That’s why the recent selections of Wheeler quarterback Elijah Staley and Walton quarterback Price Wilson — to Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech, respectively — weren’t much of a surprise.
Staley, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound rising senior, chose Mississippi State for a few other reasons besides his relationship with a coach — he also wants to play basketball in college.
It’s that reason why Staley chose the Bulldogs, instead of fulfilling the commitment he made two months ago to play football only at another Southeastern Conference school, Vanderbilt.
“It was really important for me to play both sports in college because I’ve been playing both since I was a kid, and I really like both sports,” said Staley, who chose Mississippi State over Texas A&M, Virginia and Appalachian State, among others. “When I found out I had a chance to play them both, I didn’t want to give either of them up.
“There were some people saying I shouldn’t do both, and some saying I wouldn’t be able to because it would be so hard to balance football, basketball, schoolwork and everything else, but I think I can do it.”
Wheeler football coach Mike Collins also thinks Staley has a great chance to excel in college.
“I’m very excited for Elijah, just like I’m always excited for any of our guys who go on to continue their education and careers,” Collins said. “With him playing both sports, it’s been a blessing for our school, and I know he’ll represent their football and basketball teams well.
“Mississippi State is getting a versatile, dual-threat quarterback with his best football ahead of him. He’s an electric player who’s eager to learn, and I can’t wait to see what the finished product will be when he gets out of
Wheeler basketball coach Doug Lipscomb is also proud of Staley, who transferred to Wheeler as a sophomore after spending his freshman year at
“Elijah’s grown a lot since he’s been a part of the program,” Lipscomb said. “He’s a good leader, and I look forward to having him as a part of the team again this season.”
In his second year as a starter for the Wheeler football team, Staley completed 154 of 287 passes for 1,801 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions, helping the Wildcats advance to the Class AAAAAA state playoffs for the first time since 2006. As a starter for the basketball program, he helped lead Wheeler to the state semifinals.
Staley cited Mississippi State’s campus, his insistence on staying in the South and the Bulldogs’ football history in his decision to go to Starkville. As for basketball, he had a previous relationship with Mississippi State’s coach from earlier in the recruiting process.
“I’ve known their basketball coach, Rick Ray, for a long time,” Staley said. “He recruited me my freshman year when he was at Clemson, so our relationship has developed since then.”
As difficult as it might be to play basketball and quarterback a major college football team, Staley said he is getting the green light to do both.
“I’m going to play quarterback, and I’ll only play quarterback,” Staley said. “I won’t play any other position. This has been a hard process. I was looked at by some of the best schools in the country, but they wouldn’t let me play both sports, so I missed out on some other big programs.”
Wilson, another rising senior, chose Louisiana Tech over Marshall and Southern Mississippi, among others. His connections with Tony Petersen, Louisiana Tech’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, made the decision a little easier.
“I really like coach Petersen,” the 6-1, 200-pound Wilson told the Scout recruiting website. “He was the first to offer me when he was at Marshall, and now he’s at Louisiana Tech. I know they’re going to throw it a bunch, too.”
Wilson made five starts for Walton last fall, seeing most of his playing time after starting quarterback Parker McLeod was sidelined by an injury. Wilson passed for 598 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions before going down with an injury of his own in the Raiders’ final regular-season game.
Wilson’s stature in recruiting circles grew greatly since the fall, with standout performances at a variety of quarterback camps and scouting combines.