As I do each season, I will keep readers updated on how former Columbia County players are doing on the "next level." I'll start this football season off by giving you a heads up on three very talented young men.
Each has a very different season ahead. One will be his team's go-to guy; one will be fighting for a chance on the field; and the third will likely be redshirted.
(Lakeside) Sr. WR/KR at Furman University No. 1
Bratton has not gotten the publicity he deserves.
Over the last three seasons he has earned some incredible honors. As a freshman in 2001, he was a National All American after he led the nation in kick returning, averaging an amazing 37.2 yards per return.
He also led the nation with three kicks returned for touchdowns. Following that season, he was named the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year.
Since then, Bratton has become much more than just a a return specialist. Last season he led the Paladins with 45 receptions for 596 yards and four TDs.
He was also used out of the backfield and ran for 156 yards on 21 carries (7.2 yards per carry) and two more touchdowns. He was a unanimous All-Conference selection and has been named a Pre-Season choice this season. He holds five school records as a kick returner, including yards in a season (705) and in a career (1,728).
His school record total will likely grow this season. This spring Bratton posted the team's highest vertical leap at 39 inches. He also was the team's sixth-strongest strongest pound-for-pound player.
Those numbers and a big game vs. Clemson last season have made him a player to watch for pro scouts. In that Clemson game, a 24-17 loss, Bratton scored a TD on the ground and caught a 20-yard td as well. That accomplishment is even better when you consider that Furman had not scored a touchdown against Clemson in 42 years. This fall Furman opens their season Sept. 4 at home vs. Presbyterian.
A year to learn (and grow)
Rashad Dunn (Greenbrier) freshman OL University of Iowa
Dunn's meteoric rise up the recruiting charts this winter was one of the best stories in the County in a long time. It just a couple of weeks. He went from being told that he was not good enough for a scholarship by Presbyterian, to being offered full rides by programs like Louisville and Iowa.
Dunn, as a lineman, made his choice pretty easy. Iowa has a history of producing NFL Lineman, including Robert Gallery. He was last year's Outland Trophy Winner as the nation's top interior lineman, and was chosen No. 2 overall in the NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders.
However, other than Gallery, every starter returns up front for the Hawkeyes so in all likelihood Dunn is headed for a redshirt season. Rashad did a senior class project with me last year so I got a chance to know him pretty well, and I think a redshirt year will be a great benefit to him. I mean this as a compliment. Some guys waste their redshirt year; I can assure you Dunn will not. He is an extremely hard worker who will do everything the coaches ask of him. He has enormous upside and could end up being a big time player for the Hawkeyes.
(It is not official that Dunn will redshirt, but that is the opinion of most people close to the Iowa program.)
Fighting for time
Steven Rogers (Lakeside) R-Freshman WR East Carolina No. 83
Rogers, Columbia County's all-time leading receiver, redshirted a year ago. It was a long season for ECU. After playing in four straight Bowl Games from 1998-2001, the Pirates have gone 4-8 in 2002 and 1-11 a year ago.
After spring practice Rogers was listed fourth on the depth chart at his position. However, a closer look reveals some good news for Rogers. Of the 14 wide receivers on the Pirates roster, six are juniors or seniors. Also, Rogers is listed above the other two freshmen. The Pirates have a much easier schedule this season and should show some improvement. I think Rogers will get more playing time than most people expect. ECU opens their season Sept. 4 at West Virginia.
These are just three of the county natives who will be playing college football this fall. I will try to update you on all of them as the season goes on.
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