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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Friday, July 20, 2007

By Sammy Batten

RECRUITING THUMBNAILS:  2006  •  2007  •  2008

SE Guilford star brings versatility to Bucs

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

For the first 10 years of his life, Justin Venable's primary athletic pursuits were on the diamond.

"He was playing baseball by the time he was five years old,'' said Venable's father, Wayne. "He played all those years summer and in the fall. In fact, for two years in a row he had played in the Mustang World Series in Texas.

"But I think he was starting to get burned out on baseball.''

One of Wayne Venable's friends suggested Justin try playing football as a change of pace.

"We were actually signing up for another season of fall baseball,'' Wayne Venable said. "But we took him to try out (for football), and he's loved the game since.''

"I went to one practice to watch one of the practices before I signed up to play,'' Justin Venable said. "I just liked the intensity of hitting people. It kind of came natural.''

The younger Venable has progressed from that humble beginning into a football player gifted enough to earn All Mid-Piedmont 3-A Conference last season as a junior safety. The 6-foot-2 1/2, 190-pounder set a school record with nine interceptions and collected 84 tackles in helping Southeast Guilford to the third round of the state 3-AA playoffs and 10-4 overall record.

The performance also helped draw the attention of the East Carolina coaching staff, which after a year of courting gained a verbal commitment from the rising senior on July 10. Venable received the scholarship offer soon after attending ECU's summer football camp in mid-June.

"The main thing I liked about East Carolina was the coaching staff,'' Venable said. "They showed a lot of interest in me from the beginning. When I went to the spring game (in April) the coaches came up and started telling me they knew a lot about me. They made me feel at home.''

Ohio University had also offered Venable a scholarship, and schools such as N.C. State, Wake Forest and Virginia were showing serious interest.

In Venable, the Pirates are getting an athlete with the size of a linebacker and the speed of a cornerback. He was timed at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash during a Shrine Bowl combine at Greene Central High in Snow Hill back in April.

Southeast Guilford coach Fritz Hessenthaler said speed isn't Venable's only asset.

"He's a football player,'' Hessenthaler said. "He's physical and smart on the field. He understands what his responsibilities are. He's been in here lifting with me since he was in the eighth grade. I think that weight training has been the thing that has separated him the last couple of years.

"He's a kid every school in America is going to wish they had.''

Venable began his career on the Southeast Guilford varsity as a sophomore playing linebacker. He moved to safety later in the year.

Hessenthaler also utilizes Venable's speed by playing him at wide receiver on offense and employing him on kick returns.

"He's the type of kid who could be used in multiple spots in high school or college,'' Hessenthaler said.

Venable could also be used in multiple sports at either level. He played shortstop and left field for a Southeast Guilford baseball squad that reached the state 3-A championship series last year, batting around .350 for the year.

Could Venable also make a contribution to the ECU baseball program?

"I might play there, but for now I'm concentrating on football,'' Venable said.

Venable is the fifth known verbal commitment for the Pirates, and all five pledges are from in-state prospects.

[View thumbnail sketches of other players verbally committed to join ECU's recruiting class of 2008.]

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07/20/2007 02:31:31 AM


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