Jordan Morris had a sitdown with Rock Hill High football coach Bubba Pittman about a year ago to discuss future goals.
The main one on the list -- signing an FBS scholarship -- was crossed off Wednesday morning at the school’s media center. Morris and three other Rock Hill High athletes -- Mikayla Coccia, Lanie Jo Knight and Logan McFadden -- all scrawled their signatures on national letters of intent that further their playing days into college.
For Morris, the meeting with Pittman made his to-do list crystal clear.
“At the time I didn’t have any Division I looks,” Morris said. “But I told him, ‘I feel like I’ve played against the best, I feel like I’m a Division I player.’”
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Morris made up ground academically and improved his strength and on-field performance to the point that he went from no Division I looks to having plenty to pick through. Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, Western Kentucky, Kent State, Samford and Charleston Southern were all interested in him. One thing helped Coastal Carolina emerge from the crowd.
“There was never any confusion between me and them,” said Morris. “They made it clear since Day 1 they wanted me. So I made it clear I wanted them.”
Morris is interested in majoring in business or national security. He’s coming off an All-Region 4-5A and second team All-Area season in which he intercepted four passes, forced two fumbles and blocked a pair of kicks.
“I’m one of those guys that I like to speak it into existence,” Morris said, smiling. “I just kept saying, just kept saying it even at times it didn’t look like it would work out. Just came and started working hard and ball out every game and it happened.”
Mikayla Coccia, USC Beaufort
For Coccia, scenery was a key part of her college decision.
The choice came down to Montreat, a small school perched in the North Carolina mountains, or USC Beaufort, an equally beautiful campus at the South Carolina coast. From there, Coccia opted for NAIA school USC Beaufort thanks in part to a five-day women’s soccer camp she attended at the school last summer. Coccia was able to live in the dorms, experience the campus and train and play in front of the Beaufort coaches.
“I wasn’t expecting a scholarship but I got offered by Beaufort and I just felt at home when I walked on the campus,” she said. “It was really important for my decision. It was just a really good opportunity that I had.”
Coccia plans to major in pre-dentistry. A strong student already taking college classes, Coccia will play in Beaufort’s midfield or its back line.
Lanie Jo Knight, James Madison
If it feels like Lanie Jo Knight has dominated local high school distance running for a long time, it’s because she has. Knight began running with Rock Hill High as a seventh grader and her hard work, and results, paid off Wednesday morning when she signed to run cross country and track and field at James Madison.
“I’m so excited, it’s always been a goal,” she said. “I’ve always thought if I put my mind to it, I can do it.”
Sounds like a runner.
Knight also considered South Carolina and Appalachian State. She has a roster spot at James Madison and also the carrot of working toward future scholarship money, a difficult thing to get in college running. Knight has a 4.2 grade point average in IB classes. She’ll major in kinesiology, essentially the study of human movement.
“I never thought this day would come, just because of how long I’ve been running,” she said with a laugh.
Logan McFadden, UNC Pembroke
Rock Hill High’s starting QB this past season, McFadden signed with UNC Pembroke on Wednesday morning.
“It’s honestly been a dream as long as I’ve been in football,” he said. “I’ve missed it since the season has been over, so I’m eager to get back out there.”
McFadden, who threw for over 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior, is interested in majoring in either environmental science or business. He joins a UNC Pembroke program accustomed to success.
“There is some big guys. When people hear D-II, don’t be mistaken because they’re ball players,” McFadden said. “I just really liked how close the whole team was, even the coaches. They hang out together on weekends, it’s just a tight-knit group.”