A pair of defensive linemen who hail from Jackson County are set to fulfill their dreams of playing Division I football.
After St. Martin senior Norde White Jr. committed to Jackson State last month, former Pascagoula standout Jaeden Ridgeway offered his pledge to Southeastern Louisiana on Monday.
The Pearl River Community College freshman picked up the offer from the Lions on a trip to the Hammond campus on Saturday.
“Man, it was something I’ve been waiting on this for a long time,” Ridgeway said of receiving his Division I first offer. “It was a good feeling. My mom was standing right there and she teared up.”
Ridgeway didn’t wait long to make his pledge.
“It felt like it was the right place for me,” he said. “It finally makes me feel like the hard work is paying off.”
Ridgeway, who checks in at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, has eight tackles through five games as a defensive end.
Former Ole Miss quarterback/running back Michael Spurlock is the man who has been recruiting White for Southeastern Louisiana. The Lions staff talked with Ridgeway while he was at Pascagoula High School, but wanted to see how he would develop on the junior college level.
“I’ve definitely gotten better with my pass rushing,” Ridgeway said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger and I’ve gotten better technique with the good coaching up here.”
Ridgeway has also heard from Tennessee-Martin, South Alabama and New Mexico State and he’s open to hearing what other colleges have to say.
“I’m definitely willing to listen to other offers,” he said.
White makes his return
Norde White had one of those injuries that could have easily ended a promising football career.
The St. Martin senior defensive tackle tore his ACL, PCL and hamstring during the second game of his junior campaign in 2017, ending his season early.
Doctors told him it would take 9 months to recover, keeping him away from the football field at a crucial point in his recruitment. He was already hearing from college programs like Louisiana-Lafayette, South Alabama and UAB.
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound White had a long road ahead of him.
“I never gave up throughout the whole process,” White said Monday. “I knew I had to get going.
“I have a problem with being still. I couldn’t sit still. I just had to get back. I had a couple of schools recruiting me and I had to back to my bread and butter, what’s good.”
White is back on the field as a senior and working his way back to 100 percent health.
St. Martin coach Eddie Wayne Whitehead believes White has a high ceiling as a college prospect.
“There ain’t no doubt with his size,” Whitehead said. “He played a game and a half (last year) and you could see a lot of improvement from his sophomore year. Right now, he’s starting to play like he did last year when he was healthy.”
Jackson State became the first Division I school to take the leap and offer White a scholarship back in May.
In September, White awarded their commitment to him by offering his own verbal pledge.
“That’s what really, really made me go ahead and commit,” White said. “During the injury process, they were the only one checking up on me and hollering at me. That’s respect.”
White has 17 tackles and two sacks through six games this season for the Yellow Jackets (4-2, 1-1).