Smalls’ decision is a big, local one: Charlotte 49ers
by Staff Writer
He’s a new receiver headed to a new football program.
Hopewell High’s Darius Smalls and the new Charlotte 49ers sound like a match made for each other. Smalls, a senior, signed a National Letter of Intent on March 7 to play with Charlotte next season.
He’ll join several Charlotte-area players who’ll stay close to home as college players. Smalls, 6-foot-5, played his first season as a receiver last year with Hopewell, which reached the second round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs.
He said he also considered offers from Methodist, Wingate and North Carolina A&T. At Charlotte, every player will redshirt next season, giving them and coaches an extended opportunity to prepare for their debut in August 2013.
“I liked the school as a whole,” Smalls said. “I wanted to be a part of making history of the first year of having a football program. The coaches all welcomed me nicely and gave me a good outlook on how my first season would go.
“It’s a good opportunity staying at home because my family can come see me play. The benefits are that everyone who brought me up and encouraged me through my life will be able to see me play right here in Charlotte.”
Smalls, who also played for Hopewell’s basketball team, smiled plenty during the signing ceremony in the school’s media center. He wore a green-and-gold Charlotte hat, and posed with a Charlotte No. 49 jersey.
“I really have played receiver only one season,” Smalls said. “I sort of got by using my athletic abilities. This will be a chance for me to get bigger and faster, learn the plays and get to bond with other players and coaches. I like how the (Charlotte) coaches talked to me. I want to set tradition and I liked the campus. It was a tough decision with the other schools involved, but through my process I kept leaning more toward Charlotte.”
Hopewell coach David Johnson said Smalls, who concentrated mainly on basketball in high school, will benefit from a year of preparation.
“This really gives him a chance focus on the weight room and the transition to a college program,” Johnson said. “It closes down that learning curve he had to deal with as a receiver in high school. It’s going to be a great opportunity for him to go in, work hard and learn. That will benefit him.”
Johnson praised Smalls’ worth ethic and athleticism.
“If he puts his mind to it, I see nothing but success for him,” Johnson said. “Darius really bounced back toward the end of the season and became a threat for us. He helped lead us to the playoffs, and for three or four games in a row, he had some big catches for us.”