Redd letter day

By Allen LaMountain
ASST SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   Friends since grammar school, and rumored to be steadfast about taking the next step together, on Wednesday afternoon Cyclone seniors Vince Redd and Walter Brown made their decisions known.
   In the Elizabethton High School library Redd signed a letter of intent to play for coach Al Groh's Virginia Cavaliers while Brown signed on with East Tennessee State University.
   Redd chose Virginia over several other options that were before him such as Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee - who reportedly offered a scholarship to Brown as a means of enticing Redd, but to no avail - as Redd chose the Charlottesville, Va. school.
   "They did offer me something," said Brown of the last-minute UT proposal. "But, by that time Vince had pretty much decided and I had decided what I was going to do. If they had said the same thing three weeks ago it may have made a difference. But I'm happy with my decision to stay close to home."
   For Redd the debate and rumors swirled for weeks as he remained mute about his decision, which he admitted was a tough one to make saying, "It was a tough choice, but I really felt like (Virginia) was where I was supposed to be. All the schools I talked to were real good to me and all have good teams and programs, but I felt that the Virginia coaches and the people there all made me feel like I would fit in."
   For Redd, the signing was a culmination of a solid football career at EHS where he stood out as a linebacker as well as a tight end on offense. Redd's senior season was capped off by the Lawrenceburg Quarterback Club voting him one of the top three prospects in the state.
   Redd led the Cyclones this season in tackles from his LB spot and will look to hone his skills under a coach that was a linebacker coach - as well as a head coach - in the professional ranks with the New York Jets in Groh.
   "They looked at me as a linebacker," Redd said. "With a lot of hard work I hope to be able to start next year. There was pressure for me to select UT, but I have to take it all in perspective and I think I made the right choice."
   Redd's father Vince, Sr. said he feels that having a coach like Groh work with his son can only be a positive, saying, "It could be a big factor having a coach like Al Groh working with him. The thing that made me proud was that he made his own decision. He made the decision himself, and it was his decision entirely."
   Brown - a distinguished prep star - was the offensive leader of the Cyclone football squad the past two seasons, but he put himself on another level with a standout senior season.
   Brown rushed for 1,800 plus yards and scored 25 touchdowns in a season that established him as a top-flight running back at the prep level. Now it's time to see if the lightning-quick Brown can take his game to the next level, and he is confident he can.
   "I want to be a running back, but I know I will have to work hard to impress the coaches and show them I can be a running back," said Brown. "All my high school life I have played three sports. But right now I want to concentrate on one sport to be the best that I can at it."
   East Tennessee State's football program has long been criticized for appearing to be indifferent to local talent that many feel can play, and perhaps with the signing of Brown ETSU can begin to build a new tradition of looking a bit longer at local prospects.
   If Brown can raise his level of performance to the level Gerald Sensabaugh - a Dobyns-Bennett graduate - has, the Bucs will be getting an exciting talent that can only make the program better, and offer further proof that the East Tennessee area is fertile football ground.
   "I'm very proud that Walter will get a chance to go to college," said Brown's aunt Carol Terry, who has been his legal guardian since Brown was in the fifth grade at Harold McCormack. "I want him to have the opportunity to succeed, and wherever that may be was his choice. I kept asking him, but until a few days ago he didn't know what his decision would be."
   One person outside of the families that had to be proud was Cyclones head football coach Tommy Jenkins who said of his star performers, "I'm tickled to death for them. Their decisions showed a lot of character and each accomplished his goal on his own terms.
   "I'm sure that UT fans are disappointed, but Vince has made his decision and Walter made his, and we have to respect that. Those two were raised to be exactly what they are, and that is good, young gentlemen."
   For the pair that has been inseparable since childhood, the move was a big one in terms of being separated for the first time in their young lives. But it was also a choice to each take his own path and prove themselves on their own terms.
   "Staying together was a consideration," admitted Brown. "But we'll get back together later in life. We'll always be friends and I'll be checking to see how he's doing from time to time and I'm sure he'll do the same with me. It will be all right."