After his first difficult brush with a life-changing decision, visits to colleges in- and out-of-state and daily inquiries regarding his status, Josh Baldwin can finally tell people where he’s going with certainty.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound North Stafford senior will play football for Navy.
Baldwin, who passed on VMI, William & Mary and Bowling Green, will make his commitment official this morning. Then, he says, he can relax and enjoy the rest of his senior year.
“It was a tough decision,” Baldwin said. “[Making it] is the first step into becoming a real adult.”
Navy, which he visited this past Thursday, won his favor by showing him more than just its football program.
“It was the top of the line facilities and the opportunities they offer, especially after graduation,” Baldwin said. “You can’t beat it.”
“I’m really happy for him,” said Eric Cooke, Baldwin’s coach at North Stafford. “I think it’s a great opportunity to gain great experience, a life experience. God knows you come out the other end of any of the academies and your life is pretty much set [as far as] the opportunities you’re going to have [and] the networking that’s available to you.”
Baldwin caught an area-high 84 passes for 1,036 yards and 10 touchdowns, and was all-Group AAA. He was also the Commonwealth District Offensive Player of the Year and was rated the 46th best prospect in Virginia by the Roanoke Times.
Defensively, he was all-district and second-team all-Northwest Region as a defensive back.
Cooke said Baldwin was hurt in recruiting because teams couldn’t figure out where they wanted to play him.
“Josh has the Division I potential coming out his ears,” Cooke said. “He’s in between a lot of positions — he may not be a pure linebacker, a pure safety or a pure wide receiver — and for that reason, a lot of [larger] schools passed on him. In my opinion it’s going to be their mistake.”
“I’m happy where I’m going,” Baldwin said. “A lot of those schools that passed on me, we get to play them.”
Baldwin isn’t sure whether Navy will make him a receiver or a strong safety, but he prefers to catch passes.
“It’s just a more fun position to play,” he said.
Cooke said Baldwin is a complete student-athlete.
“His academics are impeccable, his work ethic is impeccable, his character is impeccable,” Cooke said. “[Other schools] missed out on a on great kid, and it’s going to be Navy’s gain.”
In other recruiting news, Gar-Field linebacker Jamar Atkinson is still awaiting the necessary test scores, but will sign a letter-of-intent with Syracuse today.
Indians head coach Jim Poythress said that Atkinson has “been working diligently” on improving his test scores. The coach was also impressed that Syracuse maintained its commitment to Atkinson, who verbally committed months ago, but still visited the University of Virginia.
“[Syracuse head coach Paul] Pasqualoni came down here and met with him and his mom,” Poythress said. “They made a commitment to him and they were going to stick with him. They showed that they cared about this kid. I thought that said a lot about their program. Hopefully things will work out for Jamar.”
Colonial Forge head coach Karl Buckwalter said Chuck Brown is scheduled to visit Division I-AA Towson University (Md.) this weekend. Brown is rated the state’s 72nd best prospect by the Roanoke Times.
Also signing today are Potomac’s Antwan Stewart with Tennessee and Potomac’s Keenan Carter and Hylton’s Ahmad Brooks with Virginia.
Sports editor David Fawcett contributed to this article.