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When the traditional National Signing Day period arrived in February, Hunt High varsity football players Marcus Thomas and Derrick Speight found themselves spectators as a legion of their cohorts in the Warrior athletic program confirmed their collegiate destinations.
But that treasured scene finally transpired for the duo Wednesday in the Hunt auditorium.
Surrounded by a collection of coaches and parents, Thomas and Speight signed a celebratory letter to play NCAA Division III football at North Carolina Wesleyan in Rocky Mount.
“We’re real excited about them going to Wesleyan,” Hunt head coach Keith Byrum said. “It’s a place where we don’t send enough kids. To be a relatively nearby school, you’d think that we’d have more Wilson kids going there. So I’m real excited to have some of ours there. We’re going to get a chance to see them play.”
The pursuit of Thomas, a 6-foot, 160-pound wide receiver and Speight, a 5-9, 250-pound lineman, was a dogged one for NCWC head coach Jeff Filkovski and staff. Including Filkovski, half of the Battling Bishops’ six-member coaching staff was involved in the recruiting process of both players. Thomas will make the move from a two-way player at wide receiver and defensive back for the Warriors to focus on the receiving position. Speight will see time along the offensive line at guard and will begin to log snaps at the center spot for NCWC.
The Bishops made initial contact in the beginning of March.
“They were excited about the prospect of getting one, if not both of them,” Byrum said. “And I knew they meant business, because when they showed up, it wasn’t one guy. Three coaches showed up, and they wanted to sit down and talk to them a little bit about life, football, school and all the rest. They pursued them pretty vigorously.”
Thomas expects to utilize his speed in NCWC’s spread offense to his advantage. He was one of Hunt’s main threats on the outside last season as the passing game labored, leading the Warriors with 16 receptions for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
His forte was taking quick hitches and turning the 3-yard gain into big plays after the catch from the slot receiving position.
“I love the hitches,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be great to go to Wesleyan and use my speed and use my talents that God gave me and really help them out.”
Speight chose NCWC over interest from Guilford College and Brevard.
“Some of the other schools didn’t really show that they wanted me like (NCWC) did,” Speight said. “I think it was a good decision.”
“I’m going to have to get better at snapping the ball every single time,” Speight said of taking center reps. “I’ve got to make sure it’s muscle memory and I’ve just got to be ready to block somebody quicker than normal because it’s right there as soon as I snap the ball.”
The launch of Speight and Thomas into college football will mark 10 Warriors who will get an opportunity, in some form, at the next level.
“The number one thing that (NCWC is) going to get are great kids,” Byrum said. “They don’t ever have to worry one minute about are they doing the things they’re supposed to be doing. They’re going to be doing exactly what they need them to be doing all the time.”
NCWC was 3-7 overall and 3-4 in USA South Athletic Conference play under Filkovski in 2017.