A trio of Pine Bluff High Zebra football seniors have signed their letters of intent to further their playing career at the next level. Wednesday at noon in the McFadden Gymnasium on the campus of Pine Bluff High, tail back Dalvin Smith, defensive back Ronald Rockett and line backer Keyshawn Whaley made decisions on the next chapter in their lives.
Zebras' Head Coach Bobby Bolding was pleased to see the hard work pay off, and for the opportunity to see three of his athletes gain collegiate scholarships.
"I think the biggest thing all three of these guys brought was leadership," Bolding said. "All three have a tremendous work ethic, and they all bought in to the process of getting better."
After considering a number of JUCOs, tailback Dalvin Smith decided to take his talents to Minnesota West Junior College in Worthington, Minnesota. Smith transferred into the Zebras' program for his final year of high school football. Smith brought along with him a physical running style, and he proved that he can be versatile in the back field, lining up at tailback or fullback. Most importantly, Smith learned how to be a better person during his time with the Zebras.
"Playing here at Pine Bluff was a great experience," Smith said. "I was coached by a great coaching staff. They showed me how to be a man, and not only a man, but a team player, and how to get it done in the classroom. I had a lot of JUCOs talking to me. My decision to go to Minnesota West is because the coach made me feel more comfortable, and he made me feel like I was at home."
Bolding highlighted the leadership ability of Smith, and he figures his measurable will transfer to the next level.
"Dalvin Smith was a good leader for us," Bolding said. "His measurable is a strong point with his size. He's a wide tail back that can even play full back, and those are hard to come by."
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions were able to land Zebras' defensive back Ronald Rockett. Rockett decided staying home was the best option for him, and also education was a factor, as they were able to offer him a full scholarship. During his senior year, Rockett learned how to be a leader, and he earned all conference honors.
"It's been a tough road with all the ups and downs through my process here," Rockett said. "With not a lot of starters coming back, I had to step up and take on a leadership role as a senior. We could have went all the way for a third straight year, but things just happened. My decision really was based on me liking UAPB more than the others that I was recruited by, so I decided to take that full ride that UAPB offered me."
Bolding raved about the length and size of Rockett, and he believes that'll help his transition to the next level.
"Rockett is extremely long for a 6-foot 2 safety, and those are hard to come by as well," Bolding said. "His long arms will help him at the next level excel as a defensive back."
Linebacker Keyshawn Whaley decided that Arkansas Tech University would be the best fit for him, and he fell in love with their program from the start. He played a part in the Zebras winning back-to-back state titles in 2014 and 2015. Whaley was an all-conference selection, and he participated in the East vs West All Arkansas game. Whaley is a product of the program, and his exuberant hard work spread off to his teammates.
"We worked hard here," Whaley said. "We won two state championships and almost went to a third. The work we put in to get there helped me with my overall work ethic. It was others that offered, but I really like Arkansas Tech from the jump. I had a real good feeling about it and decided it was the right college for me."
Bolding believes that Whaley is physically ready to get to Arkansas Tech and make an impact.
"Keshawn is the most physical ready to play out of the three," Bolding said. He's 215 pounds, he runs a 4.5, and he's had a lot of high school experience. He can match up at man on defensive and also play downhill physical football. He brings a lot to the table."
According to Bolding, the Zebras have one more prospect that is still undecided at this moment.