E.A. Sports Today

Jackson has his day

Piedmont running back waits past National Signing Day, signs with Division II Lenoir-Rhyne to continue his football career

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

PIEDMONT – Last Wednesday, Darnell Jackson watched from the wings as two of his Piedmont teammates signed scholarship papers to play football at the college of their choice. He looked on proudly knowing his day would come.

That day came Thursday as the Bulldogs’ running back celebrated with family and friends his signing with Lenoir-Rhyne, a Division II school in North Carolina that had led its division in rushing each of the last three seasons.

He could have rushed into a decision to join teammates Bayley Blanchard and Neonta Alexander signing on the dotted line on National Signing Day. Instead, he took a mature stance and weighed all his options – some late developing — before taking the one that fit him both personally and athletically.

“I was happy for them, just to see the guys I grew up with sign that paper and get to play on that next level; it meant everything to me,” Jackson said Thursday as the crowd began to gather in the Piedmont gym. “I knew my time was coming. I knew I had more options that opened up, so I was just waiting to sign with my school because I wasn’t really sure what one I really wanted to go to.”

Jackson actually moved the paperwork Friday. He had been hoping for an offer from nearby Jacksonville State, but he didn’t have a full offer from there. Lenoir-Rhyne had stayed with him throughout the recruiting process, telling him “they want the ball in my hands.” The Bears got back on him after his JSU visit, put together a quality package and the marriage was made.

The Bears had only one running back on its announced list of signees last Wednesday.

“I was very glad I waited because I got to see more options open up and how the process worked,” Jackson said. “If I would’ve taken that offer (last) Wednesday I wouldn’t for sure know if I wanted to do it or not, so I had time to talk to my family and all the people who had been with me from Day One.”

Piedmont coach Steve Smith applauded his running back’s approach to one of the major decisions in his life.

“As of last Wednesday he still had a couple options and wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do,” Smith said. “Although there’s a lot of national media attention given to National Signing Day, when he and I talked it was one of those things that if you’re not comfortable, 100 percent sure what you want to do, we can wait.

“A lot of his recruiting went down to the wire. Some things looked like they might come through didn’t and some things he was unaware of started to come through for him. I thought it was mature on his part to wait and make a decision that was really what he wanted to do.”

This time, it was Blanchard looking on proudly from the wings. He was just as happy for his teammate as Jackson was for him last week.

“He did a good thing in waiting and getting his best option,” the West Alabama signee said. “He’s a great athlete and he’s going to fit well in their program. I think him waiting was his best option, really.

“You always want your brothers up there with you. I was glad Neonta was there with me and it’d have been nice with Nell, but he did a great thing and chose the right place for him. I think it’s a great fit.”

On the cover: Piedmont running back Darnell Jackson shares a moment with his stepmother, Tammy Dunaway, before being congratulated by teammates and friends on his signing with Lenoir-Rhyne.


Oxford keeper Miranda Schoening is surrounded by (from left) dad Dan, Birmingham United director Andrew Brower, club coach Troy Gutterridge and mom Julie during her signing ceremony for North Texas.

Oxford keeper Miranda Schoening is surrounded by (from left) dad Dan, Birmingham director Andrew Brower, club coach Troy Gutterridge and mom Julie during her signing ceremony for North Texas.

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