Cass recent graduates Javen Bridges and Rodney Richards hadn’t planned on playing football at the same school, but after visiting Bluffton University in Ohio, both knew they had found the place they wanted to continue their careers.
Now, they’re looking at the positives of getting to play with a high school teammate at the next level.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be a little homesick,” Richards said. “Being around Javen, since we’re from the same city, it won’t be so bad. He’ll probably keep me level.”
Bridges thinks he should be able to handle the situation due to his businesslike approach.
“I’m fine with it, because I basically take it as a business trip,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot when I was younger, so this is an opportunity to give back to the people back at home. I might as well take full advantage.”
Both former Colonels discussed what they liked about the Beavers. Richards liked the parallels between the attitude shown by his former teammates and coaches with his new ones. Bridges liked the cohesive message of the program.
“Most of them wanted the same goal as the head coach,” Bridges said. “It’s important for the head coach to be on the same page as the players.”
Clearly those at Bluffton liked what they saw out of the Cass pair, as well.
Richards proved to be one of the top defensive players in Bartow County over the past few years, playing defensive line before moving to linebacker. His senior year he earned all-Region 7-AAAAA honors after totaling 107 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
While Bridges didn’t get many chances to shine at wide receiver in a run-first attack, he put his athleticism on display at every opportunity.
“Rodney kind of jumps out on film defensively,” Cass head coach Bobby Hughes said. “They really liked his motor. They’ve seen him play with his hand in the ground and they’ve seen him play standing up, so they’ve seen him do a couple different things. They liked his versatility.
“With Javen, they liked his ball skills. They liked the way he plays the ball, when it’s in the air. They’re going to more of a spread look, so that was an opportunity for them to add a kid they think can make some plays out of that.”
Hughes believes his guys should be able to make an impact early in their Bluffton careers. More importantly, he hopes to see them follow their passions — for Bridges that’s fitness science and physical therapy, and for Richards it’s communications — en route to earning a degree.
“I’m excited for them to have an opportunity,” Hughes said. “That’s part of what we do. We give these guys opportunities, and they have to take advantage of those opportunities. I hope they go up there, have a great experience, have a lot of fun playing the game and come out of there with a degree.”
Even though the wins weren’t easy to come by for the Colonels, each player said they would miss attending Cass.
“Basically just living by the slogan Loving Blue and Living Gold, that’s something I really live by,” Richards said. “I bleed blue and gold. I don’t know how to explain it. Having that Colonel spirit is something that from Day 1 has always been preached to me.”
Added Bridges, “I’m going to miss this whole school and how supportive it was.”
One of the most supportive people among that collection is undoubtedly Hughes. Not many coaches would have taken the time to drive his players eight hours one way to visit a school. But that’s exactly what Hughes did.
“It means a lot,” Hughes said of getting to spend the time with Bridges and Richards. “People who come to the games and even just the casual fan, they have no idea the amount of time we invest in those guys — not just on the playing field but in their personal life, in their academic life. It makes you feel good when you invest in them like that for them to have an opportunity and to see the sheer joy in that opportunity.
“It’s hard to explain. It’s one of the things about coaching that people have no idea exists that is probably one of the most rewarding parts of it.”