Scottie Montgomery may or may not be a fan of the “Wizard of Oz,” but the first-year East Carolina coach certainly believes in one of the famous lines from that classic movie: “There’s no place like home.”
Montgomery secured the first verbal commitment of his ECU tenure last January from linebacker Aaron Ramseur, who played at Crest High School in North Carolina’s Cleveland County. That’s the same county where Montgomery grew up and starred at Burns High School in neighboring Lawndale. Ramseur signed a letter of intent with the Pirates in February and will be a freshman on the team this fall.
The link between Montgomery and his old stomping grounds has continued with the recruiting Class of 2017 in the person of Jayden Borders.
Borders became one of the more recent additions to the ECU class when he made a verbal commitment to Montgomery on June 22. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder is a record-setting wide receiver from Cleveland County, who has starred the last two seasons at Shelby High School.
Borders chose the Pirates after also considering scholarship offers from Appalachian State, Charlotte, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Marshall, Miami of Ohio and the University of Miami. Montgomery’s connection to Cleveland County played a role in the decision by Borders, according to Shelby coach Lance Ware.
“I think [East Carolina] were the first to offer,” Ware said. “Jayden and his family felt comfortable because of Coach Montgomery and his connection to Cleveland County. They had a good relationship with him already and I know he’s excited about the opportunity.”
The relationship between the Borders family and Montgomery didn’t just start with Jayden, however. It began back in the 1990s when Montgomery was a senior at Burns and a young receiver named Chesley Borders was beginning to make a name for himself at Shelby Crest High School.
Chesley Borders would go on to earn all-state honors as a senior at Crest in 1997 after making 45 catches for 1,163 yards and 16 touchdowns. He closed out his prep career as Cleveland County’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,352) and with the top two single-season marks for receiving yards (1,163 in 1997 and 1,195 in 1996). Chesley went on to earn a football scholarship to North Carolina where he accumulated 62 catches for 1,001 yards and nine scores over four seasons.
Chesley is Jayden’s father, and a major influence on his son’s football career.
“I think his dad set the bar high because of the things he did here in Cleveland County,” Ware said. “He’s already broken most of his dad’s county records. He caught 93 passes for us last season, which is phenomenal. And we’re expecting bigger things this season.”
It’s hard to imagine a bigger year than the younger Borders put together in 2015.
After making five catches for 22 yards in a brief varsity appearance for the state playoffs as a freshman, Jayden Borders racked up 83 catches for 1,173 yards and 10 scores as a full-time starter the next season.
Jayden followed that by shattering his father’s marks with 93 receptions for 1,732 yards and 26 touchdowns for a Shelby team that went 15-1 and won the state 2-A championship. The performance earned Borders All-Cleveland County honors from the Shelby Star and first-team All-State from The Associated Press.
“He has an explosiveness about him and outstanding hands you don’t normally see in high school receivers,” Ware said.
Ware also noted that Borders has displayed a knack for coming down with the ball in clutch situations.
“In our first game of the year we had a situation with a fourth and about 20,” Ware said. “The quarterback just threw the ball up. Jayden goes up between three people and snatches it for a touchdown.
“Like any great receiver, he always wants the ball. In our second game against A.C. Reynolds, he caught the ball and had contact about the 10-yard line. But he kept his legs moving and got into the end zone.”
Borders also came up big in the state finals against Kinston, making six catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He started the 57-21 rout by hauling in an 80-yard touchdown pass in the opening period.
Because of his versatility, Ware envisions Montgomery deploying Borders in a fashion similar to that which he used to exploit Duke’s All-ACC receiver Jamison Crowder.
“I think they see him as a Jamison Crowder type guy,” Ware said. “I think he’s excited about playing for Scottie, especially because of his track record for working with receivers. They’re going to help him be the best player he can be, and that excites him. He’s also excited about being part of the East Carolina environment and experiencing their rabid fan base.”