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Lilly thrilled to get offer from UNC Pembroke

By Mike London
Salisbury Post
MOUNT ULLA ó Pressure comes at teenage football players from multiple directions.
There’s SATs. There’s girlfriends. There’s the decision to lift or to chill when lifting isn’t mandatory.
There’s lining up across from Mooresville receiver Jamel Allison, who is also a track phenom.
There’s running 40 yards against a stopwatch when a fraction of a second means a scholarship offer or moving on to the next option.
Now that’s real pressure.
Jordan Lilly, a quiet West Rowan defensive back with steel in his arms and good news on his report cards, ran one of those pressure-packed 40-yard dashes for UNC Pembroke coaches.
He remembers 4.58. That makes him slower than former running mate and future teammate Justin Avery, but it makes him faster than 99 percent of the general population.
Lilly is now an official UNC Pembroke signee.
“I was just wanting to give it everything I’ve got,” Lilly said. “It was stressing, sure. My whole future life, my expectations, they were crammed into a workout that took a couple of hours.”
UNC Pembroke inked Avery on National Signing Day as part of a 28-man class.
Avery was All-State, NPC Defensive Player of the Year and Rowan County Defensive Player of the Year and earned everything.
At 5-foot-9, 144 pounds, he was a fearless marvel. He hit like an 18-wheeler, made 10 interceptions and threatened to go all the way every time he touched the ball.
Teamed with Avery in the defensive backfield, Lilly had to be overshadowed a little, but he was All-Rowan County and All-NPC and had his moments as a senior.
Lilly’s forced fumble helped crush North Iredell. His second half against Statesville’s running game, maybe his toughest 20 minutes all fall, helped West rally when it looked bleak.
His pick helped bury North Rowan. His runs on faked punts built momentum against Northwest Cabarrus and gave West a chance against North Gaston.
His best came in the road struggle against Mooresville (and future UNCP teammate Allison) that secured West’s fourth straight NPC title.
First, a big interception.
Then a relentless effort on which he chased down a certain, trick-play Mooresville TD and turned it into a forced fumble. Then he recovered the ball.
Lilly, who passes the eye test at 5-10 and 183 ripped pounds, joked that for one extraordinary play he “mimicked Avery,” but he has a chance to be a fine college player in his own right.
They both do. Lilly hopes he and Avery will be able to room together and support each other a long way from home. UNC Pembroke is south and east of Rowan, about halfway between Laurinburg and Lumberton.
West coach Scott Young said Johnson C. Smith offered Lilly, while Catawba and Virginia Union showed interest.
UNC Pembroke, an independent Division II school that has played just one season of football, raised eyebrows when it managed to sign West’s Shrine Bowl offensive lineman David Melton before its debut season.
Melton did fine.
“I think David starting nine of 11 games down there as a freshman made a difference with a lot of kids in our area,” Young said.
UNC Pembroke studied film of Lilly, and he was one of three DBs invited for a workout. Essentially, it was for the Braves’ last scholarship at that position.
“It really happened fast,” Lilly said. “Coach Young told me they wanted me to come down and test. I was like, ‘Well, sure, OK.’
“When we got there, it shocked me. The fieldhouse and stadium are so nice they just blew me away. I wondered why Justin signed so quick with them, but when I saw the facilities, I knew why. Anybody who sees that place will sign.”
Young was impressed with the staff. He and Lilly went down on a Wednesday, the day off for UNC Pembroke’s coaches. But they were all there in their offices, plugging away.
Then the whole staff watched Lilly work out, not just head coach Pete Shinnick. Shuttle drills, vertical leap, bench press, the 40 ó the usual.
Young sensed everyone was impressed with Lilly’s demeanor, speed and physique ó no Falcon has worked harder in the weight room the last two years ó but the coaches hadn’t voiced a decision when it was time for Young and Lilly to start on the ride home.
“That’s a three-hour trip, and Jordan is a real quiet kid,” Young said with a laugh. “I was wondering what we were gonna talk about, but then I got a call before we even got to Rockingham. It’s Pembroke, and the coach is saying, ‘We’re gonna offer your kid.’ ”
Young resisted the urge to shout and kept both hands on the wheel and his eyes on the highway.
Lilly’s response?
“Hey, where do I sign?”
Young loves Catawba and has good things to say about most of the SAC schools, but he’s sold on UNC Pembroke as another viable D-II option for his players.
He plans to go down for UNCP’s spring game and hopes to spend a few future Saturdays at gleaming, 4,000-seat Lumbee Guaranty Field beaming with pride.”In Melton, Avery and Lilly, I think we’re gonna have three great kids down there who are keys to the future of UNCP football,” he said.
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Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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