SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. – Avalon graduate Michael Blackman-Gladney made his collegiate debut Saturday in Shepherd University’s annual spring football game at Ram Stadium.
Shepherd, a Division II powerhouse, has built a pipeline from Montgomery County to the small West Virginia school over the years.
Blackman-Gladney, a former Montgomery Village Sports Association youth league standout, redshirted last fall but is expected to make a contribution on the gridiron during the 2017 campaign.
“It’s definitely a blessing to be out there with the older guys,” said Blackman-Gladney, who is projected to be the team’s starting strong safety this year.
During Saturday’s intra-squad scrimmage, Blackman-Gladney had various family members watching his performance including his grandparents, Lee James and Tina Gladney, and his mother, Keisha.
Watkins Mill graduate Joseph Hooks, a Montgomery Village Sports Association alumni and coach, said he acted as the liaison between Blackman-Gladney and Shepherd during the recruiting process.
“I thought he would be a good fit for Shepherd,” said Hooks, a former Shepherd football standout who graduated from the West Virginia school in 2008.
Hooks was among a contingent of Montgomery County student-athletes who helped build the pipeline from MCPS to Shepherd during the 2000’s. Vincent Riggs (Poolesville), Ron Frazier (Gaithersburg), Mark Springirth (Watkins Mill) and Tyler Lazear (Whitman) were also on the Shepherd roster during that time period.
Shepherd head coach Monte Cater has built a program worthy of national acclaim thanks in part to the Montgomery County hotbed.
“It’s already been on the map,” said Blackman-Gladney. “We just want to carry the tradition.”
Besides Blackman-Gladney, the Shepherd football program also boasts Montgomery County products Calvin Reighard (Seneca Valley), Bruno Anyangwe (Clarksburg), Antonio Fox (Seneca Valley), Dalton Kephart (Gaithersburg), Tatah Ndeh (Springbrook) and Michael Hite (Seneca Valley).
Former All-Sentinel Player of the Year Billy Brown (Gaithersburg) was selected as Shepherd’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 campaign and participated in both the East-West Shrine Game and the NFL Combine earlier this year.
This fall, the Shepherd football program will also be bolstered with the addition of All-Sentinel Player of the Year Tylen Hebron (Richard Montgomery) and tight end Brian Walker (Clarksburg).
“I am extremely excited to be a part of the Rams family,” said Walker, a second team All-Sentinel selection, “and to be mentored by one of the greatest coaches in all of college football.”
Shepherd, who lost to North Alabama, 23-13, in the national semifinals, finished 13-1 during the 2016 campaign.
Last season, Shepherd finished third in the final 2016 American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Division II Coaches’ Poll. The Rams, who won their third Super Region One title last year, registered their second-highest final and overall ranking with the third-place finish.
After last year’s success on the gridiron, the Rams certainly have high expectations heading into the 2017 campaign.
“We’re looking forward to a good season,” said Blackman-Gladney. “We really are.”