Trinity’s R.J. Fleming signs with Arkansas State

Published 12:40 am Thursday, February 4, 2010

NATCHEZ — Trinity Episcopal senior running back R.J. Fleming’s college choice wasn’t so clear to his audience at first.

When all eyes were on him Wednesday morning at the Trinity school library, Fleming had to pick one between Arkansas State and Northwestern State, with each school being represented by a hat.

With the Northwestern State hat stacked on top of the Arkansas State hat, Fleming donned both caps — then removed Northwestern State’s from the top, leaving Arkansas State.

“I went on my trip up there Jan. 22 and just fell in love with the people there,” Fleming said. “If I’m going to be somewhere for four years, I want to be around great people, just like I have been here at Trinity.”

The decision was not an easy one for Fleming, especially at the moments leading up to it. Minutes before he signed the papers to be faxed in at Arkansas State, the Northwestern State coaching staff called him, trying to make one last appeal for his signature.

“They were telling me everything I wanted to hear,” Fleming said, “but Arkansas State is where I wanted to be.

“It hurt my heart, telling them no. I developed a relationship with the coaches there that went beyond coaching — it was a friendship. I talked to them on the phone every night. Telling them no was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.”

For Fleming’s parents, Eyevette and Frederick, both met the decision with satisfaction.

“It was a great decision because he did all the hard work himself and made the decision on his own,” Eyevette said. “To see him mature into a young man and be able to make those decisions, that’s the best part.”

Fleming credited both of his parents as being a huge help throughout the recruitment process.

“Some nights, I’d never get to sleep,” Fleming said. “I would be talking to the coaches (at each school) on the phone. My parents stood by me, praying to God about this. Their prayers helped me through this, and I based the decision off of that.”

Although Arkansas State’s campus in Jonesboro, Ark., isn’t too far from Natchez, Eyevette said distance was not a factor in the decision.

“Distance doesn’t matter to me, as long as he’s happy,” Eyevette said.

Frederick, however, said he was pleased that his son wouldn’t be playing too far from home.

“I’m excited,” Frederick said. “That’s just somewhere to be able to get out of Natchez and go for the weekend.”

Fleming’s coach, David King, said it was always a treat for a player of his to be offered a Division I scholarship.

“We have a simple philosophy here: work hard,” King said. “If you work hard, good things will happen. We also do a lot of legwork, as far as getting video out of our players and talking to college coaches, but it really boils down to having God-given talent.”

And that God-given talent is what ultimately gave Fleming the opportunity he’s gotten, King said.

“The first time I saw him run the ball in eighth grade, there was no question that he had ability most people don’t have,” King said. “I told him that, and I told him he’d have to work his butt off for four years — and that’s exactly what he’s done.”

Fleming said Arkansas State plans to use him as a running back, receiver, punt returner and a wildcat back. When reflecting on the decision, he gave credit to his coaches and teammates for allowing him this decision.

“I want to give thanks to all my teammates and coaches,” Fleming said. “I was able to play in a good atmosphere and system, and that’s all thanks to them.”