Determined Jefferson inks with Methodist

Feb. 27, 2014 @ 09:46 PM

Tears running down his cheeks, DeAndre’ Jefferson struggled to get the words out as he thanked the group that gathered at Southern Vance to watch him take the next step in an arduous journey to the next level.

Plagued by injuries, Jefferson only competed in about 10 varsity football games for the Raiders in two seasons. But on Wednesday, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior signed a letter of intent to play football at Methodist University in Fayetteville. The Monarchs compete in the Division III USA South Athletic Conference.

Jefferson was seated next to his mother, Jinell Cheek, as he signed the dotted line in the conference room at Southern before holding up a yellow Methodist T-shirt.

“I can finally say that I did it,” said Jefferson, who was recruited as a receiver. “It feels like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My mother has been my biggest fan since I was 2-years-old. She’s been to all my games, all my practices. I love my mother to death and I just want to make sure she never has to work again.”

“That’s why I do all the things I do,” added Jefferson. “That’s why I wake up every morning and work hard in the classroom and the football field — for my mother and little brothers.”

Cheek said DeAndre’ is an “all-around good kid” who will go the extra mile to help “whomever, wherever.”

“I wanted him to be better than me, to make the right decision and to go about everything the right way,” said Cheek, a single mother. “I instilled that in him. I push him. I encourage him. But my Number 1 thing I’ve always said to him is to remain humble and what is due to you will come to you.”

Jefferson rose to prominence on the Raiders’ junior varsity squad. But a hamstring injury his junior season was the first in a long line of lower extremity impairments.

Jefferson was unable to play in his last Optimist Bowl against Northern Vance, but returned to the field near the end of the season against league rival Warren County to catch his first varsity touchdown.

“All I could do was just cry,” Jefferson said of the moments after he hauled in the 30-yard pass.

“He has the best hands,” said Lewis Young, Southern’s head football coach. “He works hard and he was just the best blocker that we had on the team. He’s so physical, which helped us in the running game as well as the passing game.”

Young also noted Jefferson’s defensive prowess. He played linebacker, safety and cornerback.

Jefferson said he’s more than open to lining up on defense at Methodist, which finished 8-2 last season.

“They showed me love,” Jefferson said of choosing the Monarchs. “They’re like a family. They stay on you to make sure your grades are good.”

The Southern football team has been like a family too for Jefferson, who joins a long list of Raiders to sign college football letters of intent.

“I’ve been playing football with this group of guys since seventh-grade,” said Jefferson. “Some of them I’ve been playing rec football with longer. We’re really tight. Those are like my brothers. On Friday night, we try to put those pads on and go to war for each other. In the end, whether we win or lose, we still know we’re a family. We still have to stick together.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.