The list of football players that have come out North Florida Christian and signed with premier Division-I programs is long, perhaps even surprisingly long.
It appears to have one more name still to add.
Eagles running back and defensive back Korey Charles committed to Mississippi State on Friday.
“I’m just blessed and honored to be in the category and league as some of the great ones,” Charles said. “It’s an honor to be in the same caliber as them. I’m real happy and just relieved (to commit).”
In what has been a resurgence under seventh-year Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen, who left Florida as offensive coordinator in 2008 to take the vacant job, Mississippi State last year reached No. 1 in the nation. The Bulldogs had an undefeated 9-0 start before tailing off at the end with losses to highly ranked Alabama and Ole Miss, and then No. 10 Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
“Coach Mullen and the staff really just made me feel like I wanted to be there, and it felt like home there,” Charles said. “They didn’t give me (false hope) just to get me there. Coach Mullen is a straight-up guy, and you can tell he’s a straight-up coach. He tells you how it is. He’s not going to lie to you and tell you what you want to hear.”
Charles, a three-star athlete capable of playing running back, wide receiver or defensive back, spurned offers from FSU, Clemson, Notre Dame, LSU, Wisconsin, Ole Miss, Louisville, Miami and North Carolina to head to Starkville.
He rushed for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns last year in his first year as a full-time, full-load starter, after current FSU sophomore and 2013 All-Big Bend Offensive Player of the Year Jonathan Vickers graduated. Charles also caught 19 passes out of the backfield for 205 yards, while returning kickoffs at an average of 25 yards per return, including one for a touchdown.
Charles (6-0, 180 lbs.) said he doesn’t care what his position is in college, just that he trusts wherever Mississippi State’s coaches play him.
NFC coach Robert Craft will be giving Charles more time at receiver this year to make up for holes left in the receiver corps following the graduation of Georgia Tech freshman Christian Philpott. The Eagles have a logjam in the backfield with the addition of FAMU DRS transfer T.J. Ashley and returning power back Terrell Powell.
“Most people, like Mississippi State said, were going to wait until he got on campus to make a decision (on position), and it’s been an intriguing thing,” Craft said. “There are a lot of people that think he has potential to play DB for a very long time, maybe even beyond college with his natural skill set and his body. But there is something to be said for guys that are really good with the ball in their hands, too.
“For Mississippi State, they’re excited to watch him at receiver this year which is something new for him. When he’s gone to camp, he’s competed on both sides. They feel like it’s a win-win, and then of course there’s what he can do in the kicking game for them.”
Charles is now happy just to have the pressure of committing over with and is ready just put up the best senior season he can have. Craft expressed concern over the way the recruiting process has continued to evolve, even over his last six years at NFC.
“It’s forced everyone, colleges and players, to speed the whole process up, and I don’t think there’s a way to slow it down,” Craft said. “My conversation with parents now is that unless you’re in the top five players at your position in the nation, you have to understand your offers are simply verbal and they can go away any day. It’s a business decision. There are a lot of guys competing for a spot, and that’s why you see the early commits, so someone from another school or another city doesn’t take that spot. You have to be smart or you could lose out on some good opportunities.”
Charles still has his work cut out for him this season just to go down in infamy within his own school, which has seen former Eagles such as Casey Weldon finish runner-up for the 1991 Heisman Trophy and Ernie Sims become a first-round NFL Draft pick.
But for one day, Charles is grouped together in a pantheon of unlikeliness from a small school that’s developed a rather recent rich football history.
“It really is pretty amazing to think of the signees to Power 5 conferences,” Craft said. “It feels like one guy just about every year and some years as many as three or four. I think it speaks to the respect our program has in town, people wanting to be a part of it. Obviously being a private school, kids can come here from anywhere, which is a benefit. Guys now are reaping the benefit of what the guys 10, 15 years ago did. They went off to a college, did right on and off the field, so whether the coaches changed jobs, they still want to recruit North Florida Christian School. Even among the 5A, 6A, 7A schools we’re going to be mentioned in the same breath.
“It’s great to be able to share that with middle school kids on down that ‘Hey, if you work hard enough, you can be like these guys that have gone before you.’”
Past NFC football major Division-I signees
1987: Casey Weldon, QB (FSU)
1991: Aaron Dely, WR (FSU)
1992: Mike Gibson, RB (FSU)
1996: Mike Usry, QB (Georgia)
1997: Carlos Spikes, QB (South Carolina)
1998: Tony Milton, RB (Syracuse)
1999: Constantin Ritzmann, DE (Tennessee); Randy Golightly, FB (FSU)
2000: Claudius Osei, DB (FSU)
2001: Cliff Harrell, RB (Clemson); Matt Root, TE (Notre Dame)
2003: Ernie Sims, LB (FSU); Roger Heinz, QB (North Carolina)
2004: Phillip Moody, OL (Louisville); Blake Field, QB (Auburn)
2006: Marcus Sims, LB (FSU); Ochuko Jenije, DB (FSU); Carlton Salters, WR (Arkansas)
2008: Melvin Ray, WR (Alabama)
2010: Clint Trickett, QB (FSU)
2012: Travis Blanks, DB (Clemson)
2014: Jonathan Vickers, RB (FSU)
2015: Christian Philpott, WR (Georgia Tech)
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