The Monday practice before the Class 6 state final, Darryl Overton received his clearest sense yet of how far his Freedom football program had come in the eyes of college recruiters.
As the Eagles prepared for that Saturday's Dec. 8 game against Manchester, at least nine college coaches from Division I through Division III watched from the sidelines. Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster and Charley Wiles attended as did coaches from Penn State and Wake Forest and Coastal Carolina.
Virginia Tech and Penn State were there primarily to see senior defensive lineman Josh Fuga, but other players attracted notice as well.
“Winning is the key,” Overton said. “The longer you are playing the more exposure you get.”
Fuga signed with Virginia Tech Dec. 19, making him the first Freedom senior to sign with a FBS program since the school opened in 2004. But he’s not going to be the last one anytime soon as recruiters turn their attention to filling their 2020 classes.
Junior lineman Vershon Lee has seven offers, including six from Power Five conferences. Junior quarterback Quest Powell has picked up offers from Howard and William & Mary. And junior lineman Kealey Davis has offers from Hampton and Norfolk State.
Lee, in particular, said he benefitted from Freedom’s run to the state final. Coming into the 2018 season, Lee had no offers. After starting some games as a sophomore, he blossomed as Freedom’s full-time starting left tackle. Virginia Tech offered first on Nov. 8.
Lee received six more in 2019: Kent State, Tennessee, Syracuse, South Carolina and Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.
Lee’s 6-foot-4, 285-pound frame draws attention as does his athleticism and ability to finish blocks.
“A lot of coaches also like that he’s already played in a college-like scheme, Overton said.
Being a two-sport athlete is another plus. Lee plays basketball for Freedom. His father, Vernon, played basketball at Virginia State and is Freedom’s head girls basketball coach. Lee’s also a good student with a 3.45 grade point average.
“It can’t come below a 3.0,” Lee said. “My mom doesn’t like that.”
But Freedom’s success in going 13-2 and playing for the school's first state title raised Lee’s profile.
“The best thing for him has been playing on Friday nights,” Overton said.
Lee, rated the No. 30 junior in Virginia for the class of 2020 by Rivals.com, agreed.
“It was a catalyst,” said Lee, who plans to attend junior days at South Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. “The way we were playing helped the cause.”