The future just got a little brighter for a few Red Devils.
Four Newton-Conover athletes signed paperwork on Wednesday to play NCAA athletics and further their education.
Football players Octavius Harden and Mike Comer signed on to attend Wofford College, while football teammate Cameron Shuford and tennis player John Reid signed with Mars Hill College.
“I know a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders,” said N-C athletic director Ericia Turner during a speech at the signing. “You get that off of you and you know where you are going. I am excited and very proud of you. I am very proud to be a part of this moment with you all. I just want to say congratulations.”
Each one of these young men have impressive accolades on the field and court.
Harden rushed for 1,264 yards and 16 touchdowns during his senior season. He was selected for the 2010 Shrine Bowl game, which pits North Carolina and South Carolina high school football players against one another.
He was overwhelmed during his visit to Wofford and how much they had to offer him.
“I kept thinking it was too good to be true,” Harden said. “The fact that it is 1:30 away is good. I wanted to be close to home, but not too close. It was also the potential playing time. When I made my official visit, I knew Wofford was where I wanted to go.”
Comer, an offensive lineman, weight lifted 1,300 pounds, which makes him a member of the Red Club Champion. The club is for Newton-Conover football players who can lift at least 1,200 pounds four times and maintain a 3.0 GPA. He holds a 3.6 unweighted GPA.
He was also named to the CVAC’s All-Conference football team.
Comer was selected by the Carolina Panthers’ Community Captain Program for his dedication to the sport they play and commitment to academic excellence. He was honored on the field at the Panthers’ final home game the season.
Just like Harden, Comer felt an embrace from the Wofford football program and community.
“Me and Octavius went down there the same weekend,” Comer said. “When we met the coaches, they seemed like great people. The players are all nice guys too. It felt like one big family. As soon as we got down there, we felt like family.”
Shuford contributed to the Red Devil football team in many ways. He played three different positions – wide receiver, defensive back and quarter back. As a receiver, he caught 12 touchdown passes last season.
Shuford’s ability to blend in ultimately made his decision to attend Mars Hill an easy one.
“When I went on my visit, I fit in with everyone,” Shuford said. “It was like a family when I first got there. When you go to college, you want to make sure it feels like a family. That is why I made my decision to go there.”
Due to the performances of Harden, Comer, Shuford and others, the Red Devils football team began the season 9-0 before suffering their first loss at South Iredell.
Newton-Conover finished the regular season with a 10-1 record and 6-1 in conference play.
Red Devils head football coach Nick Bazzle was extremely happy for all three of his players signing with NCAA schools.
“When you have kids the caliber of those three, you wins some games,” said N-C football coach Nick Bazzle. “We have won quite a few games over the last few years. It is because of people like that. The thing that is more important than that is how good of a student and a person they are. They are high character kids. That is your pay day as a coach, when you get to see those types of kids rewarded for what they have done.”
Despite signing on to play tennis, Reid is an impressive two-sport athlete. He was a part of the 2A state championship in boys’ soccer in 2007.
On the tennis court, Reid finished the 2010 tennis season with a 24-6 record in 30 singles matches. That earned him 2010 All-CVAC honors.
In 11 doubles matches, Reid was undefeated despite playing with five different partners (Dillon Cervantez, Will Huggins, Austin Adams, Ryan Lampe, Hang Choi).
The Red Devils were undefeated as a team in 2010 at 26-0 and captured their fourth consecutive Catawba Valley Athletic Conference championship and captured the 2010 2A State Championship.
Reid is also one of the top students in his class, maintaining a high grade point average.
“He is one of the few kids here who has championship rings in multiple sports,” said Newton-Conover tennis coach Brian Tate. “He decided by his sophomore year that he was going to play college tennis. He is the first player I’ve had sign since I’ve been here.”
Reid knew current Mars Hill tennis player Bradley Bassinger, which helped him to make a smooth transition in getting to know the coaching staff and school better.
“It was a perfect fit for me,” Reid said. “Their coach really took time from his weekend to come watch me play in a tournament. They seemed to care more. It seemed like a good fit.”
As for what they want to study, three of the four have made their decision. Comer will pursue Environment Studies, Harden will study Engineering and Shuford wants to explore Business Management. Reid is undecided at the moment.