Gulliver linebacker and first-team All-Dade selection Dominic Sheppard announced Wednesday morning he will sign with Virginia over Illinois, Arkansas and Wisconsin.
Sheppard, a one-time Wisconsin oral commit, decommitted from the Badgers on Sunday shortly after his official visit to Virginia. He said the trip to UVA simply made him feel home and he knew the Cavaliers were the team he wanted to join.
It was “just the atmosphere and the campus,” said Sheppard, who made his decision on Monday after returning from the trip but wanted to announce on Signing Day. “Everything just popped out in my eyes.”
In front of a crowd of about 450 who watched eight Raiders — including four football players — sign National Letters of Intent at the school’s atrium, a student reporter on Gulliver’s morning broadcast announced it as he slipped on the UVA hat.
Sheppard, the 6-1, 226-pound prospect will play middle linebacker with the Cavaliers — same as he does with the Raiders — and probably some outside linebacker as well.
“I like playing the Mike because I get to be a leader,” said Sheppard, who finished his senior season with 101 tackles, two sacks and an interception. “I feel like I have responsibility for everybody on my team.”
Another similarity he finds is in his coaches. He sees Earl Sims, his coach at Gulliver, to be the same type of coach as Virginia’s Mike London.
“It’s not too far of a transition for me from high school to college football,” Sheppard said.
“When [London] approached me about football, he just started talking about life… Football is not for long — it’s for a couple of years. It’s not forever. All it does is open up opportunities really.”
Defensive back Antonyo Sotolongo, who finished his high school career with 15 interceptions, announced that he will sign with Bowling Green.
“I decided that it was place for me when I took a visit over there. I liked it a lot. It was my first time seeing snow. It was a nice atmosphere, nice people. I couldn’t say no,” said Sotolongo, who had four of those picks his senior season and ran two of them back for a touchdown. “Just knowing I got a spot somewhere on the collegiate level is very good to know.”
He will play free safety at Bowling Green.
“They like his length, his size, his awareness — just they see him being a good fit at their school,” Sims said.
Gulliver three-year starter at quarterback Jowan Watson signed with Georgetown and offensive lineman George Grimwade with Samford.
Grimwade, who stands at 6-8 and 271 pounds, signed on a full-ride scholarship to Samford with only two years of football experience. He also punted for Gulliver; it is to be determined whether he will continue to punt in college.
The 2016 class for the Raiders appears to be even stronger with three players already committed to the Miami Hurricanes in wide receiver Dionte Mullins, defensive end Joseph Jackson and athlete Cedrick Wright.
All Gulliver Signees:
Andy Alvarez (boys’ soccer) – Army
George Grimwade (football) – Samford
Alexander Moztarzadeh (boys’ soccer) – UNC
Alberto “Kike” Poleo (boys’ soccer) – UCLA
Dominic Sheppard (football) – Virginia
Antonyo Sotolongo (football) – Bowling Green
Khara Vassell (girls’ soccer) – UNC
Jowan Watson (football) – Georgetown