James Wood OL Cummins signs as preferred walk-on with Marshall

mcThe world of college football recruiting can be a crazy one and James Wood High School’s Michael Cummins knows how quickly things can change.
Having verbally committed to play at the Division II level, Cummins got an offer he couldn’t refuse. So on Wednesday’s opening day of the regular football signing period, the Colonels’ offensive lineman committed to Division I Marshall University as preferred walk-on during an afternoon signing ceremony at the high school.
The ceremony capped a whirlwind recruitment of the 6-foot-6, 335-pound senior who had previously verbally committed to Division II schools Virginia Union and Southwest Baptist. A coaching switch at Virginia Union prompted a change of heart and a visit to Southwest Baptist in Missouri before the Thundering Herd entered the picture.
“My recruitment was kind of weird,” Cummins said. “It started off years ago with some nice D-1 schools and then it kind of dropped to the D-2 and D-3 level. Then Marshall came by and it kind of rejuvenated how I was feeling about football.”
Cummins said social media played a big role in him coming to Marshall’s attention. He said Scott Fahey from the Herd handled the majority of his recruitment.
“We just kind of randomly followed each other on Twitter,” Cummins said. “They reached out and they invited me to come for a campus visit. I came and it was really good. We had some phone calls and I kind of just made the decision to head to Marshall.”
Still, that decision wasn’t completely settled until the eve of Signing Day.
“To really solidify my decision, that kind of happened yesterday,” Cummins said. “I just wanted to make sure I was doing everything right and wouldn’t think about it again. I wanted to make sure I was 100 percent set and that kind of set in yesterday.”
Cummins said he loved the campus and the staff, led by head coach Charles Huff, who had been an assistant coach in the NFL and at big college programs (Alabama, Penn State) before taking over in Huntingdon, W.Va., in January of 2021. The Herd is coming off of a 9-4 campaign and a win in the Myrtle Beach Bowl to extend their winning percentage to 72 percent in bowl games (the best among Division I programs with 10 or more appearances).
“They’re an extremely successful school,” Cummins said. “They have over 70 NFL players, two (FCS) national championships, the highest bowl game win percentage and they’re still rising. They [joined] a new conference [Sun Belt]. I just saw that and I wanted to be a part of it.”
One of those NFL players is former Millbrook High School standout Nazeeh Johnson, who will play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 for the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson, an NFL rookie, also was a preferred walk-on at Marshall.
“I’ve never met Nazeeh, but hearing his story definitely inspired me to follow in that path and try to do the same thing,” Cummins said.
New James Wood coach Todd Wilson, who was the Colonels’ offensive line coach last season, said Marshall is getting a good player, both on and off the field.
“Obviously, one of his big strengths is his size,” Wilson said. “He’s 6-6, 340 pounds. They’ll probably ask him to drop down to 310 or 320 … but you can’t teach that kind of size. To go along with his size, he has really good footwork for a guy that is that big. He can move and bend well. His size and the athletic ability that he has, that’s just a really good match.
“I’ve had him in class last year as a junior,” Wilson added. “He’s a really good student. He works hard in the classroom. … The college coaches, they can see what’s on the film. A lot of things they want to know is what is the character like of the player. We told them how Michael’s character was. He’s a good student. He’s not going to get into trouble outside of the football program. He’s not going to go to Marshall and embarrass himself, Marshall, James Wood or his family. He is going to go down there and do the right things in the classroom and do the right things in the community.”
Wilson said Cummins didn’t necessarily fly under the recruiting radar, but has fought through several challenges. The Colonels (2-8 last fall) played just two games in the spring of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Cummins also dealt with an ankle injury.
“He’s battled some adversity like a lot of us have the last several years,” Wilson said. “And on top of it, sometimes James Wood gets a little overlooked because we’re not constantly in the playoffs or making deep runs in the playoffs.”
Cummins, who plans to major in sports management, said he was one of two offensive lineman recruited in the Marshall class, since the Herd have many upperclassmen with eligibility left thanks to COVID-19.
He will continue to play at a tackle spot and believes through hard work he can earn a scholarship. He can’t wait for the experience to begin.
“Even as a preferred walk-on, you still get all of the privileges and you’re still a part of the team,” he said. “You get to run out in front of 50,000 people on game days which is going to be insane.”
He said his parents (Chris and Francesca) and others close to him are proud that he’s landed at Marshall.
“They were excited about it,” he said. “Ever since I was a little kid, mainly because of my size, everyone has been saying, ‘You need to go to D-1. You need to go to D-1.’ It’s just great that a program like this saw me and wanted to give me an opportunity.”
Two sign with D-3 schoolsJames Wood also had two other Division III signings at the ceremony on Wednesday.
Cheerleader Rylee Bowser signed with Southern Virginia University. She was part of a Colonels team that won the Class 4 Northwestern District regular-season mini, placed second in the district competition and fifth in the region competition.
Lacrosse player Chris Ballentine signed with Ohio Northern University. Ballentine plays for the Handley club lacrosse team. Ohio Northern was 12-5 overall and 7-2 in the Ohio Athletic Conference last season.
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