DUNBAR, W.Va. — West Virginia high school standouts got in on the start of the early signing period for college football Wednesday with several Mountain State standouts putting pen to paper to secure a spot at the next level.
For South Charleston senior defensive end Zeiqui Lawton, that means a future in the American Athletic Conference as a Cincinnati Bearcat.
Lawton, listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, was the consensus No. 2 recruit in the state according to Rivals and 247Sports who committed to Cincinnati and head coach Luke Fickle in early November. Since then, Lawton and the Black Eagles finished out an unbeaten season and were crowned Class AAA state champions by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission when SC was the only team to escape COVID forfeits late in the playoffs.
On Wednesday, Lawton sent his National Letter of Intent to the Bearcats early in the day then followed with a small celebration featuring family and friends at a local restaurant.
“This is a blessing,” Lawton said. “I have a good relationship with the [Cincinnati] coaching staff — all of them. I feel like it is the best fit for me.”
The Bearcats are currently undefeated, and although a College Football Playoff spot appears deserved but unlikely, Lawton is excited to help build on that momentum when he gets to campus in the Queen City.
“They’re one of the top teams in the nation right now, and they’re building,” Lawton said. “I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Lawton finished his high school career with his name all over the South Charleston record books. In addition to helping lead the Black Eagles to their fifth state championship in program history, the senior also became the school’s all-time leader in sacks with 35 over his four-year career in orange and black.
Among Lawton’s many mentors on his journey to collegiate football, one drew a roar when he walked into The Cold Spot on Wednesday to offer congratulations — Eastern Michigan defensive lineman Turan Rush.
A former star at Capital High, Rush went to California for junior college before ending up in the Mid-American Conference. Since arriving in Ypsilanti three years ago, the ex-Cougar totaled 46.5 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks. This season, Rush accounted for 4.5 sacks in just six games played.
In addition to being a person young West Virginia players can look up to as someone who made it to college ball, Rush and Lawton share a closer bond — they’re cousins.
“It means a lot,” Lawton said of his relationship with Rush. “It shows a kid from Charleston, West Virginia can go do big things and I’m proud to be the next up.”
Let’s take a look around the state at some of the other notable signings by West Virginia high school football players:
- Wyatt Milum, OL, Spring Valley — signed with West Virginia
- Ethan Payne, RB/DB, Poca — signed with Marshall
- Blake Hartman, RB/DB, Musselman — signed with Lehigh
- Michael Hughes, K, George Washington — signed with Appalachian State
- Gage Michael, QB/DB, Fairmont Senior — signed with Kent State
- John McConnell, K/P, Morgantown — signed with Marshall
- Tanner Slavic, DL, Morgantown — signed with William & Mary