East-West All-Stars: Quiet Catawba recruits make impression
By Mike London
GREENSBORO ó For East All-Star head coach Clay Jordan, the ride to Tuesday’s press conference had to be quieter than a visit to the public library.
West Craven’s Jordan transported two football players ó Rosewood’s Holt Rains and Louisburg’s LaKeem Perry ó who believe silence is golden.
Rains is a very polite tight end. Perry is a linebacker who isn’t going to win many debates.
Perry earned the nickname “Silent Assassin” from his new teammates after a handful of practices, and that tells you all you need to know. This guy wastes running backs ó not syllables.
Rains and Perry have things in common besides sturdy bodies and tight lips. Both are from 1A schools, and both will join coach Chip Hester’s program at Catawba.
Catawba has gotten serious mileage out of 1A kids before. East Wilkes’ Luke Samples and Williamston’s Brad Roach weren’t bad.
Start with Rains, who looks the way all college coaches want their tight end to look. He is 6-foot-5 and neither skinny nor beefy at 228 pounds.
It’s not hard to imagine him looking like last year’s hard-nosed senior tight end Shane Timmons after two years of pumping iron in Hayes Field House.
“Holt could be a real steal for us,” Hester said. “Could be our tight end of the future.”
Some recruiting experts had Rains as a sure thing for N.C. State, but the Wolfpack didn’t offer.
Instead, N.C. State asked Rains to come to Raleigh as a preferred walk-on ó no scholarship, but a spot on the team ó and Appalachian State offered the same thing.
Wingate offered Rains an athletic scholarship.
So did Catawba.
“It was Coach (Matt) Barrett that made the phone call and invited me to work out at Catawba,” Rains said. “I was really just blown away by my visit. I liked the coaches. Great facilities.”
Rains is a throwback, three-sport athlete. As a rangy guy with good speed (4.8 in the 40) at a school with 600 students, he was counted on to play everything. He captained the basketball and baseball teams as well as the football squad.
“Every time I tried to call him this summer to see if he wanted to be in this game, he was playing baseball,” Jordan said with a laugh.
Rains ran down balls in the outfield and launched homers, but everyone says football is his best sport and the consensus is that he was born to play tight end.
He was a tight end growing up, but he switched to defensive end as a sophomore in high school and piled up 288 tackles in three seasons.
Rosewood, which is in Goldsboro, got a new coach in Robert Britt prior to Rains’ senior year, and when he saw Rains, his brain immediately said, “Tight end.”
Rains, who accumulated 21 sacks in his career, played physically both ways for Rosewood as a senior and was an all-area player.
“Holt’s a yes-sir, no-sir kid, but he’ll block on the edge for you,” Jordan said. “There’s no ego to him. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s got some speed, and whenever we watched him on tape, he went at it hard from whistle to whistle. That’s what we loved about him.”
Perry is not as undersized as he appeared on some recruiting lists. He’s a legit 6 feet and 205-210 pounds, a step up from the 5-11, 190 dimensions he was credited with earlier.
“He’s still growing,” Hester said.
Perry owns big hands, big wrists, a big chest and big numbers.
Perry helped Louisburg, a school with about 750 students, enjoy a 10-game winning streak in 2007. He made 161 tackles and earned All-State accolades. Five of his stops were forceful enough to dislodge footballs from bruised ballcarriers.
In three seasons, he was credited with a whopping 436 tackles, 12 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.
Perry’s 40 time isn’t special (4.75), and that helps explain why East Carolina, which showed interest, didn’t offer a scholarship, but coaches say Perry is faster than 4.75 when the lights come on. He reads quickly and strikes furiously.
“My strong points are my reactions and instincts,” he said.
Asked which game was his best last fall, Perry smiled silently. Asked if that meant all of them were pretty good, he nodded.
When he visited the Catawba campus, Perry made a connection with young linebackers coach Todd McComb, who was battering ballcarriers for the Indians five years ago.
But Perry was so quiet, Hester wasn’t sure where Catawba stood.
“He was impressive, but he was hard to read,” Hester said. “I had to call his high school coach, James Collier, a guy I’ve known a long time, and ask him if LaKeem liked us at all.”
As it turned out, Perry liked Catawba, and Catawba fans will like him. Hester believes Perry has the talent to contribute immediately.
Jordan offered no predictions, but he’s seen enough to know the “Silent Assassin” can play.
“That’s a young man of few words, but LaKeem has plenty to say with his pads,” Jordan said. “A very, very explosive athlete, and he’s going to run hard to the ball.”