Three college football players, with close ties to Thomson and Warrenton, have seen their lives dramatically changed within the last few days. The reason: they have just seen their boyhood dreams of someday playing in the National Football League become a reality.
Two of the three hail from Thomson. They are Casper Brinkley, who played defensive end and outside linebacker for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and DeMarco McNair, a running back, who played at Middle Tennessee State University.
The other player is Durant Stiles Brooks, the star punter for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, who was drafted in the Sixth Round of the NFL by the Washington Red Skins. Brooks' mother, LuAnne Durant, lives in neighboring Warren County. Brooks was the recipient of the coveted Ray Guy Award after being named the nation's top punter in college football this past season. The award is named after Guy, who lives in Thomson and played in the NFL for 14 seasons with the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders.
Both Mr. Brinkley and Mr. McNair were members of the 2002 Class AAAA State Football Championship Team at Thomson High School.
Mr. Brinkley, son of Charles and Joyce Brinkley of Thomson was expected to sign as a free-agent with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday in Charlotte.
Mr. McNair, meanwhile, is expected to sign as a free-agent soon with an NFL team. Mr. McNair was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached.
For Brinkley and McNair, getting an opportunity to play in the NFL is like a dream come true. It's something both of them have thought about since they played youth football with the Thomson-McDuffie Recreation and Leisure Services.
"I'm very pleased to have been chosen as a free-agent with the Carolina Panthers," said Brinkley during a telephone interview on Tuesday with The McDuffie Mirror. "It's another opportunity to continue to play football. I've always wanted to play in the NFL."
Brinkley, one of the defensive stars for the South Carolina Gamecocks the past two seasons, says is looking forward to playing with the Panthers.
"I'm very excited," said Mr. Brinkley. "I'm ready to show them what I can do."
His parents are proud and so is his twin brother, Jasper, who also was a defensive star with the Gamecocks this past season.
Jasper was unable to finish the remainder of his senior season. The reason: a torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, which he suffered early in the game against the LSU Tigers. The Gamecocks lost the game 28-16. The injury required surgery and later Jasper was approved for a medical redshirt that allows him to return for his senior season with the Gamecocks in the fall.
Meanwhile, Mr. McNair's mother, Jeannie Story McNair, who lives in Thomson, is most proud of her son's accomplishments.
"I'm very proud of DeMarco," said Ms. McNair. "I've always been proud of him, but I'm most proud that he earned a college degree, because I know he can never fail having it."
1)USC MTS group.jpg -- cutline: Thomson's Casper Brinkley (left) has signed with the Carolina Panthers, while DeMarco McNair (center) is also expected to sign a pro contract. Meanwhile, Jasper Brinkley (right) is planning to return for a final season with the South Carolina Gamecocks.