Sherando’s Ojo signs letter to play for West Liberty

Sherando's Josh Ojo, seated, signed his national letter of intent to play football at Division II West Liberty University. Surrounding Ojo are (left to right) Sherando football assistant coach Mike Marsh, head coach Bill Hall and assistant coaches Cory Carlson, T.J. Rohrbaugh and John Minteer. Brad Fauber/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – For Sherando senior Josh Ojo, the decision he had to make in regards to where he would continue his football career after high school was a tough burden to bear. He breathed a sigh of relief on Feb. 3.

That day, hours before the college football signing period opened up on Feb. 4, Ojo made his decision and chose Division II West Liberty University. Ojo celebrated his signing with a ceremony in the library of Sherando High School on Friday afternoon, where he was surrounded by teammates, coaches, teachers and friends.

“It’s the biggest blessing from God that I’ve ever gotten in my life,” Ojo said shortly after the ceremony. “I’ve always wanted to play college football and I didn’t really know how much of a blessing it really was until I got older, because seeing some kids, they’ve got to go to school and they’ve got to pay for it. When they get out of school they’ve got all of these loans and stuff. But God has blessed me where I can get it paid for through football. I’m so thankful for it.”

Ojo will attend West Liberty, which is located about 12 miles northeast of Wheeling, West Virginia, on an athletic scholarship that will cover the majority of his cost of attendance. Sherando head football coach Bill Hall declined to discuss the specifics of the scholarship but he called it “probably one of the best ones that I’ve ever seen at a Division II school.”

“It speaks volumes to their value in him, and they told [Sherando assistant coach Cory] Carlson and myself, ‘He’s our number one cornerback,'” Hall said.

“I tell those kids, money talks. They’ll tell you how much they value you based off the money that they give you. They stepped up to the plate in a big way. Again, I think that speaks volumes to how much they want Josh and like Josh. I think from our perspective, we’re tickled.”

Ojo, who had two interceptions for the Warriors and was a Virginia High School League second-team all-state selection at defensive back in 2014, chose West Liberty over fellow Division II programs Alderson Broaddus University and Shepherd University, as well as Division I-FCS James Madison University.

Hall said he received phone calls “every week” from JMU assistant head coach/recruiting coordinator John Bowers, who wanted Ojo as a walk-on, but Hall and the Warriors coaching staff felt West Liberty was the right fit for the senior cornerback.

“I think that they were just hoping that maybe he’d fall through the cracks and I was like, ‘Coach, that’s not going to happen,'” Hall said of his discussions with JMU. “Josh had a couple different opportunities but this being the best one, and I think we as a staff kind of felt this was the best situation not only athletically but academically and support-wise.”

Ojo said he first came in contact with West Liberty’s coaching staff about three weeks ago and he took his first visit to the school’s campus a week prior to the start of the national signing period.

Carlson joined Ojo on the trip and was impressed to find West Liberty’s coaching staff offices filled with about 15 players who were there simply to “talk football” with coaches and teammates.

“I’ve been in a lot of college football offices, and for players to want to be around their coaches and want to be together and just talk about football, now we’re talking about a true team,” Carlson said. “That’s when it starts getting to where you can do something special. That’s the kind of atmosphere I want for our kids.”

That camaraderie amongst the Hilltoppers’ players was also a major selling point for Ojo.

“The people down there are just incredible. The coaching staff and all the teammates, they have this bond that’s just like Sherando and it’s a perfect fit for me,” Ojo said.

West Liberty, one of the charter members of the Mountain East Conference, finished 6-5 (6-4 MEC) last season under 10th-year head coach Roger Waialae. The Hilltoppers’ last conference championship came in 2009 when they won the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title.

Ojo said he plans to study business management at West Liberty, and Hall praised the school’s coaching staff for its strict focus on academics.

“Their GPA from when [the coaching staff] got there to where it is now has just compounded unbelievably because of the points of emphasis that they put,” Hall said.

“Josh is going there, for our purposes, so that he can get a great education. Football will be the easy thing for Josh. It really will. We want to make sure he has a great academic support system around him and people that will encourage, love and support him there.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com