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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Thursday, May 22, 2008

By Sammy Batten

THUMBNAILS:  2006  •  2007  •  2008  •  2009

Cumberland Co. pipeline still flowing

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.

The East Carolina Pirates may some day owe Carlvin Leggett of Fayetteville a debt of gratitude.

Leggett recommended to a middle-school friend back in the summer of 2005 that he ought to give football a try when they moved to Seventy-First High School in the fall. That friend, Lamar McLendon, became the second member of ECU’s football recruiting Class of 2009 on Wednesday.

McLendon, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker-safety, will begin his third season next fall as a starter on the varsity under the state’s all-time winningest active high school in North Carolina, Bob Paroli.

The Pirates were the first school to offer a scholarship, but Paroli expected other major programs would have done so after getting an up-close look at McLendon during the summer camps in June.

“If he wanted to wait and go through the one-day (school) camps in June, I feel certain he would have been offered by other schools,’’ Paroli said. “But he opted to go ahead and commit. (ECU) Coach (Skip) Holtz has done such a great job there, and I just think the university is a great school. They have a ... business school, a medical school … everything you could possibly want.’’

Playing football, much less earning a college scholarship in the sport, wasn’t on McLendon’s agenda following his eighth-grade year. His primary athletic endeavor at that point was basketball, and one of his teammates was Leggett.

McLendon had never even played recreation football, but Leggett thought he could be good at it.

“I said, ‘Why not?’’’ McLendon said. “So I started playing in the ninth grade. It was nerve-racking. I’d say I was kind of scared. But it was fun, so I stuck with it.’’

Playing linebacker for the junior varsity, McLendon struggled at first as he learned the nuances of football. But his athletic ability and especially his speed – he’s been timed at 4.58 in the 40-yard dash – made him a quick study. By the time his sophomore year rolled around, he was good enough to make Paroli’s starting lineup.

McLendon’s impact on the Seventy-First defense was so significant that when he was injured against Scotland the Falcons had to make major adjustments to compensate.

“It took an awful (lot) of moving people around to take up his slack, and that was just when he was a tenth grader,’’ Paroli said. “He’s physical, but he can run and plays with great intelligence. He ran a 4.58 at the Apex (Shrine Bowl) combine (on April 26).

“He’s not the typical linebacker size you see on these college rosters where they’re 6-3, 245 pounds. But he’s close to 6-1 and will only get bigger when he gets on a college training table.’’

McLendon certainly played big last season, earning All-Mid-Southeastern 4-A Conference honors while helping the Falcons to a 6-6 finish. He made big plays all year, but two stick out in McLendon’s memory.

The first is an example of McLendon’s speed and occurred against Richmond County’s fleet-footed senior quarterback Derek Wiley. The Falcons stunned the Raiders 13-6 in that game.

“He was supposed to be running 4.4,’’ McLendon said. “But I ran him down on the sideline for no gain.’’

McLendon showed his power in another game against Hoke County.

“Against Hoke, I hit the fullback in the backfield, and the fullback hit the running back, and the running back fell,’’ McLendon said. “That was a fun one.’’

Paroli is planning to shift McLendon to strong safety in 2008, but the coach believes McLendon could fit in there or at linebacker with ECU.

“He could do both,’’ Paroli said. “If he plays as well at strong safety as he did at linebacker, that may be the place for him to play. He has the ability to do that. He’ll go to their one-day camp (in June) and they’ll get some idea where they’re going to want to play him.’’

McLendon joins defensive tackle Michael Brooks from Bartlett Yancey High School in the ECU recruiting class. He’ll also continue a tradition of Cumberland County players in the Pirate program.

Five current members of the ECU roster are alums of Cumberland high schools, including senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney (Pine Forest), junior walk-on running back Darnell Ballard (Cape Fear), senior linebacker Dalvon Mack (E.E. Smith), sophomore offensive lineman Travis Melvin (Cape Fear) and junior offensive lineman Doug Palmer (Douglas Byrd).

All rights reserved.

[View previous ECU recruiting classes.]

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05/22/2008 02:59:56 AM


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