johnson added that Gulf Coast was a good fit for him.

“It’s a good place. How they play fits my playing style,” he said. “I feel like it’s a good community and I can go somewhere other than football. I can get my education.”

Henderson will join Johnson in Perkinston. The playmaking receiver caught 32 passes for 852 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He’s also a track and field state champion in the triple jump and a starter on Vicksburg’s basketball team.

Henderson said having some familiar faces at Gulf Coast will be nice. In addition to Johnson, Warren Central’s Zack Evans signed with the Bulldogs on Wednesday.

“It’ll be pretty good because I’ve already got somebody I can talk to. It won’t be hard to make friends there,” Henderson said. “Gulf Coast is a great place. They’re very helpful. The coach is cool. They’re going to get me to the next level.”

Ware was another member of Vicksburg’s senior class who has been with the program since seventh grade. He and his teammates posted a 40-19 record in those six seasons and led the Gators to the 2022 MHSAA Region 2-6A championship — the program’s first since 1990.

A partially torn ACL limited Ware in 2023 and he only had six tackles. Still, he did enough while starting as a sophomore and junior to get an offer from Holmes and jumped on it.

“It’s a good feeling. You just have to push harder and do better,” Ware said. “They have good connections. The DB coach, I like him, so it’ll be a smooth ride.”

While most of this year’s signing class was with the team throughout its recent run of success, Vample was a late bloomer. He did not play football until this past season but made an immediate impact.

Vample’s stats — 20 tackles and six pass defenses — didn’t seem impressive, but Lacey said it was because he did such a good job locking down opposing receivers that no one threw his way. Vample was named the Region 2-6A Defensive Back of the Year.

“I didn’t know I was going to get an offer. This is my first year playing. So I’m just excited,” Vample said. “There’s a lot of people we played with that didn’t get offers. There’s people better than me who didn’t get offers. I’m just blessed to get my offer.”

Vample said his potential and athleticism helped generate the interest from Hinds. He medaled in both hurdles events at the MHSAA Class 5A state track meet last season, claiming a silver in the 110 (14.72 seconds) and bronze in the 300 (39.42 seconds). He said he’d like to also run track for Hinds.

“Raw talent and athleticism. Speed. Heart. Dedication. You put in work so you can get where you want to be in life,” Vample said.

As they posed for photos and put the finishing touches on paperwork Wednesday morning, the Gators’ quartet were joined by family members and several dozen classmates for the ceremony. Henderson said the show of support was inspiring, both as a sign of friendship and to continue on and make them all proud.

“It’s great to know that I’ve got everybody behind me, everybody supporting me. You can see it’s a big crowd over here,” Henderson said. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about since day one — go to college and hopefully go to the (NFL).”

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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