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Buckley heads to UL-Lafayette, Fondon to Northwest

J.D. Fondon is headed to Northwest Community College after signing during National Signing Day last week. With J.C. is his mother, Annie Fondon and Blue Devil head football coach Brad Embry (standing, left) and defensive coordinator Richard Russo. – Photo by Reid Bankston

Eric Buckley (center) committed to Louisiana-Lafayette during National Signing Day last Wednesday. With him are his parents, Eric Buckley, Sr. and Ruby Turner. – Photo by Reid Bankston

By Reid Bankston
Sports Reporter

WATER VALLEY – Two of Water Valley’s gridiron standouts will continue their careers at the college level.  Blue Devil seniors Eric Buckley and J.D. Fondon made their college destinations official on National Signing Day, inking with Louisiana-Lafayette and Northwest Community College respectively

“Both J.D. and Eric are blessed physically, but this goes to show what you can do when you hit the weights hard and do what the coaches tell you to do,” said Water Valley coach Brad Embry.  “I’m extremely proud of both of these guys.”

Buckley, who busted onto the recruiting scene after a standout senior year, saw his recruiting progress stall at times during the season, but when former Mississippi State assistant Mark Hudspeth accepted the ULL head coaching position, he wasted little time in raiding his former stomping grounds for some of Mississippi’s top performers.

“A lot of people gave Eric looks and that’s all you can really ask for, but for whatever reason, they decided to go in a different direction,” said Embry.  “But Hudspeth and Louisiana-Lafayette are getting a really good player in Eric, and if he works hard, he’s going to play down there.  They’ve got some Mississippi kids going down there with him, so I think this is a good situation for him.”

Joining Buckley for the Ragin Cajuns will be one of the most highly touted recruiting classes in school history, and one with a strong Mississippi flavor. A total of 15 Mississippi kids decided to cast their lot with Hudspeth’s new regime, including Mississippi’s Mr. Football Qyen Griffin, a standout running back from South Panola. Oxford standouts DeShaun McNeal and Larry Pettis will also join Buckley on the bayou.

“I think this is a great opportunity for me to get better as a player,” said Buckley. “I’m excited to get to play against some of the bigger teams like Oklahoma State. I’m just going to go down there and work hard.  The coaches told me they’ll start me out at safety, but I’m going to do whatever the ask me to.”

Buckley finished his Water Valley career with his strongest campaign yet, rushing for 738 yards and nine touchdowns, as well as 85 tackles from the safety position. Buckley is Water Valley’s first division one football signee since Antonio Hoskins signed with Mississippi State in 2008.

Fondon Headed to Northwest

For the past two seasons, J.D. Fondon has been a coach on the field for the Water Valley Blue Devil defense.  While he isn’t the biggest linebacker, or the fastest, or the strongest, Fondon is the embodiment of that “it” factor that coaches love to talk about. Fondon’s instincts and football IQ are off the charts, helping the senior standout record 186 tackles and six sacks in 2010. With Fondon taking his talents to Senatobia, Water Valley’s loss as now turned into Northwest Community College’s gain.

“J.D. has been a leader for us ever since we got here, and we won’t be able to replace him with one or two people,” said Water Valley defensive coordinator Ric-hard Russo.  “He is a student of the game and a tremendous leader for us.  He always wanted my notes on our opponents and that football brain is what will help him at the next level.”

Like Buckley, Fondon could also face a position change at the next level, as both Russo and Embry believe that his future is at inside linebacker after staring on the outside for Water Valley’s defensive “wrecking crew.”

“I’m just ready to get up there and get going,” said Fondon.  “I’m happy that Northwest gave me a chance and my family will have the chance to watch me play.  I’m just going to keep working on getting stronger and faster and getting in better shape so I can play when I get up there.”

  Fondon is Northwest’s second signee from Water Valley in the past two season, as former star running back D.C. Logan is now a cornerback for the Rangers.

“Mississippi junior college football is some of the best in the country, so it’ll be a good test for (Fondon),” said Russo.  

“I’m just extremely proud of him, he’s a great kid and we’re really going to miss him.”

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