Strauder chooses State over USM; Duncan signs with Jags

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 5, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; With the face of a true poker player, Anthony Strauder sat and cleaned the lenses of his glasses on his navy blue school shirt at a table in the Natchez High School library Wednesday morning.

As fellow Bulldog teammates opened up their national letters of intent envelopes for schools such as Copiah-Lincoln and Itawamba community colleges and Southern University, Strauder allowed the tension to reach a crescendo.

Throughout a season, which saw the 6-4, 290-pound defensive lineman miss the final six games with a broken left fibula, Strauder found comfort in the arms of Southern Miss, who was one of the teams that kept calling after his season ended.

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However, on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, the UPS Next Day Air Pad Pak with Strauder’s name on it contained a maroon folder with an embossed silver &uot;M&uot; and the word &uot;State&uot; with a congratulatory letter from new Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom.

&uot;Whenever I woke up this morning, I was so thankful it was finally here,&uot; Strauder said. &uot;God had this planned for me. I prayed for wisdom and hopefully to make the right decision. I feel confident with my decision. It’s a dream some true. I know I’m going to be successful on the next level because I work hard and do whatever it takes.&uot;

Strauder was one of six Natchez High Bulldogs and 10 area players to sign national letter of intents to play football on the next level.

As of press time there was no update on the status of former Trinity Episcopal wide receiver Dudley Guice, who backed off on his oral commitment to Mississippi State a couple of weeks ago when Bulldog coaches posed the possibility of moving Guice into the secondary.

While National Signing Day was Wednesday, the window for players to sign with schools lasts for another two weeks, allowing for the possibility of Guice (6-3, 205), ACCS running back Luke Ogden (6-0, 225), who retakes the ACT on Saturday, and Centreville Academy tight end Daniel Hall (6-3, 218) to commit at a later date.

Natchez defensive back Michael Williams (5-10, 175) took approximately an hour-and-a-half Wednesday to fax his letter to Southern University head coach Pete Richardson.

&uot;On my visit, (Richardson) spoke to a lot of us and was telling some of the guys what they were supposed to do to have a chance at playing,&uot; said Williams, who had picked off five passes during the 2003 season. &uot;He talked to me personally and said if I kept doing what I have been, I’ll be playing. In the past their DBs haven’t liked to hit. He saw that I do from my highlight tape.&uot;

Along with Strauder and Williams, Bulldog teammates J.D. Hamilton (6-4, 250, DL), Tommy Evans (6-3, 320, OL) and Michael Woods (6-2, 270, DL) all signed with Co-Lin, while linebacker Anthony Green (6-1, 180, LB) is headed to Itawamba Community College in Fulton.

Franklin County kicker/linebacker Chris Blackwell (5-10, 180) also signed with Co-Lin.

Strauder delivered the bad news to Southern Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix Tuesday evening and said the mood immediately changed.

Strauder, who totaled more than 40 tackles and five sacks in five games in 2003, said it felt as if Golden Eagles coaches thought he owed them something.

&uot;USM was preaching about how they were all this and how their defense is always ranked high,&uot; he said. &uot;But the SEC is still the SEC. Mississippi State is an up-and-coming program once again. They’ve always been good down in the trenches, and I believe the future looks good again.&uot;

Strauder anticipates his next four being in Starkville under the Southeastern Conference’s first black head coach.

The former Green Bay Packers’ running backs coach struck gold where it mattered most with Strauder.

&uot;He’s a good man and will bring some change to State. Coach Croom is a big part because he really impressed my grandad,&uot; Strauder said. &uot;That’s what basically made my decision: I wanted to do what the family wants.&uot;

An hour before Natchez players held their ceremony, Trinity Episcopal linebacker Ivan Nastally (6-2, 225) inked his name to documents with Delta State.

Nastally, who accounted for 84 tackles for the Saints’ 13-1 Class A runner-up team, turned down offers from Louisiana Tech and the opportunity to walk-on at Ole Miss or Mississippi State to play for the Statesmen.

&uot;I went up there (to Cleveland) and really enjoyed the team and the atmosphere,&uot; said Nastally, who joins former Trinity quarterbck Chad Ridley at DSU. &uot;The defense went out to dinner on my visit, and we talked football. I’m just going to go up there and play my game and enjoy myself.&uot;

Early Wednesday afternoon Block’s Jeremy Washington (6-4, 230) sat behind a table surrounded by his parents, Lawanda and Billy, and head coach, Chad Harkins, and filled out the forms for Louisiana-Monroe.

&uot;It’s a great feeling knowing that I’ve made my decision of where I’m going to spend my next four years,&uot; Washington said.