FAMU signees leave Rickards facing rebuilding


FAMU signees Ferante Cowart (left) and Kendrick Kelly (right) join current Rattler quarterback and former Raiders teammate D.J. Phillips at their signing ceremonies.
Photo by Edris Smith

Richard Summers of Godby signed to play at FAMU this fall.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook writer

Signing day was a little bitter-sweet for Rickards’ football coach Quintin Lewis, whose team had five players signing with FAMU.

He was glad to have as many players getting an opportunity to advance their education. However, he couldn’t dodge the fact that the departures left him with the task of rebuilding a team that was a force in the Big Bend over the last two seasons.

“These guys were very important to the program,” Lewis said. “They’ve been in the program for four years and were vital. I don’t know how we are ever going to replace players like the guys that are leaving right now.

“Hopefully they had instilled some leadership in the young guys. These guys are special. They are one of a kind.”

Leading the Raiders who are heading to FAMU is Ferante Cowart, a first-team All-Big Bend selection at receiver. Joining him are teammates Kendrick Kelly (receiver), and Javon Peterson (defensive back). Jordan Nance and Shedrick Bryant plan to enroll at FAMU on academic scholarships.

Kelly is the only Rickards player signed as a preferred walk-on.

“I’m going to go that route and see how far it will get me,” Kelly said.

“Nothing in the world comes easily. It’s going to be a tough route, but the dog in me is going to make me get that scholarship.”

Coach Willie Simmons’ first-year recruiting class also includes players from two other local schools and they could be considered the big two, as they are All-Big Bend first teamers.  Simmons said he recruited Godby’s defensive lineman Richard Summers for his speed, as well as FAMU DRS offensive lineman Terrence Cambridge.

The biggest name from the area that was signed by Simmons is Madison’s running back Derrick Staten Jr., last season’s All-Big Bend Offensive Player of the Year. The Rattlers also recruited another All-Big Bend star in Isaiah Lewis from Wakulla.

Several of the players said they decided to stay close to home because of the fresh energy that Simmons, who was hired in December, brings to the FAMU program. Playing in front of their families was a factor, too.

“It’s great when my mom doesn’t have to travel out when we play at home,” said Summers. “It’s a wonderful feeling when my family can watch me play. That makes me play even harder.”

Although he got a late start on recruiting, Simmons said he set out to get the best available talent in the area.

“We always want to start in our own backyard too make sure we are not losing quality players to our competition,” he said. “We understand we are not going to compete against a lot of the larger schools until we upgrade facilities, but we definitely want to be known as a school that’s known for keeping local talent here.”