The Spring Valley gymnasium was full of students enjoying lunch, but most of their attention was focused on their classmates on the basketball court. The Vikings had seven athletes — including four football players — sign National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.
The headliner was linebacker Christian Miller, the No. 1 rated outside linebacker by ESPN, who will continue his career at Alabama, the consensus No. 1 team on the 2014 football recruiting landscape.
“It feels good to get it past me,” Miller said. “It’s been a long process and really stressful for a while. You learn it’s a once in the lifetime opportunity. A lot of people would love to be in your shoes, so you have to embrace it.”
Miller, who wore a Crimson sweater vest with the symbolic Alabama “A,” said a week ago he was thinking about signing his scholarship papers from his house but relented and joined his classmates on the big stage.
“The most stressful part was media-wise,” Miller said. “After that, just trying to decide exactly where you want to go. This is a really big decision, especially at this age. This is where you’re going to be the next four or five years of your life. You want to make sure you make a good decision for you and your family and not everybody else.”
Miller will look to add weight. He’s 6-foot-4, 212 pounds and understands he needs to develop before he plays. He will report to Alabama this summer.
“I’m a guy that will need time to develop, and I trust the coaching staff with that,” Miller said. “... I’ve already built good relationships with the players that I’m coming in with. I can’t wait to be around those guys.”
Alabama also signed the No. 2 rated outside linebacker in Rashaan Evans of Auburn, Ala.
The other Vikings signing were running back John Miller (James Madison), linebacker Josh Harlan (Hampton) and defensive end Brandyn Thompson (Winston Salem State). John Miller and Harlan are among the top 50 recruits in the state.
John Miller said they have been looking forward to this day since they enrolled at Spring Valley as freshmen.
“It feels great to know that your teammates are going to be playing college ball,” he said. “We’ve worked hard since we began here, and it’s a blessing to see that hard work pay off.”
Harlan is an example of why recruiting is an inexact science. He was a tackling machine for Spring Valley, ringing up over 200 tackles his senior season, but was undersized (5-10, 192) and had no major FBS offers.
He was receiving interest from the likes of Appalachian State, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina and Memphis.
“It was a difficult process with a lot of tough decisions to make,” Harland said. “I feel like going to Hampton is the best decision I could make. I felt at home when I visited Hampton. I loved the coaching staff, and it felt like a family up there, just like at Spring Valley. Everything happens for a reason. I’m just blessed enough to have this opportunity to play college ball.”