Each successive Friday night became more excruciating for Muhammad Rashada to endure.
Watching younger brother Rakin roam Richmond Academy's football field left Muhammad yearning for his gridiron return. As a late qualifier, Muhammad spent last fall in football purgatory.
Relegated to Musketeers booster, Rashada could only cheer for his brother while counting down the days to his debut at Middle Tennessee State University.
"I'd watch my brother play," Rashada said. "I missed being on the field. That made me want to get back playing."
Suffering from separation anxiety, Rashada took the field again this spring at MTSU. The freshman cornerback immediately shook up the preseason depth chart.
Finally able to unleash his 4.4 40-yard speed, the 5-foot-11, 167-pound defensive back created a buzz during the Raiders' spring drills.
"The coaches told me they thought I could compete for the position," Rashada said. "It surprised me. The fellas that were in front of me were good. I thought it would take longer. The coaches said I opened their eyes."
This is the scenario Rashada envisioned when he graduated Richmond Academy. Following a senior season in which he made 34 receptions for 431 yards and six touchdowns, the 19-year-old sensed he was just beginning to tap into his potential.
Keen field vision and devastating speed combined with uncanny instincts also enabled Rashada to return two kickoffs for touchdowns while making five interceptions. Rapid assimilation of MTSU's defensive scheme impressed the coaching staff enough that Rashada will be battling for a starting role this fall.
"When I first got there it was more instinct," Rashada said of his on-field performance. "I sat out a long time, I was a little rusty. Once I got used to the defense I was pretty confident."
With his temporary exile behind him, Rashada has a better appreciation for his football career. His collegiate debut was put on hold after learning he scored 730 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test 72 hours prior to signing day 1999.
Rashada registered a qualifying 850 the next time he took the SAT but could not enroll until spring 2000. Although it was a frustrating period in his life, Rashada actually may benefit from his season of ostracism.
"I'll have a step on the rest of the freshmen coming in," Rashada said. "I hope to be starting, do good in school and make a name for myself."
Reach Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221.
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