STEPHENS CITY — Two weeks shy of a full year since JoJo Doleman announced on social media that he’d received his first NCAA Division I offer from Marshall University, the Sherando senior linebacker made official his commitment to play football next season for the Thundering Herd.
Doleman, alongside teammates Nick Corbit (Division II Lenoir-Rhyne), Will Hall (D-II Frostburg State) and Nick Mazza (D-III Christopher Newport), was one of four Warriors to lock down their college destinations when he signed his letter of intent with Marshall during a signing day ceremony at the school on Wednesday afternoon.
“It means a lot because I’ve been dreaming about this since I was little, to play at the next level,” Doleman said, “and for it to come true means the world to me.”
As it turned out, the scholarship offer Doleman received from Marshall in February 2018 would also be his last from a Division I school, and the senior said he never seriously considered any other programs.
In explaining his college choice, Doleman expressed his love of the atmosphere at Marshall — a 9-4 team under head coach Doc Holliday in 2018 — and his connection with the players and coaching staff and, in particular, his relationship with Herd assistant coach J.C. Price.
“It’s a football town. Everybody’s a diehard football fan,” said Doleman before mentioning the infamous plane crash that killed 75 Marshall University football players, coaches and fans in 1970. “Everybody comes together for the games and stuff and supports the players.”
Doleman, a physically gifted (he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds on Sherando’s football roster from this past season) three-year starter at linebacker for head coach Bill Hall’s Warriors, tallied 147 total tackles, five sacks and an interception over the past two seasons.
He was the defensive player of the year in the Class 4 Northwestern District and Region 4C and a first-team VHSL Class 4 all-state selection as a junior in 2017 and was second-team all-state in 2018, a year in which Doleman battled injury and recorded 67 tackles, two sacks and an interception.
Doleman also rushed for 641 yards and 20 touchdowns over the past two seasons as a fullback.
Bill Hall, in a brief speech at the start of Wednesday’s ceremony, issued a challenge to each of the four players present to take with them into their collegiate football careers. Hall’s challenge to Doleman was to meet expectations in the classroom.
“Athletic potential was never the question with JoJo,” Hall said afterward. “He’s always been very gifted athletically. His biggest thing is making sure that he could check all the boxes off the field to allow that to happen on the field. And he understands that. That’s his challenge. I feel very confident in his success on the field. He’s as good as any linebacker we’ve had. … Coaches around the country knew about JoJo, so the question wasn’t can he play? He’ll do great things, he just needs to make sure that he takes care of his business off the field. And he knows that.”
Wednesday’s signing ceremony held a little extra weight for the longtime Sherando head coach, who has had plenty of experience sending his players off to a college football career during his 16 seasons with the Warriors.
For the first time, Bill Hall’s son, Will, was one of those players signing a letter of intent.
“It does, it feels a lot different,” Bill Hall said. “Every signing’s different. Sometimes you have one and this one we had four, so you wanna make sure that you’re giving everybody their due, but obviously I’m really proud of Will. Like I said, he was the late bloomer onto the scene. I knew the potential that he had. I still don’t know if everybody else knows the potential he has. He has so many measurables that you look for at the next level, so for me it was always he was in a race with time. Could he catch up to his body? And I think he had a lot of opportunities because people see that potential exists. I’m proud of him just because he stayed the course when maybe some kids wouldn’t, and he kept working because he had a goal to play college football. For him to realize that is very satisfying as a dad and as a coach.”
Will Hall, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound tight end, caught 17 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns and was a first team All-Region 4C pick as a senior in 2018. Hall, who had offers from a couple other Division II schools, said Frostburg State topped his list because “they were always the most interested in me.”
Will Hall added that he felt at home on his visit to Frostburg State and said it was a bonus that the Bobcats went 10-1 under head coach DeLane Fitzgerald in 2018, and that FSU is making the jump from Division III to Division II next season.
“It helps that you can get some (scholarship) money from them now,” Will Hall said. “It just seemed like a good fit. They’ve had a really successful program in the D3 ranks, so it’ll be big for them moving up, to start with recruiting and stuff. It seems like they have a pretty good class coming in, so I’ll have to go in there and do work.”
Corbit, an offensive lineman, expressed similar sentiments when explaining his decision to sign with Lenoir-Rhyne, which reached the quarterfinal round of the Division II playoffs last season.
“That’s definitely a bonus,” Corbit said of the Bears’ success. “I wouldn’t say that played a huge part in (my decision) but obviously it’s nice to go in (to a successful program), but at the end of the day you’ve just gotta go in there and work your butt off, be the best version of you.”
Corbit (6-1, 260) started both ways for Sherando and helped pave the way for senior tailback T.J. Washington’s 1,300-yard season in 2018. Corbit was named second team all-region as an offensive lineman and was a second team all-state defensive end after tallying 35 tackles and two sacks.
Lenoir-Rhyne underwent a tremendous turnaround in Year 1 under head coach Drew Cronic, going from winning six total games in 2016 and 2017 to 12 wins in 2018. Corbit said the school offers him the desired balance between football and academics.
“Last season they went 12-2 and they brought in a lot of new coaches, and so on the athletic side I really liked what they had to offer,” Corbit said. “I went on an official visit and when I went on the visit I loved what they had to offer, how they treated me. And the academic piece, I loved some of the options I could study there. And the people there too, I fit in well with the people there.”
Mazza, a receiver/defensive back who didn’t begin playing football until his junior season, joins D-III Christopher Newport after leading all local players with 715 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches and snagging two interceptions on defense in 2018.