02/02/06 — C.B. Aycock's Gilbert, Lee sign football scholarships

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C.B. Aycock's Gilbert, Lee sign football scholarships

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 2, 2006 2:17 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Charles B. Aycock seniors Cortez Gilbert and Spruce Lee were plenty gifted enough high school football players to have went through the motions and still kept their starting roles.

But the Falcon duo wasn't just concerned with starting or playing time as they continuously strived to make themselves and their team better. They put in countless, dedicated hours in the weight room, went to offseason camps and last, but certainly not least, worked hard in the classroom.

All that hard work has paid off.

Gilbert, a 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back, has signed to play collegiate football for Division 1-AA Appalachian State, the defending national champion.

Gilbert, the 2005 News-Argus Defensive Player of the Year, played strong safety primarily at Aycock, but expects to shift to corner back as a freshman with the Mountaineers, who finished 12-3 last year with two of those losses coming to Division I Kansas and LSU.

"It feels like everything you put into your whole four years is paying off. It's like something's been lifted off your shoulders," said Gilbert, a North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl performer. "The coach (Jerry Moore) told me to only come here if I wanted to be a part of this team and be a Mountaineer. That's what I wanted to do."

One-of-five Shrine Bowlers in Appalachian's 16-player class, Gilbert finished with a season school-record 123 solo tackles and 51 assists his senior year. He also intercepted three passes -- returning one for a touchdown.

Running back Spruce Lee (5-9, 160) has committed to compete for Chowan College, a Division II Independent, and hopes to make an immediate impact for a team that finished just 2-8 last year.

"I'm going to go out and try to accomplish everything I didn't in high school. I like the area and it's not too far from home," said Lee, who has gained nearly 20 pounds of muscle since his junior year with extensive weight-training.

Lee suffered a high ankle sprain midway through his senior year, but still rushed for nearly 600 yards and seven touchdowns. As a versatile player that saw time his junior year at wide receiver, Lee should fit in well in Chowan's flexbone offense, which gives the running back a chance to catch passes out of the backfield.

Aycock coach Randy Pinkowski praised the work ethic of the senior duo.

"They didn't just live on their athletic ability. They were leaders and team captains," he said. "They were always asking what more they could do to improve themselves, they were good in the classroom and it got them to the next level.

"They were focused guys that put themselves in the right position."

Gilbert, who participated in the North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl after the season, likes the idea of going to play for a winning program with tradition.

"It's a bonus. Those guys are experienced and played in a national championship game. That's going to help me," Gilbert said. "To lead, you have to follow. My freshman year I don't mind following guys who have been there three or four years. I'm just ready."

Lee is hoping to help be a part of building a tradition at Chowan, who only recently made the move from D III to D II.

"I want to set an example when I get there. Everybody's a team. If you work together and play hard, you win games," Lee said.