By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The first Wednesday of February is traditionally National Signing Day.
It’s a day of rejoicing for college football programs and the young men preparing for the next step in their athletic life.
But there is a different side to National Signing Day. In 2017 then Millington Trojan D’Monte Kemp made a tough decision. The 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl High School All-Star and All-Region selection had offers from several smaller schools.
He could have signed the dotted line at one of those institutions but he decided to go with the option of being a preferred walk-on at a Division I school betting on himself.
“I felt that i needed to get away from home and start new out here in Murfreesboro,” Kemp said. “I wanted to take a shot here and MT has a great football program and have become bowl eligible in the last 6 years.”
This summer he tried out for the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders but didn’t make the roster. But Kemp didn’t give up on his dream of playing Division I college football.
As the 2018 National Signing Day approached, Kemp was on the Blue Raider practice field trying to earn his spot. As many high school players across the nation were getting the phone call of congratulations, MTSU Head Coach Rick Stockstill and staff personally delivered Kemp his good news.
Kemp earned a roster spot on the 2018 Blue Raiders.
“It honestly still doesn’t feel real,” he said. “Just seeing all the hard work and devotion you’ve put into something finally pay off was the best thing.”
When Kemp arrived to Murfreesboro he knew he had an uphill battle to become a Blue Raider.
“My football future, I certainly didn’t know,” he acknowledged. “I thought I’d never get the chance but I just keep my head on straight and blocked out everything else and continued to work.”
It was time to adopt the lifestyle of a walk-on. Kemp was going to maintain his studies, adjust to life in Murfreesboro and work hard at football knowing he wouldn’t see the field on Saturdays.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “They’re only a few spots if any that they can fill. You just have to separate yourself from the others that are trying out. And now, I have to work to prove that I’m worthy for a spot on the roster.”
So the news of earning a roster spot is just the next step on a journey that has already seen dark moments.
“When things didn’t go my way, it hurt but I didn’t let it weigh me down,” Kemp said. “You can fail multiple times, but it only takes that one time to succeed. And that’s what I did. I had to keep going no matter what else was going on.”
Kemp kept his intensity level high during practices and drills making a positive impression on the coaches. Now the staff has ideas for his abilities at slot receiver and special teams.
“Now, it’s crunch time and I won’t allow myself to forget all the hard work I put in to be in this position,” Kemp said. “There’s no way I will just throw it away after all the hell I’ve been through to get this opportunity.”
Kemp’s chance is making several back home proud putting the Black and Gold back on the D-I map like recent Trojans Alan Cross and Patrick Macon.
“This means a lot to my city and my high school as well as family,” he said. “I didn’t have a scholarship to the school I wanted but I took a chance and moved to a town where I know nothing about to pursue what I wanted in life. I just feel like if I can do, so can anyone else.”
Now the next chapter begins for Kemp, working toward being on the field this fall in a Blue Raider uniform.
“For D’Monte, this means I’m one step closer to my dream,” he concluded. “It’s a huge accomplishment and I’m truly grateful for the opportunity I have in front of me. I can only take it one step at a time. I have been wanting to take my talent to the next level all my life and finally getting that call made my life a whole lot better.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.