Near the end of the season Richmond Hill running back Zion Gillard said during an interview his desire, when it came to playing college football, was to play for a college in either Georgia or Florida.
Based on his two seasons with the Wildcats it seemed reasonable to expect Gillard would be recruited by a team in either of those two states. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
What did happen though was that Gillard got an offer from Peru State College, an NAIA school located in Peru, Neb., a school of 1,900 students located in a town of less than 600 residents.
“When I first got their offer I said, ‘Nah, I don’t know about that,’” Gillard said of going to school in Nebraska. “But once I learned more about the school and talked to the coaches I saw it as a great opportunity to succeed. Everything looked great.”
Last Wednesday on national signing day Gillard inked a letter of intent to play at Peru and teammate defensive lineman Dontae Goodner signed to play with Ripon College, an NCAA Division III school located in Ripon, Wis., a town of approximately 7,800.
“These guys are special,” Coach Matt LeZotte said. “They both moved into Richmond Hill as juniors and from the first day they arrived they have had a positive impact on our program and our culture.
“The best part about it was watching them grow and develop as young men and players,” LeZotte said. “This is about getting an opportunity. These guys have sacrificed for our program.”
Gillard, who led the Wildcats in rushing last fall with 862 yards and nine touchdowns, was a first team Region 1-7A pick. He transferred from Long County while Goodner’s family came to Richmond Hill from Germany.
Neither player has yet to see their respective campuses in person which is typical of recruiting at the NAIA and DIII levels but each saw enough to convince him that’s where he wanted to go to school.
“I know it’s cold up there, but it’s beautiful,” Goodner said of the 800-student campus. “I can handle the weather though because I came to Richmond Hill from Germany.
“The coaches had seen my film and they reached out on Twitter. We had several conversations and when they offered, I didn’t hesitate. By that time, I was sold on the school.”
Gillard will join a Peru team which has seven players from Georgia on its roster including rising sophomore defensive back Jo’Quell Davis who played at Bradwell Institute. The lone Georgian on the Ripon team this past fall was freshman wide receiver Kerwin Tattnall who played at Windsor Forest High School.
Goodner played the less glamorous position of a defensive lineman where, at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, he proved to be a tough run stopper. A second-team all-region pick he had 39 tackles last fall and 40 the year before.