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West Brunswick safety Phillip Gause signed a letter of intent Feb. 6 to play football at UNC Pembroke.
“All year I had people calling about him, wanting tape of him,” West coach Jimmy Fletcher said.
Catawba, North Carolina A&T and Carson-Newman were among those that also inquired about Gause, Fletcher said.
“Pembroke was the only school that came to see me on a home visit,” Gause said. “The rest of the schools I talked to the coaches during the weekdays on the phone.”
Pembroke’s recruiting coordinator and defensive backs made separate visits to speak with Gause.
Among the topics they talked about were academics, playing time, workouts and drills.
“After those two visits, I felt Pembroke would be the best for me,” Gause said.
Gause’s career at West is a highlight reel of fumble recoveries, interceptions and jarring tackles. Last season, Gause made 50 tackles (42 alone). A highlight for him was a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown in the state playoffs.
The West Brunswick Special Teams Award went to Gause. Despite playing with a hurt shoulder and in pain for most of the season, he made nine tackles on kickoffs, four inside the 20. He made three tackles on punt coverage.
“He played well the first couple of games and then he got hurt against North Myrtle Beach,” Fletcher said. “His (right) shoulder stayed unhealthy the rest of the year.”
“Certain ways I would tackle, it would hurt really bad,” Gause said.
“I thought he did a good job,” Fletcher said. “He couldn’t hit practice. He came in and played well in the ballgames.”
“Now I’m doing rehab for it, ” Gause said. “I don’t need surgery.”
But Gause had already played well enough to attract the attention of college scouts. Some were aware of him from the 2011 season. He played seven games in 2011, yet his 33 total tackles were second most on the team. He intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles—returning one 95 yards for a touchdown.
UNCP, a Division II team, finished 6-4 in the 2012 season, its fourth winning season in the last five years. Its football program has been in existence since 2012.
“They felt he ran well,” Fletcher said. “He is physical. He is not scared to come up and (tackle).”
Gause is 6 feet, 190 pounds—he has lost 6 pounds during basketball season—and most likely will be a safety. Gause said the coaches want him to weigh 200 pounds.
“They were telling me I was one of the top recruits in the board. I wanted to (play) for someone who me. I didn’t want to be a last-minute decision.”
Gause said Fletcher was helpful throughout the recruiting process.
“I went to Coach Fletcher for almost anything,” Gause said. “Anytime I needed anything done, I just texted him, and it would be done—fast. I can’t thank Coach Fletcher enough.”