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Belleville football players make Division I commitments

Belleville West quarterback Sherand Boyd won’t get to play that position in college, but his goal of earning a Division I football scholarship was reached Wednesday after he gave a verbal commitment to play safety for Northern Colorado.

Boyd had several opportunities to play quarterback in Division II, including Northwest Missouri State, Lindenwood-St. Charles and McKendree. Division II Central Missouri also wanted Boyd at safety, but after visiting the Northern Colorado campus in Greeley, Colo., Boyd was sold.

“At the beginning I was dealing with a lot of Division II schools wondering if I’d get a Division I offer,” Boyd said. “The fit (at Northern Colorado) was perfect as far as the program and my major, and as far as playing time as a freshman because I’ll definitely have an opportunity to play.

“Missouri State wanted me to walk on at quarterback and I don’t know how I felt about that. Taking a full ride to college rather than paying was definitely a better choice.”

Verbal commitments are non-binding; the first day recruits can sign letters of intent is next Wednesday.

Belleville East offensive and defensive lineman Nathan Sylvester has committed to play noseguard for Southern Illinois University Carbondale, while Belleville West defensive back Dominic Davis committed to North Dakota State.

“It’s their goal to be a national champion and to be in the championship game,” Sylvester said of the Salukis. “They’re in the toughest conference in their division, so it’s going to be fun every game. That’s the environment I want to have myself around.”

Belleville East lineman KeyShone Young, who played primarily on offense for the Lancers, will play on the defensive line at Division II Truman State. Belleville East safety Ryan Betts, who led the team with 67 tackles and three interceptions, has committed to NAIA Robert Morris in Chicago.

Boyd was one of the top athletes in the Southwestern Conference last season as he came back from a knee injury to help lead the Maroons (7-4) to the second round of the state playoffs.

A first-team All-Area selection, Boyd was West’s leading rusher with 860 yards and 10 touchdowns on 195 carries. He also completed 88-of-160 passes for 1,331 yards and 11 TDs with four interceptions.

“He’s a hitter,” West coach Cameron Pettus said. “He’s a physical kid and even at quarterback he loves to run over people. He’s got that physical mentality which will help him in that safety spot.”

Boyd brought up another interesting angle on the transition from quarterback to safety.

“I’ll be able to decipher quarterbacks better than most guys would since I played the position,” Boyd said. “It should help me disguise my coverage and things like that.”

Boyd said he has an uncle living about an hour from campus, which gives family members a place to stay to watch his home games. Plus there’s another former West star not far away in University of Wyoming standout running back Brian Hill.

Pettus said Boyd was determined to find a good fit at the highest possible level.

“He just wanted a shot to compete at the Division I level,” Pettus said. “He said what really sold him was the coaching staff. He said he even met with the president at Northern Colorado and talked to him for 30 minutes and nothing about football.

“I think it was just a good fit for him all-around.”

Sylvester (6-foot-2, 285 pounds) was a first-team All-Area choice and major force on the Lancers’ offensive line. On defense he had 38 tackles and one sack.

“The reason I chose Carbondale because of the home atmosphere,” Sylvester said. “As soon as I set foot on campus I felt like that was the place for me. When I met the players it made it even better, and the coaching staff. It was the place I fit the most, my personalty and everything fit.

“(The position) didn’t matter to me, I just wanted to play football. I just wanted to hit somebody.”

East coach Tim Funk thinks SIU will be a good fit as well.

“He played more offensive guard for us than defense, but he played a little bit of defense, too,” Funk said. “I think he’ll be a good (noseguard). He’s already about 290 or 295 and they’ll put a little bit more weight on him, plus he’s very athletic.”

SIUC has two former Belleville linebackers in the program in Chase Allen (East) and Tori Millender (West). Allen was someone Sylvester looked up to from the time he began playing at East and Millender has been a friend for years.

“Nathan really felt comfortable at Southern,” Funk said. “It’s finding the right fit and what level you can play at. There’s a lot of Division II schools that told me Nathan was No. 1 on their board as an offensive lineman. Obviously they’re disappointed he’s going to Southern but he felt comfortable there.”

Davis was fifth on the Maroons’ defense with 52 tackles and also had two interceptions.

“I think he’s special because he’s so fast,” Pettus said of Davis, who has been timed at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash. “I haven’t coached a kid that fast in a long, long time. He’s going to get better and better and they’ll really develop him.”

Davis’ had another tie to North Dakota State in former West linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker, who is a cousin of both Davis and Hill.

Young had 10 tackles and two sacks, but like Sylvester saw the bulk of his playing time on the offensive line.

The latest two West commitments allow them to join All-American kicker and punter Austin Seibert, who has a full scholarship at Oklahoma.

The metro-east’s top recruit is East St. Louis All-American defensive lineman Terry Beckner, Jr. Beckner recently visited national champion Ohio State and is scheduled to make his final visit to Missouri after previous trips to Auburn and Florida State.

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