During his recent visit to Kent State University, part of Gar-Field running back Rasheed McClaude wanted to commit on the spot. He felt like he fit in socially, his mother liked the school and he had the opportunity to fulfill two dreams: to play Division I-A football and become the first in his family to go to college.
Like he was patiently waiting for a hole to open, McClaude instead took his time with the decision.
After discussing with Gar-Field head coach Jim Poythress, McClaude gave his verbal commitment to the Golden Flashes on Dec. 30. He can make it official on Feb. 5, the first day recruits are allowed to sign their letters-of-intent.
“I’m happy,” McClaude said. “I felt it was right after I went and took the visit.”
Though Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia Military Institute were among the schools that often called him at home, McClaude said that Kent State had been interested for a couple of years. He was also invited to visit with the Flashes’ top group of recruits.
Some Mid-American Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference schools were interested in offering McClaude a scholarship if they lost out on other prospects.
“I want to go to the place where I’m wanted,” he said. “I just didn’t want to be sitting around waiting until the last minute.”
McClaude, a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder who rushed for 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, expects to play running back at the Akron, Ohio-area MAC school, which features a 30,520-seat stadium and an artificial turf field.
Playing big-time college football is something McClaude has wanted to do since he was a student at Beville Middle School.
“[Hylton football player] Deon Butler’s dad used to always tell me he’ll see me on TV some day,” McClaude said. “People like that gave me the confidence to do it.”
He’ll get a chance to compete for a job as a freshman after the Flashes limped through an injury-plagued 3-9 season. Kent State’s 6-5 season in 2001 was the Golden Flashes’ first winning mark in 14 years.
The single-back Kent State offense occasionally features some of the same I-based zone running plays that Gar-Field uses.
McClaude has scored a 19 on an ACT test, which means he’ll qualify if his core grade-point average is between 2.25 and 2.35, according to the NCAA’s published sliding scale.
McClaude, who may study business at Kent, said his current GPA is high enough to qualify.
“As of right now, he’s qualified,” said Gar-Field head coach James Poythress. “He just has to keep it where it is.”
Gar-Field teammate Mo Steward is planning to commit to Georgetown later this week, Poythress said. Fellow Indians and major-college prospects Flordell Kissee, Darren Garrigan, Elihu Smith and Adam Stewart may be headed to junior colleges.
McClaude is the second in the county’s class of 2003 to commit to a Division I-A school. Woodbridge’s James Terry committed to the University of Virginia before this season began. He also plans to play running back.
McClaude is also Gar-Field’s second Division I-A commitment in the past two seasons. Linebacker Jamar Atkinson, a close friend of McClaude’s, committed to Syracuse last season, but spent this year at SUNY-Morrisville.
McClaude said his parents were “ecstatic” at the news of his commitment.
Though Poythress expects McClaude, who he describes as “a good kid,” to do well on the field at Kent, he thinks he could accomplish something big in the classroom.
“My expectations are number one that he gets a degree,” Poythress said. “I think that’s the most important thing.”