Dream Achieved

Country Day quarterback Radford commits to Wake Forest

by C. Jemal Horton

Charlotte Country Day rising senior quarterback Michael Radford donned some freshly purchased Wake Forest garb after committing to play for the Demon Deacons on June 14. C. Jemal Horton/SCW photo

The summer of 2012 was set to be an exercise in stamina, sweat and will for Michael Radford.

For two months, the Charlotte Country Day quarterback and his dad would travel the Southeast – and beyond, if necessary – as Radford attended college camps and effectively auditioned for coaches with hopes of landing a football scholarship with just the right school.

It began with a trip to Oxford, Miss., followed by stops in Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Huntington, W.Va., and Greenville, N.C., with many more to come. Then, in an instant, the summer-long schedule screeched to a halt – the good kind.

On June 14, less than 24 hours after receiving a scholarship offer from Wake Forest, Radford made a commitment to sign a National Letter of Intent with the Demon Deacons.

The rising senior still will spend his summer throwing lots of passes and enduring intense workouts, only now he’ll be doing it at Country Day while occasionally draped in Wake Forest paraphernalia.

“To know where I’m going to go to college before I even take a snap my senior year feels great,” Radford said. “It’s a huge relief off my shoulders. It feels awesome.

“I wasn’t that highly recruited, so my dad and I put together a schedule filled with all the camps we could attend, basically every Wednesday and lots of Fridays, just so I could get my name out there this summer. It was just going to be us driving and going to camps and staying in hotels. But I’m done with camps now. That feels really good.”

Radford, who’s listed as a two-star quarterback by Rivals.com, also had offers from Marshall, the Charlotte 49ers and Presbyterian. Last season, his first as Country Day’s starter, he was one of southern Mecklenburg’s top dual-threat signal-callers, passing for 1,519 yards and 14 touchdowns to go with 750 yards and 20 touchdowns rushing.

His showing during the 2011 season prompted contact from a number of college recruiters, although before June his sole scholarship offer came from Presbyterian, which competes at the Football Bowl Subdivision level (formerly Division I-AA).

“I thought that he would get a (major college) offer,” Country Day coach Bob Witman said. “It seems to be a year that a lot of schools were looking for quarterbacks, and coaches that came in here told me that they thought he was one of the best that they’d seen.

“Michael’s big, he’s athletic and has a strong arm, so he fits all the criteria. I think he’s going to do well. I’m happy that he was able to make his decision so he won’t have to risk getting burned out or hurting his arm throwing at so many of those camps, because it’s a grind. Now he can work out with us and focus on the (upcoming) season.”

But while the planned summer camp schedule was going to be taxing, Radford said he was ready for what has become a necessary evil of sorts for many high school football players with college aspirations. A strong performance at his first stop, the University of Mississippi, was a positive omen.

Michael Radford (left) cebebrates his Wake Forest commitment with his mother, Tammy, and brother, Nicholas. C. Jemal Horton/SCW photo

“Football recruiting has become a business in itself, so we planned out a camp schedule through July,” said Radford’s dad, also named Michael. “Playing in the (N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association), I really had no idea what talent level Michael had. But for him to go down to the first camp at Ole Miss and do a really, really good job made me think, ‘Well, gosh, he may be able to play somewhere.’

“At every camp he went to, the (host) coaches were really interested. Other coaches working the camp came up to him and gave him cards and so forth. Before you know it, he started picking up offers.”

Radford attended the Wake Forest camp on June 3 and “just felt comfortable” throwing on the Winston-Salem campus.

“I did pretty well,” he said. “I really clicked with the coaches there. Coach (Tom) Elrod, the quarterbacks coach, really liked me. He kept coaching me up and giving me pointers. With each pass I threw, he’d say, ‘Good job, Michael! There you go!’ After that camp, Coach said, ‘We’ll stay in touch. We’re going to review everything as a coaching staff, and we’ll get back to you.’

“I really hoped that they would offer, but they didn’t over the next few days, so my dad and I stayed on our camp schedule. The next Friday, we went to N.C. State, and that went well, too. Then we went up to Marshall, and I ended up getting an offer from them. A few days later, UNCC called and offered.”

A few days later, Radford had another impressive showing at East Carolina’s camp. On the ride back to Charlotte, Wake Forest called.

“Coach (Lonnie) Galloway, the recruiter in my area, said, ‘Hey, Mike, I know we haven’t talked in a while, but give us a call around 6. I’m pretty sure some good news is coming your way,’” Radford recalled. “I called back when I got home, and they offered me.”

Radford thought about it. He discussed it with his parents. He slept on it. He woke up and called Wake Forest around noon.

Why wait?

“I’ve always been told, ‘Once you know, you know,’” Radford said. “And I knew Wake Forest was where I wanted to go. I called them up the next day and said, ‘I’m all in. I want to be a Deac.’

“I just believe it’s a great place to go. It’s great academics, great football, and I love the coaches.”

And while Radford’s family – which also includes his mother, Tammy, and his brother, Nicholas – is thrilled with his decision, he did chose the Deacons over one of his dad’s favorite teams: Marshall.

Michael Radford Sr. played guard at Marshall in the early 1980s. But while he was there, the Herd coaching staff included a young assistant named Jim Grobe, who now is Wake Forest’s head coach.

“Marshall has a great program up there, but this decision was totally Michael’s – I let him do what’s best for him,” the elder Radford said. “But it’s funny because I knew Coach Grobe at Marshall, and I had kept up with his success at Wake Forest. So, in a lot of ways, everything’s come full circle.

“Wake Forest is a great academic institution, and it’s about an hour and 10 minutes away. It’s awesome. But whatever decision Michael made, Tammy and I are just so proud of him for chasing his dream.”

Radford is the second consecutive Bucs quarterback to join an Atlantic Coast Conference program, as 2011 Country Day grad Morgan Roberts is entering his redshirt freshman season at Clemson. Radford said Roberts had a tremendous influence on his recruitment.

“Morgan definitely helped me out a lot,” Radford said. “He actually showed people what Charlotte Country Day is and that we can actually play. The Marshall coach, when he came and watched Morgan throw, I actually got to throw in front of him a little bit. He said he liked Morgan, and he remembered me.

“Wherever I went this summer, a lot of the coaches remembered Morgan. Wake did talk to Morgan for a little bit, but they didn’t end up offering him, but they said they really liked him. They said they really liked me, too, and they thought they’d just pull the trigger because there’s a lot of good things coming from the Country Day program and they think I can do some good things at Wake.”

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