There are fewer than 200 high-schoolers at Legacy Charter. About half are boys, and it is from that pool that the school’s football program is built.
Athletic Director and offensive coordinator Jarrett Wiggers said many — if not most — of the players at Legacy are playing football for the first time. At a charter school with a waitlist, where students are admitted via a lottery, the goal for the Eagles is to build a respectable and competitive team with whomever they have on campus.
It’s understood, though, that most of the student-athletes in Legacy’s football program likely will not play football in college.
There are exceptions, of course. A handful of players in the past five years have had the opportunity to play for Division III or NAIA programs. But until this year, no one from Legacy had been recruited by and signed to a Division II program.
That changed when seniors Dylan Clinger and Jalen Swift signed to play for Chowan University in North Carolina.
“It’s big — (Dylan and I) are the first, and it’s an honor,” Swift said.
Both athletes had strong careers at Legacy, but the prospect of playing Division II football was not a given. Rather, assistant coach Jim Rathmann played matchmaker for the two athletes and the school, using his connections in the game to put Clinger and Swift on the radar of Chowan.
As a former player for LSU who was part of the Tigers’ national championship team in 2003, Rathmann’s endorsement carries some weight in the football world.
“I’m very blessed to have Coach Jim in my life,” Clinger said. “He’s done so much for us.”
It also helps that both players were exceptional for the Eagles in the past few seasons.
“Dylan and Jalen are superior athletes and they figure out how to make plays,” Wiggers said.
The two local teens are excited to join the program in North Carolina, expressing enthusiasm about the school’s scenic campus. They’re also glad to be making the journey to the next step of their careers together, acknowledging that it will be helpful to have a familiar face around in a new place.
Wiggers said the real excitement is that the football program at Legacy provided an avenue for two of his student-athletes to go to college.
“Sometimes athletics is what gets a kid to college and then that changes their life, academically,” Wiggers said. “We’ve gotten a phone call from a guy who graduated who said, ‘Hey, I’m not actually playing football anymore but now I’m on the dean’s list.’ Football got him there.”