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A college football wish comes true

Posted: March 26, 2018 5:13 p.m.
Updated: March 27, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Camden High School senior Lance McCray (right) and Jackson Teen Center Executive Director Brian Mayes look over Lance’s acceptance letter from Benedict College he received on March 14. Benedict and Allen University are both interested in having Lance play for their football teams, giving him the chance to play for a college where his mother can come see him play -- the fulfillment of a dream Lance has had for several years.

All Lance McCray’s ever wanted was to join a college football team where his mother could come see him play.

That dream came true on March 14 for Lance, a Camden High School (CHS) Bulldog fullback and tailback who’s also been running short track this spring. That was the day he received an acceptance letter from Benedict College.

He has to decide by June 5, but there’s a little bit of a dilemma, if you want to call it that.

The president of Allen University called Lance’s mentor, Jackson Teen Center (JTC) Executive Director Brian Mayes, and said the school -- which is forming its first-ever football team this year -- is interested in Lance, too.

“They saw some footage of him trying out for Benedict,” Mayes said, “but Benedict is moving faster.”

In addition to playing and running for CHS, Lance has been a part of the JTC for a couple of years. Around the time Mayes first met him, Lance had written a post on Facebook about his dream to play football.

“But he said like he felt, ‘No one is watching me,’” Mayes said.

So, Mayes got involved with “shopping” Lance, and Benedict was their first stop. As he does with many students who come to the JTC, Mayes also tracked Lance’s grades. Lance even participated in the JTC and ALPHA Center’s flag football team a couple of summers ago, serving as quarterback for a team sponsored by the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office. He also competed as a wrestler during his junior year at CHS.

With Benedict College, it turned out he was the “perfect size,” according to Mayes, who set up the chance for Lance to try out for the Tigers in mid-February.

“They’re looking at him to be a two-sport athlete,” Mayes said; they want him to run track, too. “I told Lance, the world is yours.”

Lance said he started playing ball with the Pee Wee League for the county recreation department. Now that he can look ahead to college, he said he wants to study sports communication. But which school will he choose?

“It’s going to depend on who has the better scholarship,” Lance said. “If they’re equal, I’ll sit down with my mom and we’ll figure it out.”

Lance said he will miss his “co-horts” after graduation this spring, along with his teachers, coaches and, of course, the Mayes and the other adults at the JTC.

“They’ve kept me off the streets,” Lance said.

When asked who his favorite teacher is, he immediately named his position coach, Sa’Vonne Wingate.

“He taught me how to be a man, on and off the field, and even more than that,” Lance said.

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