LAURINBURG — Fighting Scots senior Javon Ratliffe signed his letter of intent to play Division II college football at Johnson C. Smith University on National Signing Day.
Javon was joined by his mother Sharon and his twin brother Davon as he signed on the dotted line and punched his ticket out of Scotland County.
Johnson C. Smith University is a private historically black university in Charlotte, two hours north of Laurinburg. The Golden Bulls play in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), made up of teams mostly from North Carolina. Teams that compete in two divisions, Northern and Southern, include Fayetteville State, Shaw University, Winston-Salem University, Saint Augustine’s University and Virginia State University.
Last season, Johnson C. Smith finished with a 2-8 overall record and 2-5 in the Southern Division of the CIAA conference putting them in fourth place under current head coach Kermit Blount, who joined the program in 2015.
“I liked the campus and the school overall. I vibed with the coaches and my teammates, so I’m going to go and show them the talent that Scotland County can produce,” said Javon.
The two-hour drive to the campus wasn’t as far away as Javon would like liked, but he said he had to take his mom and brother into consideration to make sure they could come watch him play.
“That’s far enough for my momma to travel, I gotta look out for her,” he said.
Javon plans to major in biology so he can pursue a career in nursing.
The demands of being a college athlete and a nursing student don’t worry Javon, because he says it’s all about balance.
“I’m not worried, because it’s all about time management. You find time for the things you want to do,” he said.
Scotland head coach Richard Bailey thinks the Golden Bulls are getting quite the steal with in Javon, a player who Bailey feels could see playing time during his freshman year.
“All these players want to be part of a program they can play in and I think that was the deciding factor for Javon in choosing Johnson C. Smith — an opportunity to play and play early,” he said. “They (Johnson C. Smith) don’t get many Shrine Bowl players and he has a chance to go in and start as a freshman. I would be surprised if he doesn’t, so it’s a great opportunity.”
Javon led the Fighting Scots with 13 tackles for loss to go along with 59 solo tackles, one fumble recovery, seven quarterback sacks and one caused fumble.
For his efforts, Javon all-conference and all region honors and the Linebacker Award at the Scots annual fall sports banquet. Javon was one of two Scots to be selected to this year’s Shrine Bowl.
“He’s from an athletic family, being Jaylend’s brother. He started off in his shadow a little bit but has broken out and made a name for himself,” Bailey said.
Wearing a Golden Bulls jersey wasn’t what Javon grew up dreaming up, but the senior learned that any opportunity to play at the collegiate level is a privilege.
“When I was little I thought I was going to Alabama, but you learn as you get older that bigger isn’t always better,” he said.
Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or firstname.lastname@example.org.