From Patriots to Hornets

Published 11:49 pm Friday, February 6, 2009

National Signing Day proved a momentous occasion for Linden High seniors Maurice Tate and Shantrell Braxton, who each inked scholarship offers from Alabama State University.

“The definitely got a steal with both kids,” Linden head coach Andro Williams said of state’s acquisition of the Patriots dynamic offensive duo.

Tate and Braxton anchored the 13-1 Patriots’ offense in 2008, combining for 3,867 rushing yards and 68 touchdowns on the season.

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Braxton, a halfback at Linden, figures to stay at his natural position with the Hornets.

“There were a lot of schools that were interested in Shantrell,” Williams said. “They just didn’t pull the trigger.”

Braxton received the offer late Tuesday night and committed immediately.

“I like the opoprtunity,” Braxton said. “They took a chance on me out of all these schools. It gives me a chance to get my degree.”

The signing comes as a relief to Braxton, whose tumultuous senior year has seen him relocate to Linden from Demopolis after a series of personal problems.

“Looking back over this time, it’s a relief. Most people probably thought that Shantrell Braxton wasn’t going to make it,” Braxton said. “It feels great just to know that I’m going to school, going to keep my future going, keep playing football. I get to keep my work up and try to make it to another level.”

Braxton said he anticipates being redshirted his first year as a Hornet, but hopes to compete for playing at the running back position in 2010.

“You want to give every kid an ample opportunity to be successful. I think coming here and doing what he did this year helped him to grow up and see that he could handle a lot and be successful,” Williams said of Braxton.

While Braxton will continue his career as a running back. Tate opted to play defense at the collegiate level.

“I believe my passion for the game is defense all the way,” Tate, who made 146 tackles, nine sacks and one interception on his way to earning All-State, 1A Lineman of the Year and Super 12 honors, said. “I believe I’d rather hit than get hit any day.”

The leader of the Linden team passed up an offer from Alabama A&M that would have inserted him on the Bulldogs’ depth chart as a fullback.

“I could play either one, but my heart is just linebacker. Hands down,” Tate, who also rushed for 2,341 yards and 42 touchdowns on the year, said of the choice he faced.

Tate received attention from a bevy of NCAA Division I programs. However, his offers were limited largely because many recruiters believe his 5-foot-11-inch frame will be too small to succeed on defense at the next level.

“I don’t think it will be a factor,” Williams said of Tate’s height. “You’ve seen guys at his same height playing in the NFL at the same position. I don’t think his height will be a factor at all.”

His decision to sign with Alabama State, who has been recruiting him since his junior season, was also based largely on his relationship with the Hornet coaching staff.

“My relationship with the coaches at State and A&M is just totally different. I like that the coach committed from day one,” Tate said of ASU head coach Reggie Barlow. “They told me ever since then that I’m the person they need to change their program.”

“I think he’s going to bring a whole nother dimension as far as the leadership and his physicality,” Williams said of Tate. “I think he’ll end up on the field in a hurry because of his leadership.”

While the day was a considerable achievement for Tate and Braxton, it also served as another milestone for the Linden program.

“A lot of the kids feel like they have an opportunity. It helps them all to see that kids have an opportunity at a 1A school,” Williams said. “It tells that you’ve got some talent here and some kids that want to do something.”