Local football players prepping for combine

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ST. THOMAS - High school football players from across the country signed their names to National Letters of Intent last week and accepted scholarships from some of the best NCAA schools in the land.

Local prep standouts Shaquille Peterson and Everson Fevrier were among many who watched some of the National Signing Day hoopla on television and asked themselves when their day would come.

For many local football players, their one and only chance at playing football in college is possible only because of the annual V.I. High School Football Showcase. Charlotte Amalie High School coach Francisco Jarvis started up the free combine-style camp four years ago and the next installment will be held at CAHS from March 7 to 11.

"This is a big opportunity for us, and we want to prove there is talent down here in the Virgin Islands," said Fevrier, a senior two-way lineman who also played linebacker last season at Ivanna Eudora Kean High. "We took no time off after the season and have been lifting weights and getting ready for this."

All high school sophomores, juniors and seniors in the territory are invited to participate in the combine, which will feature full-speed conditioning and agility workouts in front of college coaches from nationally-ranked junior college programs.

Jarvis said invitations were sent out to eight of the Top 10 National Junior College Athletic Association programs to attend, and five have already confirmed their participation.

"Central Lakes College, Edward Waters College are in, and Monroe College is starting a football program next year, so those schools will definitely be here," said Jarvis, who has coached the Chickenhawks to six straight territory titles. "Butler College in Kansas and East Mississippi just called me yesterday and we're working on them right now."

Central Lakes, located in Minnesota, has signed eight USVI football players over the last two years as CLC coach Greg Medeck and Jarvis have established a strong pipeline.

In fact, over the first three years of the combine, Jarvis said 18 local players have inked their names to college football commitment letters because of the exposure gained at the combine.

"Those are guys we've played with over the years and seen in the newspaper," said CAHS senior quarterback Shaquille Richardson, who played alongside several college-bound players the last two seasons. "We want to be the next set to go."

Last year was the first time the combine was held on both St. Thomas and St. Croix. Jarvis also said players from St. John and the British Virgin Islands are also invited. More than 60 players appeared at the St. Thomas combine last year and St. Croix saw similar numbers.

"The kids are just so excited to have this opportunity," Jarvis said. "Our young men need as much help as possible, and playing football is an avenue for them to shape their future."

Dozens of players with ties to the USVI have risen to the collegiate and NFL ranks, but only a few came up through the local high school programs.

Renaldo Turnbull graduated from CAHS in 1985 and played linebacker at West Virginia University. He was later drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 1990 NFL draft and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1993. He is the first known USVI high school graduate to bridge the gap to the top-tier of collegiate football.

More recently, Conn Davis Jr., a 2002 Antilles School graduate, signed with Connecticut. He played with the Huskies for one year, then he joined the Colgate football team as a tight end and defensive end. Matthew Burns, a 2006 CAHS graduate, signed with Toledo and later played tight end at Moorehouse College.

"I do not have a lot of faith in these Division-I schools picking up our boys just like that," Jarvis said. "It's not that they don't have the ability, but the recruiting process is a tough one."

Which goes back to watching fellow 18-year-old football players from the States holding televised press conferences about which school they will play at. The top players from territory said they are not envious; they just want an opportunity to shine.

"We treat this like a college tryout," Richardson said. "Sure, we don't have all the film and all the recruitment stuff, but we can play. Hopefully these coaches will find out for themselves soon enough."

Jarvis is still actively seeking corporate sponsors and donations. For more information on volunteering or registration, call Jarvis at 514-5197 or e-mail franciscojarvis@hotmail.com.

- Contact sports writer Aaron Gray at 714-9102 or email agray@dailynews.vi.

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