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Franklin WR Thomas chooses Rutgers on busy Signing Day

Dunbar has 5 players sign with D-I programs; Old Mill's Chesson picks Towson

By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun

7:39 PM EST, February 1, 2012

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[Editor's note: This story initially included Joshua Davis as one of six Dunbar football players signing national letters of intent to play football on scholarship. Davis, who will play at Morgan State, is not receiving an athletic scholarship. He is receiving need-base financial aid, which allows Morgan to not use one of its football scholarships on him, Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said.]

 

Franklin wide receiver Ian Thomas had a few reservations about his intention to sign with Rutgers after Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano announced late last week that he was leaving to take over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But after a lot of thought, Thomas decided Rutgers was still the right place for him.

"I can't stand here and tell anyone that I will be playing in the NFL," Thomas said during his Wednesday morning signing ceremony, "but I can guarantee I will have a degree from Rutgers in the next four years."

In the Franklin gym before a crowd of family, teammates and friends, Thomas signed his national letter of intent to accept a full football scholarship from the New Jersey school university. He chose the Scarlet Knights over offers from 21 other schools including Iowa and Virginia.

Thomas, a two-time All-Metro selection, was one of dozens of local high school athletes who signed to accept athletic scholarships on the opening day of the official signing period for football, soccer, field hockey and track.

A speedy 6-foot, 190-pound receiver who scored 31 career touchdowns and helped Franklin reach the Class 3A state final in 2010, Thomas said Rutgers interim coach Kyle Flood told him the Scarlet Knights would still use the pro-style offense that Schiano had run. That reassured Thomas that, if he breaks into the lineup, he would get the ball.

"The coaching change was big for me because I've know coach Schiano through this whole process, but now coach Schiano has left and it's a little uncertainly there but it's still all about the players in that program," Thomas said. "I knew I wasn't picking Rutgers for the coaches. It was more for the program. I liked the people in the program, the players in the program, I have great relationships with them all. I feel like it's a great fit for me."

Dunbar had five players sign national letters of intent at its ceremony Wednesday.

All-Metro defensive back Deon-Tay McManus will join former teammate Tavon Austin at West Virginia. Second-team cornerback Terrence Williams and linebacker Ernest Hawkins are headed for Texas-El Paso. Running back Lavar Highsmith signed with Morgan State, and running back Charles Brown Jr. signed with Division II Shepherd in West Virginia.

"College, yeah!" Highsmith's ecstatic grandmother Jeanette Nealy said as he signed his letter.

Dunbar lineman Joshua Davis announced he will also play at Morgan State, although he will receive financial aid instead of an athletic scholarship.

"This is what it's all about," Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said. "We expect to win here, but if we're winning championships and kids are not going to college, we've got a problem. For kids to go to college, this is what we do."

At Gilman, The Baltimore Sun's players of the year signed their letters Wednesday morning.

Offensive Player of the Year Cyrus Jones Jr., rated the No. 20 recruit in the nation by ESPNU, made official his commitment to Alabama, which he had announced during the Under Armour All-America Bowl last month. Defensive Player of the Year Kenneth Goins Jr., who had 15 sacks and 61 tackles as an end, doubled as a running back and will play that position at Maryland.

Gilman linebacker Devon Porchia (Pittsburgh) and cornerback Malcolm Powers (Monmouth) also signed. All-Metro lineman Brian Gaia signed his letter to join Penn State in Austin, Texas, where he was preparing for Wednesday night's International Bowl.

Calvert Hall's All-Metro wide receiver Trevor Williams and All-Metro cornerback Da'Quan Davis both also signed with Penn State on Wednesday afternoon. The Cardinals' ceremony also featured All-Metro linebacker C.J. Williams, who will go to Navy, which like all service academies as well as Patriot League and Ivy League schools does not grant athletic scholarships.

Local colleges also claimed a share of the hometown talent pool.

Old Mill All-Metro running back Rob Chesson, who set a state single season record with 49 touchdowns for the state Class 4A champion Patriots, signed with Towson. The Tigers also got Aberdeen's All-Metro wide receiver Christian Carpenter and Archbishop Spalding All-Metro lineman Shane Sullivan.

Joppatowne tailback Jamil Lee will join Morgan State, where his father Alonzo Lee is the Bears' defensive coordinator.

In addition to Goins, Maryland will get McDonogh All-Metro defensive lineman Roman Braglio.

Boys' Latin's All-Metro lineman Greg Pyke signed with Georgia. Two All-Metro teammates at Poly made their commitments official: cornerback Donovan Riley to Virginia Tech and punter Jordan Garrison with Bowie State.

Old Mill All-Metro defensive back Torie Wagner signed with Charleston (W.Va.), while Atholton All-Metro lineman Paul Federinko will play at Lafayette in the Patriot League.

Other second-team All-Metro players who signed include: River Hill running back Aaron Wells (Villanova), Franklin lineman Cyril Nuworsoo (Charleston), McDonogh lineman Allen Jackson (Duke), Annapolis Area Christian safety Malique Johnson (Old Dominion), Atholton lineman Steve Whting (Concord) and Archbishop Curley defensive back Avery Williams (Temple).

Among other players of note, City's Charles Tapper signed with Oklahoma, and Mount St. Joseph's Sam Benjamin signed with Temple.

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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