Aston to walk on with University of Pittsburgh
By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- Sherando High School senior Reid Entsminger spent much of his early childhood living in Texas, and the now the Warriors standout will return to the state to continue his football career.
Entsminger was one of two Sherando football players to sign national letters of intent on Wednesday at the Five Guys restaurant in Winchester, as he made his commitment to Lamar University official. Warriors linebacker Daniel Eppard signed with Alderson Broaddus University (W.Va.), while linebacker George Aston attend the University of Pittsburgh as a preferred walk-on this fall.
"When it came to football, I wanted to play anywhere -- whoever wanted to give the opportunity to play. [Lamar] was the first school that gave me the opportunity and it just happened to be that it is in Texas," said Entsminger, who said he will likely play safety for the Cardinals. "I liked it there. That's where I wanted to go to school, and that's where I'm going."
Entsminger lived in Woodville, Texas, located about 60 miles north of Lamar University, before moving to Stephens City about six years ago. Entsminger still has family in Texas, and he said his uncle, who is good friends with Cardinals head coach Ray Woodard, played a significant role in Entsminger's decision to attend Lamar.
Entsminger's cousin, freshman quarterback Judge Wolfe, also currently plays for the Cardinals.
"My uncle just put my name through [Woodard] my freshman and sophomore year, and from then on he's been recruiting me," Entsminger said. "He wanted me my sophomore year, he told me, so I went down there for a visit and I just fell in love with it."
"That was always kind of one of the things that he talked about, was going back down there to play," Sherando head football coach Bill Hall said. "The fact that he had the connection down there that they knew about him and he's got family down there still, that was a big factor in it."
Entsminger said he has been awarded a scholarship to cover the tuition fee and the cost of books (which Entsminger said amounts to about an 85- to 90-percent coverage of his expenses), which will change to a full scholarship for the 2015 season.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior made his biggest impact for Sherando at quarterback this past season, where he helped lead the Warriors to an appearance in the Group 4A state championship game. At safety, Entsminger recorded 29 tackles and one interception, and was a first-team all-Northwestern District and second-team all-Conference 21 selection.
Lamar University, a Division I Football Championship Subdivision school which competes in the Southland Conference, finished last season with a 5-7 record, including a 2-5 mark in conference play. Lamar only recently reestablished its football program in 2010 after dropping it in 1989.
"They're in a good conference, the Southland Conference, which they say is like the SEC of FCS football," Entsminger said. "I'm just excited to play some good football."
Eppard also made his college commitment official on Wednesday when he signed with Division II Alderson Broaddus.
The 6-foot-1, 230-pound Eppard -- who finished the 2013 season with 93 tackles (38 solo), 1.5 sacks and two interceptions -- said he received little interest from college schools until members of Alderson Broaddus' coaching staff visited him early last week. Eppard visited the campus over the weekend.
Eppard said he has been offered a full tuition waiver.
"It was actually last Tuesday, they came to the school, and they're a new football program so I hadn't heard much about them. The coach came in and said they wanted to offer me and asked me to come down on Saturday," said Eppard, who added that he will play middle linebacker for the Battlers. "I went to campus for a visit and I ended up really liking it.
"Monday I had nothing and Tuesday I had an offer and a visit planned, so it happened pretty fast."
Alderson Broaddus reinstated football as a varsity sport just last season after more than 80 years without a football program. The Battlers went 4-6 last season.
Aston, who served as the leader of a dominant Sherando defensive unit this season, did not sign on Wednesday but plans to walk on with the University of Pittsburgh in the fall.
Aston said he received scholarship offers from several Division II programs but that his goal had always been to play at the Division I level. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound middle linebacker said he also considered Virginia Tech as another walk-on opportunity, but decided on Pittsburgh.
Aston said his uncle, Kevin Aston, has ties to Pittsburgh's football program and passed on some of the linebacker's game film to someone involved with the team. Aston's film eventually made its way to Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Matt House, who encouraged Aston to walk on to the program.
"I love the atmosphere. I really like the coaches, what they bring to the table," Aston said. "I've been traveling up there my entire life because my dad's side of the family is from Pittsburgh. It's always been a dream to play for Pitt or Penn State, so I got one of the two."
Aston served as a bruising running back for Sherando in 2013, racking up a team-high 24 touchdowns and nearly 900 rushing yards. But Aston's biggest impact was on defense, where he tallied an area-high 191 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks. He was named the 4A Defensive Player of the Year by the Virginia High School Coaches Association.
Pittsburgh, a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision program, joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013 after a long stint in the Big East. The Panthers went 7-6 last season, including a 3-5 mark in the ACC, and beat Bowling Green, 30-27, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Aston said he will have the opportunity to earn a scholarship once he's at Pitt.
"There were a couple situations that led to him being a little bit behind in the recruiting process, but at the end of the day I think he found a good home and I have no doubt with the way coach House ... sees him fitting into their scheme," Hall said. "They view their preferred walk-ons the same as their scholarship guys. In two years they've [offered scholarships to] 10 preferred walk-ons, which I think speaks volumes about that program and the way they view it. If I'm a betting man, I'm betting on George."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD