CHINA GROVE — Even before his senior football season began, Carson lineman C.J. Cain said he wanted to play in college at Catawba.
His introduction to the Indians came at a camp during his sophomore year. Chip Hester and offensive line coach Brian Hinson let him know they were interested.
At the time, Cain was 6-foot, 185 pounds.
They were even more interested when he was a junior, standing 6-2, 260. As a 6-4, 305-pound senior, there was no doubt Catawba wanted him.
So imagine Cain’s surprise when he picked up the newspaper one day and read that Hester had resigned.
“My heart kinda dropped,” Cain said. “I”m thinking, ‘Now, there’s a new guy and he might not want to take a chance on me.’ ”
Thankfully, Hinson remained on the staff. He, along with new head coach Curtis Walker, eased Cain’s nerves. On Wednesday, Cain signed his letter of intent with the local college.
“Oh man, it’s hard to put into words,” Cain said, wearing a broad smile.
He had plenty of praise for his new head coach, however.
“I’m really impressed with Coach Walker,” Cain said. “I really like what he’s trying to establish. “He told me, ‘You may not win a national championship or a conference championship while you’re here but you’ll be the foundation for what’s to come.’ Like Coach Hester, he’s family first.”
Cain received attention from FCS schools all the way to Division III. But he didn’t want to give up an opportunity to play for Hinson, a Catawba grad who turned himself into a two-time All-American.
“It makes me happy,” Cain said. “I’ll be able to learn from somebody who has played the game. It was like playing for Coach (Mark) Woody here. He played and knew what he was talking about.”
Woody, who also attended Catawba, actually needed help on the defensive side of the ball this past season and moved Cain there. But after four games and the offense unable to move the ball consistently, Cain was switched back. Which was certainly fine with Catawba, because that’s where it had him slated all along.
Hinson indicated to Cain, who is currently 295 pounds, that he would start out as a right guard and when he gets his footwork better, he could make a possible move to right tackle.
“It’s going to be like Oregon, quick-speed stuff,” Cain said of Catawba’s offense. “A little pass here, a little pass there.”
Cain likes the fact he is staying close to home.
“I like the feeling of going home and eating a home-cooked meal instead of eating in the cafeteria all the time,” he smiled.
Cain said some of his friends at Carson asked why he was going to Catawba and not somewhere larger.
“My dream has always been to play college football,” Cain said. “I never said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to play Division I.’
“It’s just the experience. No matter what level, you strap on the pads the same way and put your pants on one leg at a time. You’re not in a stadium of 80,000 but a crowd of 5,000 to 20,000 can be just as loud and enthusiastic.”
He’ll definitely have a position coach who is enthusiastic.
“I told Coach Hinson that I’ll take the challenge,” Cain said. “Whatever it takes for me to play, I’ll do it.”
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