Marcus Rouse and Johnathan Buckrham were key contributors last fall for the Eastern Wayne football team as it qualified for the NCHSAA 3-A playoffs.

The Warriors’ duo took the next step in their football careers by signing national letters of intent to play football at the next level.

Rouse signed with North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, while Buckrham signed to play at Jireh Preparatory Academy in Matthews.

“I’m so happy Marcus gets the chance to play in front of a big crowd, go to a well-respected university that has made some noise,” Eastern Wayne head coach Leander Oates said. “I think he’s going to do really well over there.

“John has come a long way, and I’m just happy for him. He’s going to be a diamond in the rough.”

Rouse has been a fixture in the Warriors’ program for the past two seasons and emerged as a driving force on the Warriors’ offense. Last season, Rouse caught 36 passes for 1,122 yards and 13 touchdowns.

During the past two seasons, Rouse has 2,134 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns

The senior received interest from other programs before finding a home at Greensboro.

“It’s a great opportunity to go to this school,” Rouse said. “It was one of my dream schools. I always liked A&T, and I feel like the school fits me.

“I just love it.”

Rouse, who plans to major in business or sports management, is excited for an opportunity to play at a DI program.

“It’s a blessing,” Rouse said. “I have to thank my family, my friends, my coach, and of course the man above. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

With his combination of speed and strength, Rouse is expected to bring a boost to the Aggies’ program.

“I always like to compete,” Rouse said.

Buckrham plans on majoring in criminal justice and said the academic program was impressive and a driving factor in his decision.

Buckrham has only played two years of varsity football and credits coach Oates for helping him reach this point.

“I’m just thankful for the opportunity. I just started playing football my 11th grade year, so the opportunity to play at the next level is big,” Buckrham said. “I had to play for coach Oates.”

A force on the defensive side of the ball with the Warriors, Buckrham’s versatility should serve him well at the next level. He’s expected to play on the defensive line at Jireh Prep but could see snaps as an outside linebacker.

Both Rouse and Buckrham will always have fond memories of playing football at Eastern Wayne.

“It was the best four years of football I’ve ever played in my life,” Rouse said. “Coach Oates pushed me and to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons is a blessing.”

“I loved every moment of it,” Buckrham said. “Coach Oates took me from this little 5 foot 7, 230-pound kid and big belly to what I am now, so appreciate him for that.”