The dream was born on recreation league fields. It was nurtured through middle school and high school football games.
It came to fruition Wednesday on national signing day and permeated the fiber of three North Baton Rouge schools: Scotlandville, Southern Lab and Madison Prep.
“This is something we’ve been talking about and waiting for since we were 3 or 4 years old,” Madison Prep’s Malcolm Roach said. “We all played together when we were growing up, and we all knew we wanted to get here some day — the day when we’d sign to play college football.”
The schools might seem to have little in common. Southern Lab added to its rich tradition by winning a Division IV select title last fall.
Southern Lab had seven signees and could add three more in the days ahead. Wide receiver Curtlan Williams turned down scholarship offers to follow a bigger dream by accepting a preferred walk-on offer at LSU.
The Wednesday afternoon ceremony featured the school’s band and dance team. There was a drum roll before each player announced his signing choice and headed to a table to sign a letter of intent.
Defensive lineman Deion Rainey went all Superman, ripping the buttons off a white dress shirt to reveal a Tulane T-shirt, confirming his signing with the Green Wave.
Hours earlier, Scotlandville set the tone with the largest football signing class in school history: 13 players, led by receiver Chris Johnson and defensive end DeAndre Williams, who both signed with Tulane. Linebacker Reggie Cleveland signed with Louisiana Tech.
The Scotlandville gym is adorned with banners lauding its boys basketball prowess. On this day there were gold and black balloons and gold tablecloths displayed neatly to showcase football players.
Scotlandville football coach Robert Valdez introduced the players and apologized just in case he left anyone out during his remarks.
“I’m very glad for these young men,” he said. “The foundation had been laid before I got here this year. It was just a matter of helping them live out their potential and their dreams. At the end of the day, these kids have at least four more years to follow their dreams in football.
“It’s big for them, and it’s also big for the school. I know there have been times when the school has been recognized for things that weren’t positive. But this is good — it’s very good for Scotlandville.”
Johnson missed his entire junior season with a knee injury. Those hard times led to Wednesday’s good times.
“Rehab was hard,” he said. “There were times when I wasn’t sure the knee could handle the amount of weight they gave me. I had doubts, but if you want something, you really go after it.
“We said in ninth grade we’d have the largest signing class ever at Scotlandville. Hopefully next year the guys that follow beat that. We want the program to grow.”
Johnson, decked out in a teal jacket, and Cleveland made their way to the Madison Prep ceremony a short time later.
Roach, a Texas signee, arrived minutes after the Scotlandville signing ceremony ended and was at the Southern Lab ceremony to support former teammates he went to school with through the ninth grade before he moved to MPA to play for his father, Mike.
Six Madison prep players signed, including Roach. Wide receiver/defensive back Everett Richard was the most emotional, breaking down in tears as he told the group he would be attending Grambling.
It was the first signing ceremony for the Chargers’ three-year-old varsity program. Yet there was no shortage of ties to the traditions of inner-city football and one program that has faded away.
Longtime Capitol coach Roman Bates got a guided tour from one of the players he mentored, MPA’s Mike Roach, before the festivities began. Roach pointed to the 81-year-old Bates as a role model who made him believe in his self worth and hard work.
Linebacker Cedric Triplett was one of two Chargers who signed with Jackson State after being recruited by former Capitol player and coach Chad Germany, who is now an assistant at JSU.
Triplett and Southern Lab defensive back Tenoa Alex were teammates at Redemptorist in 2014 before the school closed. Now they’ll be teammates at Jackson State, too.
Longtime Southern Lab middle school coach and assistant Kevin Augustine came to give Malcolm Roach a trophy signifying his selection to an All-America team, reviewing the list of greats from Southern Lab greats — a list that includes the likes of the late Baron Jackson and former LSU stars Marcus Spears and Chad Jones.
As she closed the ceremony, Madison Prep Principal Alisa Welsh told students about the bond between her school system and ex-Southern Lab star Taurean Nixon.
“You might want to look for No. 39 of the Broncos in the Super Bowl on Sunday,” Welsh said. “His name is Taurean Nixon and, before he went to Southern Lab, he came to the CSAL middle school. He was one of you.”
Augustine later closed Southern Lab’s signing ceremony by reciting a list of the school’s top players. He also mentioned Scotlandville, Madison Prep and a few other local schools.
“Yes,” Augustine said, “there’s good things going on here.”