But over the past year, Avalon has become a key destination for college football coaches. Last week, Maryland’s Randy Edsall and Pittsburgh’s Paul Chryst strolled through the narrow hallways. Meanwhile, phone calls have come from Boston College, East Carolina, Iowa and Nebraska.
■ UPDATE (11:45 a.m.): Avalon’s Veii signs with Maryland
They all are in search of two seniors: tailback Rachid Ibrahim and defensive back Jacquille Veii. They are the school’s first Football Bowl Subdivision recruits. Wednesday, they will join hundreds of other athletes in the hysteria that is National Signing Day — the first date the NCAA allows seniors to sign a binding national letter-of-intent to play college football.
Some, such as Ibrahim (Pittsburgh), Good Counsel defensive back Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech) and linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (Clemson) and Stone Bridge defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (Alabama) and quarterback Ryan Burns (Stanford), will use the moment to confirm their prior commitments. Others, such as Veii and Friendship Collegiate linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, have yet to make their decisions known, building suspense that will culminate with the selection of a school hat and a signature. Few top prospects, however, will have emerged from a school with the dearth of football roots that exist at Avalon.
As is the case with the Black Knights’ practices and games, Ibrahim and Veii’s journey began off the Avalon campus, at Richard Montgomery in Rockville. In the fall of 2009, Veii was a sophomore varsity starter at the school while Ibrahim, a freshman, played several positions on the Rockets’ junior varsity and varsity teams. But with hopes of making his mark at a powerhouse like DeMatha or Good Counsel, Ibrahim decided to transfer. By the end of the summer, those plans fell through, leaving Ibrahim to choose between Richard Montgomery and Avalon, a small six-year-old independent school.
“I had come to Avalon to meet Coach [Jerry] Sarchet, who was the coach at the time, but I wasn’t too high on going here,” Ibrahim said. “I was young and focused on how it wasn’t the big school I wanted.”
Yet after some prodding from his mother, Ibrahim enrolled at Avalon, just in time to join the football team for its preseason practices.
“When Rachid came, he broke the ice,” said Shields, who took over as head coach in 2011. “He stuck his neck way out and took a lot of heat from people within Montgomery County and on message boards, but he didn’t listen to it. To have that kind of fortitude is unusual for a kid that’s 14, 15 years old.”