Goldsboro standout signs with Virginia Tech
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 2, 2006 2:20 PM
Jacob Sykes won't forget the evening Frank Beamer came to dinner.
The Goldsboro High senior eagerly listened to Beamer and didn't seem too awestruck by having one of the nation's top collegiate football coaches sitting across from him at the table. In fact, Beamer spoke with Sykes and his parents -- Jerry and Debra Sykes -- as if they were all members of the Virginia Tech family.
Sykes knew his destiny at that point and a recent weekend trip to Blacksburg confirmed his belief. Wednesday morning, the 6-foot, 180-pound receiver officially signed a national letter-of-intent to play for the Hokies in 2007.
"When you see someone on TV a lot and finally see them in person, it's different ... but it was real exciting," said a grinning Sykes. "He is a nice person, very down to earth. It seems like really looks out for his players and showed that when he came to my house."
Sykes will earn a red shirt next fall and attend classes part-time to get acclimated to college life. He'll enroll as a full-time student in January 2007.
An all-area selection by the News-Argus, Sykes is one of four North Carolina players to sign NLIs with the Hokies, who finished 11-2 and defeated Louisville in the 2006 Toyota Gator Bowl. Joining Sykes in Blacksburg next season will be Northeastern fullback Devven Sutton, Sanford lineman Joey Hall and Devin Radford, a defensive back from Fayetteville.
The quartet is part of 19 players who signed with Virginia Tech.
"Jacob's signing says a lot about him, but also says tremendous things about the program and the kids who come out of Goldsboro," said third-year Cougar football coach Maurice Jackson. "With David Thornton in the NFL and a guy like Jacob signing to a nationally-ranked program, this is exciting for our football program.
"I'm extremely proud of him."
Sykes' recruitment began his junior season, but part of his collegiate preparation began as a sophomore. Jackson urged Sykes to participate in track to help improve his speed on the field. While his numbers didn't reflect his game-day efforts as a junior, he blossomed as one of the state's top receivers in 2005.
Sykes emerged the area's fifth-best receiver in terms of yards per catch and ranked fifth overall in total yards with 480. He grabbed 24 passes and collected three touchdowns for the Cougars, who advanced to the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 2-A (small-school) playoffs. Sykes received all-state recognition from NCPreps.com and all-Atlantic Region recognition from PrepStar, which rated him the state's 28th-best collegiate prospect.
"Coach Beamer thinks I have a bright future in the program," said Sykes. "That meant a lot because someone (like me) going from a small town to a big ACC school, to say you can make an impact on a program like that, says a lot.
"I'm going to work hard to make sure I do it."
The soft-spoken Sykes, who prefers to lead by example, appreciates Beamer's praise. But he realizes he's got some work ahead of him at Virginia Tech. He needs to add at least 15-20 pounds to his 180-pound frame. He can work out with the team and attend home games, but he can't see any live action.
Beamer feels Sykes can earn some quality time at receiver. Jackson added that if Sykes continues to improve his speed, he could emerge as a return specialist on punts or kickoffs.
"His best asset is his speed and is just now becoming well-rounded as far as his speed," said Jackson. "Each and every year, his speed has gotten better. Once he gets to Virginia Tech and they put him the weight program, he'll get a lot stronger, bigger and faster.
"He really can return (the ball). I think he's a threat every time he touches it."
While the lure of playing in the prestigious Atlantic Coast Conference certainly grabbed Sykes' attention, he also paid close attention to the academic side since he plans to major in business administration and obtain a Master's in the same field. Beamer had 32 of his 35 seniors graduate on time this spring. The other three are on track to finish next December. The academic side impressed Sykes, who plans to major in business administration and obtain a master's in the same field.
The redshirt semester will give Sykes an extra year of eligibility, which could generate more exposure for the NFL. Until then, he'll enjoy living the life of an ACC student-athlete and reaping the success Virginia Tech enjoys each season.
"It's a dream come true and all the hard work has paid off," said Sykes, who received offers from East Carolina and Maryland. "When dreams like this come true, it's unbelievable."
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