Four Trojans signBy Micah Lewter

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Surrounded by family, classmates and coaches, four teammates met in the library at Charles Henderson High School to make official their decision to play football for different schools.

Melvin Scott, Rod Burden, Chima McClain and Chaz Richards signed National Letters of Intent to NCAA Division I schools Wednesday.

"I've been excited about this for a long time," Scott said.

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Scott signed his letter to play football for Middle Tennessee State.

His cousin and teammate, Rod Burden, signed to stay at home. He wore his Troy State cap and signed the letter to play his home games in the same stadium he has played them the past four seasons.

"Man, I can't believe it," Burden said. "We're going to be on those video games."

Richards, who committed to Southern Mississippi in the spring, was equally excited about being immortalized on the digital screen.

"We're going to be on Playstation 2," he said.

All of the players felt they could contribute to the schools they chose.

McClain, a defensive lineman at Charles Henderson, will move to linebacker when he moves up the highway to Alabama State.

"I think I'll fit in good," he said.

He said he was impressed on his visit to Montgomery and did not really want to try any other place.

"It just felt like home," McClain said.

McClain will probably move to linebacker from his defensive line spot. Charles Henderson coach Hugh Fountain said McClain will fit in well at that spot.

"Chima can run real well," Fountain said. "He has a lot of speed.

"In a lot of ways he is our prototypical linebacker. He is 5-11, 6-feet tall and 200 pounds. We don't have many guys 6-4, 250. He is fast and his speed should help him."

Although Alabama State also wanted to sign Richards because of the reputation is brother Bam made on the Hornets, Richards wanted to play where he knew someone.

Former Trojan Terrell Paul will play his final season for Southern Miss this year and Richards wanted to play with him.

"They have somebody up there that I know and I like their defense," Richards said.

Richards is going to Southern Miss as a linebacker, but may get immediate playing time because he enjoys playing special teams. He admitted special teams players have to be slightly crazy, but said he enjoyed it.

"That's my specialty," he said.

Richards' career impressed his new coach, Jeff Bower.

"Chaz Richards is a guy who committed to us early, maybe even last spring," Bower said. "He played defensive tackle, and that's where they needed him more than anywhere else. He's a real tough guy who can run, very strong and physical football player. He's an outstanding student as well."

Scott was impressed with his visit to Middle Tennessee State. He said he did not worry about the distance between his school and his family.

"It's just a five-hour drive," he said. "It's a good school and I think I can get some playing time."

He said he expected to redshirt this season and get stronger.

Scott did not lack confidence in his abilities and began some good-natured trash talk toward Burden. Troy State, Burden's school, will face Middle Tennessee Nov. 8 in Tennessee and will have a return trip next season.

"We've already talked about that," Scott said. "I told him I'll be bringing the pain."

Burden, though, was not afraid of being hit.

"I won't try to avoid him," Burden said.

Burden was a four-year starter for Charles Henderson and will be playing wide receiver for Troy State.

"Rod was a spark for our team all four years," Fountain said. "He wasn't the biggest player out there, but he was explosive. He is so quick."

Troy State head coach Larry Blakeney said he was excited to keep Burden in Troy.

"I really like Rod Burden," Blakeney said. "Not only do I like him, but all of Troy likes him. There's something I see in his eyes when we talk to him that tells me he is a player. With the rules like they are on punt returns, if you have a little quickness, you can make some plays."

Burden said he wanted to play at Troy State so he could still be a Trojan.

"Rod may go down in history with the most games played at that stadium," Fountain said.

Fountain said other players may be able to attend college elsewhere. Some smaller schools are still looking at Charles Henderson players.