Jackets In College: Darius Lightfoot Signs With Murray State, 2009

Area players take next step on signing day

By FRANK JOLLEY
Sports Editor


CLERMONT -- Jeremy Wright and Frankie Davis consider themselves poster
children for the East Ridge High School football team.


The pair joined the Knights without fanfare, but with seemingly unlimited
potential and in search of direction that could help them harness their talents.


Wright and Davis found that direction in coach Bud O'Hara, who has spent
most of the past 37 years driving his student-athletes to succeed. Since
arriving at East Ridge seven seasons ago, O'Hara's program has been the
starting point for countless college careers.


Former East Ridge standout Richard Jackson, who signed originally with Notre
Dame, but has since transferred to the University of Central Florida, is one of
O'Hara's success stories. Other former Knights who have earned athletic
scholarships include: Chimdi Chekwa (Ohio State), Chris Patrick (Charleston
Southern) Greg Lloyd (Connecticut), and Harland Bower (signed with Central
Michigan before transferring to Georgia Southern).


Wright and Davis joined that group Wednesday when the signed national
letters of intent during a ceremony in the school auditorium as part of National
Signing Day, the first high-school football players can sign with the college of
their choice.
Area players take next step on signing day

By FRANK JOLLEY
Sports Editor


CLERMONT -- Jeremy Wright and Frankie Davis consider themselves poster
children for the East Ridge High School football team.


The pair joined the Knights without fanfare, but with seemingly unlimited
potential and in search of direction that could help them harness their talents.


Wright and Davis found that direction in coach Bud O'Hara, who has spent
most of the past 37 years driving his student-athletes to succeed. Since
arriving at East Ridge seven seasons ago, O'Hara's program has been the
starting point for countless college careers.


Former East Ridge standout Richard Jackson, who signed originally with Notre
Dame, but has since transferred to the University of Central Florida, is one of
O'Hara's success stories. Other former Knights who have earned athletic
scholarships include: Chimdi Chekwa (Ohio State), Chris Patrick (Charleston
Southern) Greg Lloyd (Connecticut), and Harland Bower (signed with Central
Michigan before transferring to Georgia Southern).


Wright and Davis joined that group Wednesday when the signed national
letters of intent during a ceremony in the school auditorium as part of National
Signing Day, the first high-school football players can sign with the college of
their choice.

Wright inked an agreement with the University of Louisville, while Davis opted
to stay closer to his family and signed with UCF. Both accepted full scholarship
offers with their schools, meaning all tuition, books, room and board will be
provided.


Other local student-athletes to sign Wednesday include Leesburg's Darius
Lightfoot, who signed with Murray State in Murray, Ky., and Eric Samuels, who
signed with Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. South Lake offensive lineman
Jonotthan Harrison and running back Titus Mobley signed with Florida and
Wesson (Miss.) Copiah-Lincoln Community College.


Harrison and Mobley graduated from South Lake in January and are enrolled in
college and attending classes. By enrolling in January, they will be eligible to
participate in spring practice.


No other signings were reported to The Daily Commercial in time for this edition.


Wright considered "about 20 schools" before deciding on Louisville after
making an official visit to the campus Jan. 23. He visited Florida International
University and Troy (Ala.) University prior to Louisville.


"I like everything about Louisville when I got there," Wright said. "The campus
was nice and I really clicked with the coach (Steve Kragthorpe). The players I
spent time with were really great to be around and the academic-support
system for student-athletes is fantastic.


"It didn't take long for me to realize that Louisville is where I wanted to go to
college and I committed as soon as I got home."


Wright also said Louisville has an established Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Chapter at the school and that, too, play a role in his decision.


One of two running backs signed by Louisville, Wright led the state in rushing
as a senior with more than 2,700 yards. He posted a single-game best of 491
yards against Apopka Wekiva -- the second best effort in state history.


For his career, Wright had 4,133 yards and 43 touchdowns.


Wright said Kragthorpe made no guarantees to him about playing time during
the recruiting process. Rather than being goaded into signing with a
guaranteed job, Wright said he prefers to go into his freshman season with the
intent to earn playing time -- a trait he said was taught by O'Hara.


"One of the reasons East Ridge has been successful on the football field is
because of the way (O'Hara) and the coaching staff treats the players," Wright
said. "Nobody is given a job when they walk onto the field. You have to work
hard in the weight room and on the practice field. That's the way it has always
been at East Ridge. Coach O'Hara and his staff do not play favorites. They
don't care if you have all the talent in the world; if you don't pay the price
during the week, you don't play on Friday.


"Coach O'Hara teaches us that you have to work hard to be the best. I'm
signing a college scholarship because Coach O'Hara demanded my best effort."


O'Hara said it usually wasn't hard to get Wright to produce. He considers the
running back to be the best player he has coached and believes Louisville is
getting one of the state's best players.


He is surprised Wright wasn't more heavily recruited, but feels his former
running back may use the snub as motivation throughout his college career.


"I don't why every school in the state or the country wasn't looking at Jeremy,"
O'Hara said. "He's got good size (188 pounds) and he's going to get a little
bigger in college, and he was rarely run down from behind in the open field. He
fumbled one time all season as our feature back.


"About 20 years ago, Emmitt Smith was thought to be too small and too slow to
succeed in college and as pro, but he put together a pretty nice career at both
levels."


Davis, a 6-foot-2, 285-pound defensive lineman, considered several schools
before deciding on UCF in December. He chose to play for UCF coach George
O'Leary because he wanted to be closer to his family so that they could watch
him play.


Prior to deciding on UCF, Davis had considered West Virginia, Mississippi,
Colorado State, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Auburn and Purdue.


"Not only will I be closer to home at UCF, but I think I'll get a chance to step in
and play earlier than I would have at some of the other schools I was
considering," Davis said. "UCF is an up-and-coming program and I wanted to
play a part in helping them become one of the best teams in the country. I had
the chance to look at some of the top programs in the nation, but UCF came
out on top when I sat down and thought about where I wanted to go."


Like Wright, Davis feels O'Hara and the East Ridge coaching staff deserve
much of the credit for his success. Davis said he has "grown mentally and
become tougher" under O'Hara's tutelage.


He said O'Hara taught him to never give up or quit, no matter what the situation
is, and also provided him with a father figure to whom he could confide. The
lessons Davis learned while wearing an East Ridge uniform will help him at
UCF, in the classroom and on the football field.


Without O'Hara's "football is family" approach, Davis isn't sure where he would
be, but said he knows where he wouldn't be.


"I would not have earned a college scholarship without coach O'Hara," Davis
said. "If you come to East Ridge and spend time around coach O'Hara and the
coaching staff, you can't help but be person. They're trying to turn us into
responsible adults. They understand there's more to life than football. They
want us to be great people.


"Part of being a great person is getting into college and making something out
of myself. That's what every football at East Ridge wants to do."


Resources