Six RHS athletes decide to walk on for parish college teams

Pictured from left to right are Jamious Blackmon, RJ Brown, Dyson Fields, Jordan McWain, Kyran McConnell and Nick Robinson. (Photo by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

Athletics scholarships for high school seniors were once a much more attainable goal than they are these days.

And being able to do so close to home was “simply gravy” – a sweet reward for hard-earned efforts.

But these days of living with the NCAA transfer portal and other changes to what used to be the norm have totally changed that equation.

That didn’t stop six Ruston High School athletes determined to overcome the odds make a giant leap forward on Wednesday as they signed paperwork to become preferred walk-ons at Lincoln Parish universities.

Their plan is simple, and a fact of life in the days we live in now. They’re going to work to earn their scholarships the hard way – they plan to earn them.

Six RHS student athletes signed paperwork Wednesday at the RHS Auditorium pledging to give it everything they have to show they’re deserving of competing on the next level – football players Dyson Fields, RJ Brown, Jamious Blackmon, Kyran McConnell and Jordan McWain along with Bearcats pitcher Nick Robinson.

“The transfer portal has changed everything – to the point that talented high school players who back when would have been given to athletes now have to try to walk-on and show their abilities and desire to show they deserve to be a part of it all,” said RHS athletics director and head football coach Jerrod Baugh.

“And if these players here today work hard and take care of business – they’ve earned the chance to get scholarships and show they deserve to play at the next level. It’s just the way things are now, but all these athletes should be proud of making it this far and earning the chance they deserve to compete at the next level and deserve a scholarship to continue their education to become the best they can be.”

Robinson, who said he’s leaning toward majoring in kinesiology, said he’s excited about getting the opportunity to join a Grambling baseball program that has been one of the top Southwestern Athletic Conference teams all season long.

“It’s a hometown school, most of my family went there and I’d just like to keep the tradition going,” Robinson said. “Coach (Davin) Pierre and the Tigers are doing a great job this season and getting a chance to show them I deserve to be a part of the team really means a lot to me.”

Field and Brown earned shots at preferred walk-ons in football, but said they’ve been told they’ve also caught the attention of Louisiana Tech baseball coaches.

For Brown, the opportunity to attend a school like Tech where a majority of his family has matriculated is a dream come true.

“They want me to try to walk on as a punter,” Brown said. “But they said they might think about me for baseball, too. Just playing for Tech, and what it means to my family. I couldn’t ask for anything better and I’m going to give it everything I have to show I deserve this opportunity.”

Fields, a running back who rushed for 1,659 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns in the regular season alone, said all he needs is a chance at either sport.

“It’s close to home and gives me a chance to play in front of people who know me and support me,” Fields, who has plans to major in business,  said of his decision to become a Bulldog. “I grew up watching Tech games. I grew up with RJ and it’s exciting to take this journey with him.

“They’ve mentioned baseball, and that’s something I’d love a chance at, too. The fact I could play either, or even both sports, makes it that much better.”

Blackmon, who said he plans to major in business management.  said he’s just happy to receive the opportunity to become a Bulldog.

“The coaches made it great for me so I’m going in to show them on tape that I have what’s it’s got – I can play for them,” Blackmon said. 

McWain said his decision to go to Grambling made his choice easy.

“It’s my team – my family’s team,” McWain said. “They made me feel like I’ll be getting a chance to play at home. They made me feel welcome.”

McConnell also felt Grambling was the place for him.

“It’s hometown – It’s the G,” McConnell said. “That Black and Gold means something. That G means something. I’m just glad to get the chance to show I belong – that I deserve to be a Tiger.”