Rebel football stars get chance to shine

Staff file photo by Jeremy Timmerman Strom Thurmond quarterback Jauveer Hammond is one of the players at the All-Madden mini-camp in Bradenton, Fla. this weekend.

For those who follow college recruiting, the Sleeper Recruit company does exactly what the name would suggest for high school athletes.

“Our motto is ‘Where the unrecognized get recognized,’” explained owner Rodney Tillman.

This weekend, three Strom Thurmond High School football players – senior quarterback Jauveer Hammond, senior linebacker Kenyatta Dunbar and sophomore running back Chad Gilchrist – are at the IMG Academy’s All-Madden mini-camp in Bradenton, Fla., with the help of Sleeper Recruit.

Tillman said the camp will be a great chance for his athletes to prove themselves against the nation’s most highly-recruited high school football players in the invitation-only event.

“I think it’s an excellent opportunity that we’re blessed to have,” Tillman said. “We’ve got athletes that are unknown that can play with the big guys, so they gave us a chance to show what we’ve got.”

The event began Friday and will run through Sunday. Tillman said he tried to ease the pressure the young men might be facing. He’s also taking Laney (Ga.) athletes Vi’cente Walker and Andrea James.

“This will be our first time going down there with high school kids,” Tillman said, adding that he’s taken older athletes preparing for the NFL Draft to the academy. “I just told them to be calm, be ready and be yourself.”

Gilchrist is something an unknown quantity, as he’ll be taking his first snaps with the Rebels’ first team. He’ll look to help replace the backfield production of Darius Hammond alongside Jauveer Hammond, who’s far from an unknown.

Hammond was the All-Aiken Standard first-team quarterback a year ago with close to 3,000 total yards passing and rushing and had a hand in 34 touchdowns. At 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, he’s currently receiving attention from the likes of South Carolina State, Appalachian State, The Citadel, Newberry and other schools. But Tillman said Hammond – who will likely play defensive back in college – has the assets to play at a bigger school.

“He’s a coachable kid, well-mannered and he’s an athlete,” Tillman said.

Dunbar was the Rebels’ leading tackler on a very capable defense a year ago with 109, 16 for loss and five sacks. At 5-11 and 180 pounds, he’s getting attention from Mercer, Winthrop and Coastal Carolina.

“To see him, he’s a mild-tempered person, but on game night, he’s a beast,” Tillman said of Dunbar, who also forced two fumbles and had an interception.

While Tillman was glad his players were getting the attention of smaller schools and the potential to continue their football careers there, he’s optimistic that they could garner the attention of some of the nation’s high-level programs this weekend. He added that their potential extends beyond that.

“It’s good to have those smaller schools, but we’re looking for some bigger offers to come through because these guys can play on Sunday one day,” he said.

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.