During his junior season at Hanahan High School, Corbin Heyward missed a crucial game against James Island. The big defensive end wasn’t injured or suspended by his coach.
You could call it a “Did Not Play — Mom’s Decision.”
“I mixed up the due dates on a math project,” Heyward recalled Wednesday. “So my mom pulled me out of practice, and because I missed practice, I had to miss the James Island game. And she had no regrets about that.”
Those school-first priorities — along with the 6-4, 240-pound Heyward’s late-blooming football skills — are the reasons Heyward was able to sign a national letter of intent Wednesday to play at the U.S. Naval Academy. Heyward, an All-Lowcountry pick for the Hawks last season, will spend a year at the Navy prep school in Newport, R.I., before entering the Academy. Upon graduation, he will serve at least a five-year term in the Navy.
Other key signings across the Lowcountry on national signing day included Summerville offensive lineman Zack Bailey to South Carolina and Fort Dorchester defensive lineman Eurndraus Bryant to North Carolina State. Wando linebacker Tyler Ragsdale got a late call from South Carolina assistant coach Steve Spurrier Jr. and will attend USC as a preferred walk-on.
At Hanahan, Heyward’s teammates Jacob Garibay signed with Charleston Southern, and Saaehim Brooks signed with Lenoir-Rhyne.
Heyward credited his parents, Arthur and Romaine, for keeping his priorities straight as his football skills grew.
“My mom, she will be at the school if she sees a zero,” Heyward said with a laugh. “That’s the main reason my grades are so straight. She will be right here if there are any bad grades to talk about.”
Romaine Heyward said she always wanted her son to take the long view.
“We just tried to let him know that there was a brighter light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “We always said, ‘What you do now will reap benefits later in your life.’ And I think he understood that early.”
If not, then missing a varsity game certainly emphasized the point.
“The coach was a little upset and said, ‘Do you have to pull him out of the game?’ Romaine Heyward said. “But, yes, I had to get his attention and let him know what’s right from wrong.”
Hawks coach Charlie Patterson first saw Heyward on the baseball field as an eighth-grader.
“I talked him into playing football,” Patterson said. “His mom wasn’t too sure about it, but he kept growing and blossomed into a great player and a great student.”
Heyward had 74 tackles with three sacks and seven tackles for loss for the Hawks, who finished 7-5 last season. He visited Annapolis a couple of weeks ago.
“I loved the place as soon as I got there,” Heyward said. “All the guys there, they care for each other, they love each other. Even when you graduate, your still part of everything. They didn’t sugarcoat anything; I know I have to serve afterwards, but I’m not worried about that.”
Making it through the Academy won’t be easy, but Heyward hasn’t backed down from a challenge yet.
“It not an easy road,” Patterson said. “And I know the academic side is just as important to him as the football side. I don’t think Corbin can go wrong choosing Navy and the benefits they offer. It’s a life-changing deal when you go there, if you can make it through it. And I think he will.”
Wando had four football players sign Wednesday, including Ragsdale, who didn’t know where he was going until late Tuesday night.
“Coach (Steve) Spurrier Jr. called last night and said we want you to be a Gamecock,” Ragsdale said. “I said ‘heck yeah’ and now I’m here.”
Ragsdale signed with South Carolina as a preferred walk-on. He finished second on the team with 71 tackles and a team-high four sacks his senior year.
Linebacker and tight end Zola Davis signed with Presbyterian College. Davis finished third on the team in total tackles this season but Presbyterian head coach Harold Nichols says his future is on the offensive side.
“We don’t want to pigeon hole him into one thing or another,” Nichols said. “But he’s a versatile athlete who’s able to do a lot of different things and cause matchup problems for defenses. I’m glad he’s on our side.”
Davis’ father, Zola Davis, played at Burke High School in the 1990s and finished his collegiate career at South Carolina as the school’s second-leading receiver with 164 receptions. He went on to play in the NFL for the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns.
“It’s a great day because it’sthe culmination of a lot of hard work not only for myself, but everyone who signed today,” Davis Jr. said. “It just shows that our hard work has finally paid off and we get to reward our parents and the people that supported us throughout our careers.”
Wando Tight end Ben Jacques signed with UNC Charlotte and offensive lineman Daniel Runck signed with Davidson College.
(Andrew Miller and Frankie Mansfield contributed to this story)
LOWCOUNTRY FOOTBALL SIGNEES
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. College
Raekwon Hymes OL 6-3 315 Newberry
Trevon Sanders OL 6-2 305 Troy
Taiwan Green LB 6-0 228 Limestone
Michael Rucker RB/DB 5-8 180 Campbell
Ryan Green DL/OL 6-4 245 Presbyterian
Ben Jacques TE 6-6 230 Charlotte
Daniel Runck OL 6-5 286 Davidson
Zola Davis WR/LB 6-2 205 Presbyterian
Tyler Ragsdale LB 6-2 213 South Carolina
Leron Carn WR/DB 6-3 215 Marshall
Joseph Dress QB 5-11 195 Catawba
Chris Mathis DL 6-3 270 Limestone
Alex Taylor OL 6-8 290 Appalachian State
Peyton Thompson DE 6-2 220 Limestone
Demond Witherspoon WR 6-0 165 Limestone
Aikeem Gadsden TE 6-1 218 Limestone
Saaehim Brooks WR/DB 6-0 175 Lenoir-Rhyne
Jacob Garibay DL 6-2 235 Charleston Southern
Corbin Heyward DL 6-4 240 Navy
Griffin Martin P/K 6-0 180 Limestone
Quaheim Duffus DB 5-11 176 Limestone
Johnell Brown DE/TE 6-3 187 S.C. State
DeAngelo Cleveland OL 6-1 260 Guilford
Wyatt Craig TE/DE 6-4 220 Newberry
Darelle Pressley RB/DB 5-10 175 Guilford
Mac McCurry LB 6-0 210 Newberry
Zack Bailey OL 6-5 315 South Carolina
Kawuan Cox LB 6-2 219 North Carolina Central
Eurndraus Bryant DL 6-2 335 North Carolina State
Myles White DE 6-4 225 Coastal Carolina
Leon Fields LB 6-2 230 Howard
Kobe Garrett WR/QB 5-9 175 Brevard
Cody Meree OL 6-2 275 Limestone
Chandler Avenel QB 6-0 180 Hudson Valley CC
Matt Gabel PK 5-6 160 Wingate
Tyler Garland RB 6-2 220 Brevard College
Keith Clark OL 6-0 265 Limestone College
Kenny Glover OL 6-5 315 Limestone College
Matt Linton ATH 6-0 170 Limestone College
Deshaun Santiago WR 6-2 170 Georgia Military College
CT Frederick WR 5-11 165 Brevard College
Devin Parker OL 6-1 250 Limestone College
Latrell Nieves WR 6-1 170 Marshall
Michael Billings RB 6-0 190 Coastal Carolina