It was a year ago this month that Bobby Rome was named the head football coach at Central State University, a Division II school in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Rome, a former standout quarterback for Granby High in Norfolk, knew one of the first areas he had to hit on the recruiting scene was Hampton Roads.
And the first-year coach succeeded, as Rome finalized his recruiting class on national signing day with the addition of Bayside defensive back Justice Merritt and Maury running back Demonte Dunlap.
Merritt, 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, said he’s excited about going to Central State and being coached by Rome.
“Coach Rome has been showing love for me for a long while,” Merritt said. “He made me feel as if Central is going to be a good fit for me. … I’m real happy with the opportunity Coach Rome is giving me.”
Merritt and Dunlap are two of six athletes total that Rome was able to recruit from Hampton Roads. He also got wide receiver Brandon Brock (Norfolk), wide receiver Gerrien Christopher (Chesapeake), quarterback Tyriq Henderson (Newport News) and wide receiver Said Sidibe (Newport News).
Rome called Brock a “playmaker.” The former Oscar Smith star spent the 2019 season at Los Angeles Pierce College, where he earned first-team All-California Region IV honors. He was rated the No. 12 junior-college receiver nationally by GridironRR.com.
Rome also was excited to pick up Christopher, who played for Indian River before he transferred to Life Christian Academy in Chester. Henderson, who played for Warwick, came from Bluefield College. And Sidibe, who also played for Warwick, came to Central State from Virginia University of Lynchburg, where Rome was the head coach.
Rome’s initial group of signees includes six players from Virginia, four from Ohio, three from Illinois, one from New Jersey and one from Texas.
“I felt there was a chance for us to kind of slide in there and grab some of those guys under the radar,” he said about the talent in Hampton Roads.
Rome was a former star quarterback and second-team All-Tidewater pick for Granby, where he helped lead the Comets to the Eastern District title in 2004. He played college football at North Carolina.
He said he’s excited about the talent he was able to recruit from Hampton Roads and is looking forward to the future at Central State, which plays in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“It feels great. I feel honored, I feel like I’m walking in my calling,” said Rome, who was named the Small College Sports Report Coach of the Year in 2019. “I just want to be able to do the best I can.”
Larry Rubama, 757-575-6449, email@example.com