Heritage head football coach Dewayne Washington already knew, from a talent standpoint alone, that newcomer Ricky Person Jr. would make a positive impact on his Huskies squad.
As for how the Franklinton transfer would fit in with his new teammates, that question was answered during the first week of practice.
“It was the second or third day of practice, I was kind of upset and instead of huddling up and doing my normal talk, I left them to talk on their own.” said Washington, a former NFL cornerback in his second year as Heritage coach. “I turn back around and who is standing up but Ricky Person.
“I don’t know what he said to the guys, but the fact that he had only been here a few days and he was willing to stand up in front of his peers, it said a lot about his character and leadership skills.”
Not surprisingly, Person has been a significant factor in Heritage’s 2-0 start this season.
Already rated by numerous talent evaluators as one of the top high school running backs in North Carolina for the Class of 2018, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior has rushed 27 times for 223 yards and two touchdowns thus far, topping the 100-yard plateau in each of Heritage’s two victories. The Huskies offense is averaging 39.5 points per game through two weeks of play.
“The adjustment has been very good so far,” Person said. “It’s just another home for me, everybody is really treating me like family, I’m adapting very well to it.”
Franklinton was home for Person during his first two seasons of varsity football, including a fine sophomore campaign last year in which he rushed for 1,074 yards and scored 16 touchdowns for a Rams squad that went 5-7 and was ousted in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A playoffs.
However, Person felt that he needed a change. Though he didn’t elaborate, Person said he was dealing with some adversity at Franklinton, also acknowledging that he believed he needed to go to a larger school and test himself against stiffer competition.
A chance meeting with Washington at an N.C. State football alumni gathering over the summer initiated Person’s move to Heritage, a 4A school that is a member of the Cap-8 Conference.
“I told him about me moving, and he asked where I thought about moving to and that I should come to Heritage,” Person said. “I looked it into it, and I saw that (quarterback) Gunnar Holmberg had committed to Duke, so I thought it would be a great fit because what you really need is a great quarterback and then everything builds around that.”
Another appeal for Person was having the chance to play under a coaching staff with major college and NFL experience. On Washington’s staff is former NFL All-Pro wide receiver Torry Holt, also an N.C. State alumnus.
“You have these ex-NFLers coaching you, you know they are going to push you to where you want to go,” said Person, who has already received offers from N.C. State and Duke while also garnering attention from a number of other major college programs. “That’s what I really need, especially starting out young while I am in high school, that’s going to be a big help as I go along to college.”
Holmberg for his part was thrilled when he learned that Person would be attending Heritage.
The junior went out of his way to introduce himself and several of the wide receivers to Person. After shouldering much of the offensive responsibility last season for the Huskies, Holmberg knew Person’s presence would make an already strong offense that much more diverse.
“Before, on third downs I was used to pass plays being called and now I look at one of my coaches and see a run play on third down, and I’m ‘this is kind of different now.’ ” said Holmberg, with a chuckle. “I think we went 5-for-5 on third downs against (Green Hope in Week 1), so I’m good with it. I am looking forward to seeing him the more he gets adjusted to the offense.
“He’s a humble guy, he’s a good guy to be around. I thought he would fit in well with our team, we’re not a team with cocky guys.”
Person definitely seems at peace with his decision to attend Heritage, though one aspect did have him a little worried.
“It’s a huge school, I might get lost on the first day of classes,” Person said with a smile. “It’s a big school but I really like the staff so far. It’s been good … this is a new start for me, and I’m looking forward to it.”