As four May River High School student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent to play at the next level on Wednesday, each of them mentioned feeling at home at their next destination after leaving The Tank.
Football stars Ahmad Green and Steffin Gadson will remain teammates at The Citadel, while softball standouts Giovana Rodriguez and Caleigh Powell are headed to Belmont Abbey and USC Salkehatchie.
Green has been a household name in the Lowco since starting at quarterback for the Sharks as a freshman. He was the catalyst for the program’s meteoric rise, earning LowcoSports’ All-Lowco Offensive Player of the Year award as a sophomore and first-team All-Lowco honors two more times.
He initially approached the recruiting process expecting to be coveted more as a slot receiver and return man than a quarterback, but he will get a chance to stick under center in the Bulldogs’ option attack, which suits his run-first style.
“They welcomed me with open arms and it’s a great opportunity at a great school,” Green said. “They made me feel like I was at home. Family.”
Green plans to study business with an emphasis on financial management in hopes of helping people in the community learn more about their financial stability, something he saw hit home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And he’ll have his longtime teammate Gadson by his side, just like he has since middle school. Gadson, who joined Green on the Class 4A All-State and first-team All-Lowco squads, was a ball-hawking defensive back during his time at May River, first locking down receivers as a corner and then breaking on picks and delivering big hits at safety.
He initially shied away from The Citadel because of its reputation as a military school, but after talking with Green and former Whale Branch star Dee Delaney, an All-American for the Bulldogs, he changed his tune.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me during school and after school, and I like the football program and how they play and the environment there,” Gadson said. “And it kind of feels like home being in Charleston.”
Gadson also plans to major in business and go into personal financial planning, and he hopes the work ethic instilled at May River will help he and his longtime friend find their way into key roles with the Bulldogs.
Rodriguez and Powell have been a part of another Sharks program that quickly rose to prominence, joining a growing number of May River alums playing at the next level, including former teammate Kylee Gleason at South Carolina.
Rodriguez hit .440 with four doubles, five homers, and 16 RBIs in 11 games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and she compiled a 1.75 ERA in 12 innings across five appearances in the circle after going 7-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 20 outings in 2019.
She hopes to put up even bigger numbers in her senior season, then carry that momentum to a key role at Belmont Abbey next year.
“My goal is having a starting spot as a freshman, and I know I have to really work hard to make that happen,” Rodriguez said.
Powell will stay a little closer to home at USC Salkehatchie, joining a number of former Lowco-area standouts on the Indians’ roster as she reunites with Beaufort High’s Essence Champion and Battery Creek’s Margaret Schubert and Kelsey Hill.
Powell was on her way to a breakout season before the 2020 campaign was cut short, hitting at a blistering .529 clip with a double, two triples, and five RBIs in 11 games, and she has been a standout for the Lowcountry Storm 18U team.
Like Rodriguez, she is poised for a big senior season leading into the next step in her softball and academic career, and she hopes to use her leadership skills to help the Indians be more competitive during her time at USC Salk.
“I’m hoping to bring more passion to the game,” Powell said “Hopefully to be a starter and graduate with all A’s and B’s.”