DRY FORK — Evan Huffman always wanted to play football in college, he just didn’t think he’d have the opportunity to play in Division I. And yet, that’s exactly what he’ll do when he dons the purple and gold as a member of the James Madison University Dukes next fall.
Huffman announced his decision to become a preferred walk-on for the JMU football team on Thursday at Tunstall.
“ It’s always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to play football in college,” Huffman said. “But D-I, that’s always been my goal. Whether it’s scholarship or a preferred walk-on deal, either way I’m just glad that to be in that situation.”
Huffman, who was joined by his mother Vicki and Tunstall coach Buddy Brown, knew that he wanted to play football at the next level and relished the opportunity to play in Harrisonburg under JMU coach Mike Matthews.
“ It’s just a really prestigious school academically. As far as the athletic program goes its second-to-none in their subdivision. I just feel like playing Division-I is something that I’ve always aspired to do and I’m just glad I have the opportunity to do that.”
While athletics played a major role in his college decision, Huffman and his mom discussed the academic opportunities that a school like James Madison provides to its student-athletes.
“ I really liked what [the coaches] were saying academically,” Vicki Huffman said. “How they really work with the players, making sure that they are making the grade, not just to meet the eligibility requirements but to go even beyond that and truly that they can put their best foot forward and truly get the best grades possible. I was really impressed with that.”
Huffman, who was the 2012 Danville Register & Bee All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year, leaves behind a legacy at Tunstall that will likely go unmatched for years to come. Huffman had 73 tackles, two forced fumbles and 22 pass deflections in 2012. He also had seven interceptions, including two which he ran back for touchdowns in the Trojans playoff game against Marion. He was named first-team all-district on both offense and defense for the Piedmont District, first-team all-region on defense for Region IV for his efforts in the 2012 campaign. Huffman also had a strong showing on offense. The Trojan captain had 528 yards and 10 touchdowns on 106 carries. He also had 28 receptions for 372 yards and another six scores and was named honorable mention on offense for the All-Region IV team.
“ Besides being a heck of a player, he knows the game,” Brown said. “Once we took him out of the quarterback position I think it took a load off of him. It opened him up where he could do a lot of different things and he really flourished in the slot. I just think what he brings to the table from the mental side of the game, being able to look at a team and study a team, and he had seven picks and was a First-Team All-State defensive back, but offensively, as the games got bigger, he came to the forefront. I just really feel like his best days are ahead of him football-wise.”
The Dukes open their season at home again Central Connecticut State on Aug. 31.
Hainsfurther is a sports reporter for the Danville Register & Bee. Follow him on Twitter: @HainsfurtherGDR