Monroe offensive and defensive stars Anthony Smith (LB), left, and Kevin Williams (WR) flash big smiles after signing their national letters-of-intent Wednesday at the school. Smith is headed to Fort Valley State, and Williams will play for St. Augustine College in Florida. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Monroe football coach Charles Truitt paused and then said with a sigh of regret and pride: “We’re going to miss those two. We are really going to miss them.’’
How do you replace 100 tackles and 1,000 yards of receptions? It may be impossible for Monroe, but the school had a large gathering Wednesday to watch linebacker Anthony Smith and receiver Kevin Williams sign their nationals letters-of-intent.
Smith, who made 110 tackles — including nine for losses and two sacks — made his decision to accept a scholarship from Fort Valley State at the last minute. Smith was a four-year starter at Monroe, and was the Region 1-AAAA Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for The Herald’s Player of the Year.
Williams, who made 53 receptions for 1,018 yards and nine touchdowns, signed with rising Division II program St. Augustine. Williams also ran two punts back for TDs and had a kickoff return for a touchdown.
“It’s been a long time since we had a receiver with 1,000 yards,’’ Truitt said. “Kevin made big plays for us the last couple of years. He’s been our leading receiver. He always made big plays and made the tough catches. I think Kevin has a big upside. Once he gets there and puts on a little weight, I think he will have the opportunity to start as a freshman.’’
Truitt felt both schools got bargains by signing the talented Monroe players.
“(Fort Valley State) got a steal with Anthony,’’ Truitt said. “He was such a dominant player that offenses ran the ball the other way — to keep away from him. He was the braintrust of our defense. We’ll miss his play, and we will also miss his leadership even more.’’
Smith said he had other offers that fell through because recruiters from Louisiana Tech and Tennessee at Chattanooga left for other schools in the middle of the recruiting process.
“I was going to wait it out but decided to sign because Fort Valley put a full scholarship on the table. It was pretty last-minute,’’ Smith said.
Williams had other offers but felt he would be a perfect fit at St. Augustine, where they run the spread offense.
“They use five receivers, and they throw the ball all the time,’’ Williams said. “And I liked the atmosphere there. I really liked the players and the coach when I visited there.’’
During the signing ceremony, Truitt pointed out that many of the players in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII didn’t play at Division I schools, and he said later that he felt both Smith and Williams would be stars in college and might be the kind of players who could find their way to the NFL.