After Ricky McMurtrey narrowed his college choices, the final decision had little to do with his family history.
McMurtrey, Lakeside's receiver and tailback who had a breakout season as a senior, chose East Central University in Oklahoma. His father, Rick, had played defensive end for the school decades ago, but the primary factor in the son's decision was the reputation of the business school.
East Central has one of the highest-regarded business schools in the country. Top accounting firms and Fortune 500 companies recruit there. Liberal arts schools such as Presbyterian College and Gardner-Webb, both of which expressed interest in McMurtrey, could not make the same claim.
McMurtrey signed his letter of intent Wednesday to play for the Tigers, as did teammate Chris Hartfield. Lakeside senior Khadi Tshishiku was also recognized for his decision to play at Harvard.
Hartfield, a linebacker, received a call from East Central coaches Tuesday night, before he took the court for the Panthers' basketball game. Hartfield was also offered a full ride.
During his visit to the school, McMurtrey told East Central coaches about Hartfield.
"I told them that we have another player on our team who will do anything, that if you tell him to run through that wall, he'll just run through the wall," McMurtrey said.
Coaches asked Lakeside to send film, which it did. A snowstorm kept Hartfield's highlights from reaching Tigers coaches before Tuesday.
When they called, Hartfield said he agreed, while not having much to go on but McMurtrey's word and what he had read on the Internet.
"From what I've seen and what he told me, it looks good and sounds good," Hartfield said.
Hartfield and McMurtrey were recognized during a Wednesday ceremony in the school's auditorium. They were joined by Tshishiku, a defensive back on his way to Harvard.
Tshishiku said he had been sold on the Crimson since attending a football camp there during the summer.
"From the beginning, they started forming a close relationship with me," Tshishiku said. "I felt comfortable throughout the process."
Tshishiku said he expects to play either free or strong safety, both of which he played his final two seasons as a Panther. He said Harvard coaches have told him his playing time will depend on how much he works during the fall.
And, attending an Ivy League school with plans to study engineering, Tshishiku said he knows where the majority of his focus should be.
"I know it's going to be different than high school," he said. "Football is very important, but I know my studies are going to be a priority."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.