Last Wednesday, Feb. 5, Thomson High School offensive lineman Donald Casey Jr. signed a full-ride athletic scholarship to play football next year at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville.
THS Head Football Coach Michael Youngblood shared with the audience how Casey transitioned into a leader from his junior to his senior year and how that created the opportunity for him to land the scholarship.
“When I first got here, he was a junior. I am a firm believer that kids mature over their years in high school,” said Youngblood, following the signing ceremony. “I started riding him a little bit because I saw the potential that he had.”
The key milestone in Casey’s development as a player was between his junior and senior years.
“He went to offensive line camp going into his senior year and man, when he came back he was just different,” said Youngblood. “He started leading, he started getting onto kids, and leading by example and he just held his teammates accountable.”
The coach said Casey’s success is a testament to the senior’s maturity and he was glad to have had the chance to promote him to Coach Rob Manchester, assistant head coach at GMC.
“It’s all about finding a school that likes you. I called Coach Manchester early in the year and I told him I wanted him to keep an eye on this guy because before I got here academically he had struggled a little bit. We picked it up, but I knew he was not going to make it NCAA wise but his GPA went up and I told Coach Manchester that this would be a good guy that ‘you need to look at’,” Youngblood said.
Manchester came for an in-home visit with Casey and then the Bulldog player also visited the campus in Milledgeville.
“When he did that, it has been a blessing for him and everything that has happened for him and his family. Anytime you get a chance to promote a kid that receives a full scholarship and won’t have to pay for anything out of his pocket it’s a blessing,” said Youngblood, who praises Casey’s improvements both on the field and in the classroom.
“It’s definitely important,” said Youngblood. “We spend three days a week in study hall. We’re going to different things academically. We don’t want that to ever be an issue for kids.”
The THS coach said he was thankful to have a junior college like GMC nearby so Casey’s parents can easily make it to the games to show support.
“Hopefully he takes advantage of his opportunity to rip and run with it and hopefully in two years we can have him back here signing again to a four-year institution,” Youngblood said.
On the field, Casey made his mark as a Bulldog and lined up as the offense’s left tackle.
“That’s why we always ran to the left, because we wanted to run behind him,” said Youngblood. “He was going to pancake somebody at least five or six times a game.”
As the coach reflected back on Casey’s senior season, one night came to the forefront. The Dogs were on the road at Baldwin.
“He looked at me and he said ‘coach, run it behind me’,” Youngblood said. “That was definitely the defining moment where I knew that he was that kind of guy,” Youngblood said. “You had seen signs, but once you have that offensive lineman come up and say ‘run the ball behind me’ you know what you’ve got.”
For the signing, Casey was joined at the table by his parents, Donald Casey Sr. and Juanita Casey; sister, Virnita Casey; and girlfriend, Karissa Samuels.