For the past three years, Jerami Singleton has been waiting.
He’s been waiting for that day when he could finally say, “I made it.”
He can say it briefly Saturday night as he steps on the field for Stetson’s first football game in 57 years. After that, there will be no time to reminisce.
The Hatters unveil their resurrected program at Spec Martin Stadium in DeLand, hosting Warner University at 7 p.m. Singleton, the No. 2 running back on the Hatters' depth chart, might even be the first one to touch the ball as one of the Hatters’ kickoff-return men.
The coin flip and direction of the kick will determine that scenario, but the way he sees it, he’s faced greater odds to get where he is today. A 50-50 coin flip is nothing by comparison.
“It feels good,” said Singleton, now 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds — a 15-pound jump from high school. “It’s been a long time coming ... goodness gracious. This is definitely one of the toughest things I have ever had to do.”
Singleton was an unknown Clermont East Ridge running back whom I met in St. Petersburg during the summer of 2011 when his parents drove him to over for a National Underclassmen Combine. He stood out that day.
He was named the NUC running back MVP and combine king. He was invited to the NUC Southeast Regional Ultimate 100 camp and would eventually go on to earn MVP at the national Ultimate 100 that summer in Oklahoma.
His senior year, however, wasn’t exactly what he had hoped. He was overshadowed by teammate Randy Bergan, who ran for more than 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns. Even though Singleton had 780 yards and seven touchdowns, he still had trouble getting recruited.
While players around Central Florida were getting scholarship offers and picking their schools, Singleton waited ... and waited.
“Coming upon Stetson University, that was a difficult process for me,” said Singleton, who really had no other options for college football. “But once they found me and I found them, that was pretty much smooth sailing. I can’t really complain about that process. After they said, ‘Come here,’ and that they wanted me, I said, ‘OK.’ ”
The initial recruiting class at Stetson has had to endure practices against each other since last summer, approaching 390 straight days without seeing an opponent other than teammates. Those who are left are the survivors. There were certainly those who did not make it. The commitment to Hatter football takes a special individual.
“Sometimes I don’t know how I did it. There were definitely a lot of points where I was like, ‘Goodness, this is difficult,’ but looking back, now I actually can say I feel very accomplished in getting here,” Singleton said.
He said he’d be lying if the word “quit” never entered his mind, but that wasn’t him.
“I’ve said it a bunch of times,” Singleton laughed. “But I never mentioned it or called mom and said, ‘I’m not going to make it.’ But, yes, of course there was always that point where you think, ‘Man, this is really difficult.’
“But you always tough it out, and nobody wants to be a quitter. I definitely didn’t want to be a quitter, so when I got to those moments where I was feeling helpless or whatever the case ... I’d just say to myself, ‘There is someone else who wished they were in my position,’ and that always keeps me going.”
And after 390-plus days of seeing the same faces, the Hatters will finally get to see a different color across the line of scrimmage.
“It actually came pretty fast when you think back,” Singleton said Monday. “So 380 days or whatever are now down to what, five days? That’s a pretty big deal.
“I’ve always been the type of person where things kind of hit me late. So I’m excited, but I won’t really be in that zone until I walk out on that field and I see the lights and I see the other team, and that’s when it will hit me,” he said.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun