A Look at the WCU Football Team’s 2009 Signing Day

 Western Carolina head football coach Dennis Wagner announced on Tuesday, Feb. 3 the signing of 20 student-athletes to National Letters of Intent to play football for the Catamounts beginning next season. WCU inked 12 offensive players and eight on defense as a part of National Signing Day.
“You never really know until the guys show up and play, but on paper, this is a great recruiting class. We’re very excited about them. They are good students; they are good athletes and most of all they’re good people,” said Wagner.

            17 of the students signed on Feb. 3 are from within a three hour driving radius of Cullowhee, including two from western North Carolina in Wesley Cook (Hendersonville, N.C./Hendersonville HS) and Randy Pressley (Asheville, N.C./North Buncombe HS).
“We really tried to focus our recruiting efforts in the state of North Carolina, as well as the Upstate of South Carolina and northern Georgia,” said Wagner. “With a large part of our recruiting area being within a three hour drive time, we were able to get kids and their families to campus to experience the great atmosphere here at Western Carolina. And there is nothing like having recruits come to campus for a game. I am so proud of what our students and fans did for us in regards to attendance. And it’s just going to get better because we are going to have a better football team.”

            Despite signing 20 student-athletes on Feb. 3, Wagner hinted that there might be more in the coming weeks.
“We have about three or four scholarships remaining, so within the next couple of weeks, we anticipate signing three or four more players to finish out our 2009 class,” said Wagner. “Sometimes in the recruiting process, players fall through the cracks and there are some guys that have been dropped by various schools over the final weeks of recruiting. We have been contacted by a few guys in situations like that and if we can get them to come to Western, they will definitely have an impact on our program. So, we are willing to wait and hold a few scholarships back to find the right guys.”

            Following are brief biographies, photos and statistics for the student-athletes who have committed to WCU as of press time:

Gil Broadway?6-5, 270 lbs., OL?
Washington, N.C. (Washington HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a two-year letter winner for head coach Sport Sawyer at Washington HS … Earned All-Coastal Conference honors as a senior and was an East/West Shrine Bowl nominee … Was tabbed All-Area by the Washington Daily News and earned his school’s Offensive Coaches Award … Garnered Most Improved accolades following his junior season … Was also a two-time regional qualifier in wrestling both his sophomore and junior years.?
Personal: Full name is Jeffrey Gilliam Broadway, Jr. … Is the son of Jeff and Karen Broadway … Has one younger sibling, Johnny … His grandfather, John McAden, played center at Campbell College in 1949-50, while his uncle – Linwood Broadway – played outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization … Gil was also an Eagle Scout.
Wesley Cook?6-7, 260 lbs., OL
?Hendersonville, N.C. (Hendersonville HS)
?Prior to Western: Played both ways and was the long snapper for head coach B.J. Laughter at Hendersonville HS, helping the Bearcats go 13-1 and advance to the state semifinals last season … Was a four-year Academic All-Conference selection … Listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com … Earned All-Western Highlands Conference plaudits last season after grading out at 91-percent on blocking as a senior, while amassing 94 tackles including five sacks and three fumble recoveries on defense … Was tabbed All-Area, All-State and was a Shrine Bowl Finalist, as well as first team All-Western North Carolina by the Asheville Citizen-Times … Also played baseball as a prep, garnering all-conference accolades as a junior.?
Personal: Full name is Wesley James Cook … Is the son of Mark and Leah Cook … Has one younger sibling, Hailey … His father played football at East Tennessee State, earning All-Southern Conference honors from the media as an offensive guard in 1986 … His mother played collegiate volleyball at Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn.
RaShawn Grate?5-9, 165 lbs., WR/RB?
Tabor City, N.C. (South Columbus HS)?
Prior to Western: Rushed for 2,867 yards on 350 carries – averaging over 8.1 yards per carry –helping South Columbus HS head coach Joey Price earn back-to-back Waccamaw Conference championships in his final two seasons … Scored 34 career touchdowns on the ground over his three-year varsity prep career … Posted a career-best 1,725 yards and 20 TDs as a senior, garnering Columbus County Player of the Year plaudits … Eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier his junior season with 1,049 yards and 13 touchdowns … Was a two-time All Waccamaw Conference selection his final two seasons on the gridiron … Also ran track & field as a sophomore.
Personal: Full name is RaShawn Lamont Grate … Is the son of Lamont and LaShawn Grate … Has two younger siblings, Christian and TreShawn.
Matt Hastings?6-3, 260 lbs., OL?
Morganton, N.C. (East Burke HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a four-year letter winner, three-year starter and two-time All Northwestern 4-A Conference selection on the offensive line for head coach Mike Biggerstaff at East Burke HS … As a senior, earned East Burke’s “Best Blocker Award,” after grading out to a 87.5-percent with 15 pancake blocks … Garnered second team All-Piedmont accolades his junior season helping guide EBHS to a school-record 12 wins … Also lettered in track & field as a junior.
Personal: Full name is Matthew Edward Hastings … Is the son of the late Joel Hastings and Sarah Hoyle … Has two older siblings; Adam, who was a three-year letter winner at The Citadel where he was named to the Southern Conference Academic Honor Roll; and Anna who is a senior women’s golfer at USC Upstate.
Tanner Hidrogo?5-10, 175, DB
Colorado Springs, Colo. (Wasson HS)
?Prior to Western: Was a four-year starter as a free safety and tailback for head coach Harold Brown at Wasson HS … Amassed over 7,500 all-purpose yards offensively as a prep, including 5,200 yards on the ground, 825 yards through the air and 1,500 on punt/kick returns … On defense, made 302 total hits with nine career interceptions … As a senior, was named All-State by the Denver Post, first team All-Area by the Gazette Telegraph … Was a two-time first team All-Colorado Springs Metro League selection, as well as a two-time team MVP … Ranked in the top 25 of his class, earning Academic All-State two-consecutive years in his final two seasons … Was also the captain of his high school basketball team.
Personal: Full name is Tanner Matthew Hidrogo … Is the son of Mike and Lisa Hidrogo … Has two older siblings; Tyler, who transferred from Northern Colorado and played quarterback for NCAA Division II-member, Chadron State, where he posted the school’s fourth-best completion percentage in 2005 (87-of-148, 58.8%); and Taryn, who played women’s basketball at the Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS).
Nick James?5-11, 175 lbs., WR?
Winston-Salem, N.C. (Parkland HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a three-year letter winner at Parkland HS for head coach Deangelo Bell … Caught a school-record 230 career passes for 3,159 yards, averaging over 13.7 yards per reception with 28 career touchdowns … Was named All-Forsyth County three-straight years dating back to his sophomore season, garnering All-Triad 3-A Conference plaudits his final two years … Also lettered in track & field his final two years as a prep finishing as the state runner-up in the 4×400-meter relay as a junior.
Personal: Full name is Nichalos J. James … Is the son of Alfred James and William Dixon and Terri James … Has two cousins that played in the NFL – Ron Springs (Dallas, 1979-84, Tampa Bay, 1985-86) and his son Shawn (2006-08), who is currently playing with the Washington Redskins.
Brian Johnson?6-3, 230 lbs., DL
Charlotte, N.C. (Myers Park HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a two-time All-Southwestern 4-A Conference selection for head coach Jim Ruark at Myers Park HS … N … Listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com … Amassed 33 tackles for loss, including 16 sacks, in his final two seasons as a prep … Posted 21 TFLs and 11 sacks as a senior earning All-Mecklenburg County plaudits … Added 33 career quarterback hurries, in addition to recovering five fumbles, forcing a pair of fumbles and blocking three field goals … Named Most Improved defensive player following his junior season.
Personal: Full name is Brian Christopher Johnson … Is the son of Brian Christopher Johnson and Elizabeth Johnson … Has two siblings, Olivia and Austin.
Mike Johnson?5-10, 185 lbs., RB?
Decatur, Ga. (Southwest DeKalb HS)
Prior to Western: Rushed for 335 yards and four touchdowns in five games before having his senior season cut short after suffering a broken leg in practice … Was listed on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s top 150 rankings of high school prospects and was listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com … Averaged over seven yards per carry and scored five touchdowns while splitting carries out of the backfield as a junior … Also ran track & field and wrestled in high school.
Personal: Full name is Michael Davaun Johnson … Is the son of Michael Johnson and Maranda Knox.
Ben Kennon?6-5, 290 lbs., OL?
McConnells, S.C. (York Comprehensive HS)?
Prior to Western: Named All-Tri-County Division II and All-Region as an offensive lineman his senior season at York under head coach John Barrett … Recorded 24.5 knockdown blocks in his final season in high school … Also played three years of basketball as a prep.
Personal: Full name is Benjamin M. Kennon … Is the son of Wille Clawson and Janet Kennon Clawson … His father played basketball at the nationally-ranked Dalton Junior College from 1972-74.
Elijer Martinez?5-9, 170 lbs., DB?
Decatur, Ga. (Cartersville HS)?
Prior to Western: Played both quarterback and defensive back as a senior for Cartersville HS and head coach Frank Barden … Rushed for 188 yards and four touchdowns, adding four catches for 121 yards and a pair of TDs on offense during his prep career … Also completed 21-of-39 pass attempts in his final season for 275 yards and two TD passes … Tallied 61 total tackles including a pair of sacks and five interceptions on defense for Cartersville HS.
Personal: Full name is Elijer Rashid Martinez … Is the son of Jose Martinez and Deffie Lawrence … Has three younger siblings; Denario, Rayven and Crystal.
D.J. McLendon?6-0, 175 lbs., WR?
Thomasville, N.C. (Thomasville HS)?
Prior to Western: In his final two seasons as a prep, caught 96 passes for 2,093 yards – an average of nearly 22 yards per reception – and 26 touchdowns … Added 183 career yards rushing on 10 carries (18.3 yds/rush) … Eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark his senior season with 1,107 yards on 53 catches including 14 TDs … Hauled in nine passes for 144 yards and two TDs in the state championship game to earn Offensive MVP honors … Recorded a career-long 97-yard reception as a junior … Also participated in track & field as a prep, finishing as the state runner-up in the long jump, triple jump and 400-meter dash.
Personal: Full name is Richard Darrell McLendon … Is the son of Richard and Teresa McLendon … Has a sister, Quanita … His cousin is T.A. McLendon who played collegiately at North Carolina State and was the 2002 ACC Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,101 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Jacoby Mitchell?6-0, 185 lbs., WR?
Decatur, Ga. (Southwest Dekalb HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a three-year varsity letter winner at Southwest Dekalb HS for head coach  Buck Goffery … Listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com … Finished his prep career with 59 catches for 825 yards and 12 touchdowns in a run-oriented offensive system … Posted a career-best 30 catches for 500 yards and nine scores as a senior captain, earning first team all-conference and All-Dekalb County accolades … Was a four-year Honor Roll student … Also played basketball and baseball, garnering All-County accolades his junior season in the latter.
Personal: Full name is Jacoby Shenard Mitchell … Is the son of Desmond Parks and Kisten Mitchell … Has two siblings; brother, Eric, and sister Desmenique … Has two cousins who played collegiate athletics – David Allen played football at Georgia Tech and Eddie Rush, Jr., played baseball at Marshall.
Quevalas “Boom Boom” Murray?6-2, 265 lbs., DL?
Shelby, N.C. (Shelby HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a four-year varsity letter winner for head coach Chris Norman at Shelby HS … A two-time All-Cleveland County selection, was named the Southwestern Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a senior defensive end … Amassed 94 tackles with 11.5 sacks and six pass break-ups in his final season … Also recovered four fumbles, forced two and recorded an interception … Was a part of back-to-back state championship teams his first two seasons, including a 16-0 record his sophomore season … All told, helped Shelby HS go 52-9 in his four years … In addition, played every position on the offensive line except center during his prep career … Was also a two-year starter on the basketball hardwood where he averaged nearly 17 points and eight rebounds per game.
Personal: Full name is Quevalas Monuel Murray, nicknamed Boom Boom … Is the son of Donnell Murray and Michelle Parker … Has a younger brother, Marcus.
Conner Orr?6-3, 230 lbs., TE?
Duluth, Ga. (Peachtree Ridge HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a four-year Scholar Athlete and a three-year varsity letter winner at Peachtree Ridge HS for head coach Bill Ballard … Was named first team All-County and first team All-Region at tight end as a senior … Was also named second team All-State by the Atlanta Journal Constitution … Recorded 146 yards receiving and three TDs in his final season  … Played offensive tackle as a junior … In his first season on varsity, played defensive end and special teams on the state championship team … Was a two-year varsity letter winner in track & field, setting a school record in the shot put as a junior.
Personal: Full name is James Conner Orr … Is the son of Jim and Terri Orr … Has an older sister, Lindsay Tarquinio.
Randy Pressley?6-2, 190 lbs., QB
Asheville, N.C. (North Buncombe HS)?
Prior to Western: Played two years on varsity for head coach Carey Metts, garnering all-conference and all-state accolades in each of his final two seasons … Tabbed the 2008 Mountain Athletic Conference (MAC) Offensive Player of the Year after combining for 2,839 yards of total offense with 32 touchdowns … Concluded his career with over 3,300 yards rushing with 39 touchdowns, as well as over 2,600 yards passing and 19 scoring strikes … All told, amassed over 6,000 yards of total offense … Is believed to be the only player in North Buncombe HS history to be selected to play in the Shrine Bowl … Also played basketball as a prep, averaging a double-double with 12.5 points and 13.2 rebounds per game in scoring over 1,000 points and pulling down 1,000 boards in his prep career.
Personal: Full name is Randall Joseph Pressley … Is the son of Daniel Folsom and Donella Pressley … Has a younger sibling, Rolanda.
Buddy Robinson?6-2, 270 lbs., DL?
Bostic, N.C. (East Rutherford HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a two-time All-Southwestern 3A-2A Conference selection at East Rutherford HS under head coach Jerry Cash … Also named to the All-County team in both his junior and senior seasons … Finished his prep career with 157 total hits on the defensive line, including 71 solo tackles and 86 assists … Also had 15 career sacks.
Personal: Full name is Antonitis “Buddy” Robinson … Is the son of Steve Suber and Mary Cantrell.
Ryder Sloan?6-1, 230 lbs., LB?
Folkston, Ga. (Charlton County HS)?
Prior to Western: Finished his prep career with 142.5 total hits including three sacks and a pair of interceptions helping Charlton County HS and head coach Rich McWhorter go 49-4-1 during his four years and win three-straight Region 2-AA championships … Listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com … A senior captain, garnered five of his team’s post-season awards including the Joe Hagins Outstanding Linebacker Award; Bandit Award; Inspiration Award; Weight Room Award; and co-Defensive MVP … Set a school single-game record with 13 tackles … Was a second team Region 2-AA defensive lineman as a sophomore before garnering second team honors as a junior and first team accolades at linebacker his senior season … Attended the same high school as current Detroit Lion, Boss Bailey, and current Denver Bronco, Champ Bailey.
Personal: Full name is Ryder Wesley Sloan … Is the son of Roger and Sherry Sloan … Has three younger siblings; Dylan, Bryant and Bryantley.
Ja’Quayvin Smalls?5-10, 185 lbs., DB,
Jr.?Mt. Pleasant, S.C. (Georgia Military College / Wando HS)?
Prior to Western: Transferred to Western Carolina from Georgia Military College in Millidgeville, Ga., where he ranked second on the team in tackles and was a two-time Defensive Player of the Game … Was coached by Bert Williams at GMC … Listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com.
High School: Recorded 55 tackles, 12 passes defended and eight interceptions as a senior defensive back at Wando HS under head coach Bob Hayes … Posted four scores on a pair of interception returns and also returned two blocked punts for TDs … Earned All-Lowcountry and All-Region honors in his final season as a prep … Named to the 2006 North/South All-Star game.
Personal: Full name is Ja’Quayvin Ja’Quar Smalls … Is the son of Henry and LaSonia Smalls … Has two younger siblings, Jarrel and Ja’Keil.
Nate Stephenson?6-2, 215 lbs., LB?
Jacksonville, Fla. (First Coast HS)?
Prior to Western: A first-team All-Gateway Conference and All-District selection as a senior after making 89 tackles, including 53 solo stops and eight sacks … Also intercepted two passes in his final season a as prep … Selected for the Florida Shrine Bowl … Was a part of three Gateway Conference championship teams under head coach Fred Culver.
Personal: Full name is Nathaniel Lloyd Stephenson … Is the son of Shernette Charles … Has six siblings; Vanassa, Monique, Everis, Natasha, Carl and Bryant, Jr.
Ryan World 6-1, 180 lbs., QB?
Coto de Caza, Calif. (Santa Margarita Catholic HS)?
Prior to Western: Was a two-year varsity letter winner … Attended the same high school as current Cincinnati Bengals – and former USC Trojan QB, Carson Palmer … Completed 157-of-276 passes as a senior for 2,228 yards and 20 touchdowns … Added two rushing scores for 22 in his final season as a prep, garnering first team All-Trinity League honors … Broke Palmer’s school-record for fastest to 1,000 yards (four games) and to 2,000 yards passing, doing so in nine games … Tied Palmer’s benchmark of passing TDs in a game at five, as well as his record of 200-yard passing games in a single-season (7).
Personal: Full name is Ryan Michael World … Is the son of Alan and Teri World … Has one sibling, Kristen … His grandfather, Jerry Nicholson, played quarterback at El Camino College and Long Beach State.