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Southern Nash's Thompson, Wilkins and Bell make commitments official

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Southern Nash football players, from left, Dae'One Wilkins, Kendrick Bell and Nadir Thompson on Wednesday at Southern Nash High School. Wilkins, Bell and Thompson have signed letters of intent to play football at Furman University, Charleston Southern University and Virginia Tech, respectively.

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By SAMUEL EVERS
Sports Writer

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

BAILEY —- Nadir Thompson had known for certain he was going to play football next season at Virginia Tech since last June. Kendrick Bell didn’t know he would be playing at Charleston Southern until a few weeks ago.

Dae’One Wilkins, who will be playing at Furman University, was somewhere in between.

The process and conclusion was different for each, but all three Southern Nash seniors signed their letters together on Wednesday in the Southern Nash library, making the chance to play Division I football official.

Thompson, who originally verbally committed to play for N.C. State but chose Virginia Tech because of its track record with defensive backs, will play cornerback.

Wilkins, who played three years as a linebacker for the Firebirds but switched to safety as a senior, will look to continue that position with Furman.

Bell, who made up half of a potent rushing duo this past season with junior Zonovan Knight, will play running back in Charleston.

As recent as this past fall, during the Firebirds run to the third round of the 3-A playoffs, Bell was without any offers.

The Buccaneers were his first and only Division I offer; they invited him for a visit earlier this year and offered him the scholarship on the spot. Bell was excited and relieved, but took a few weeks to take everything in before giving his word.

“I knew my time would come and it did. I was nervous at the beginning but just had to trust the process,” Bell said on Wednesday. “Just a huge accomplishment. Get to go to school, get a free education and I get to continue to play football.”

It was a relief for his family, too, who will be able to make the four-hour drive from Rocky Mount this fall to see him.

“They’re happy they don’t have to pay,” Bell said, laughing. “And they get to watch me play football.”

Three hours northwest of Bell, in Greenville, S.C., Wilkins will suit up for Furman, which reached the second round of the FCS playoffs in 2017. Wilkins had a handful of Division 2 and Division I offers, including a few in state, but the Paladins — even after visits to other suitors — felt right to him.

They weren’t the first to offer, but they felt the most authentic.

“They weren't so much talking about football,” he said. “They were talking about everyday life, how the people treat you. Other people were all football. They cared about me, but the whole thing wasn’t much other than football.”

A successful program helped, too.

“On top of that, their football program is good, and they do win, so that was a major key.”

For Thompson, who brought an end to a hectic recruiting process on Wednesday, his signing with the Hokies put a nice bow on a distinct chapter of his life.

“It’s a relief to know the process is over,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about other colleges trying to get involved, trying to get you to visit their school.

“It’s just a blessing to be able to go to college for free. To know my friends are doing the same thing. We’re going different directions, but it was a goal for us to get to college for free and it happened.”

Thompson liked Virginia Tech’s campus, and what it offered him as a student as well as a football player. The other members of next year’s freshman class in Blacksburg -- with which he shares a group chat -- have him excited, as well.

Thompson had numerous offers to other ACC schools, but ultimately reassessed a commitment to the Wolfpack because of VT’s interest and its reputation for developing cornerbacks.

“It’s known for DBs,” he said. “And that’s what position I want to play in the NFL.”

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