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Hillsborough signees hungry for more

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Wed. February 3, 2010 | Eduardo A. Encina

Ask a college recruit what they most liked about their official visit and they usually say the same thing -- the campus, the coaches, the facilities, sometimes the girls.

Ask Hillsborough running back Rodney Johnson was sold him on signing with FAMU Wednesday and get a different answer.

"The food," the Terriers leading rusher said. "That food was good. They had some real good cheescake. They just kept feeding us, fried chicken, macaroni. They had barbeque.

"I was pretty indecisive. I didn't think I'd end up a FAM, but once I took my visit there I got real comfortable. I knew it was somewhere I could spend my first four years. Also FAM is a turnaround school. They're really turning their program around."

Johnson and five Hillsborough teammates signed their letters of intent Wednesday in the high school auditorium. The TV cameras came for highly-touted recruit Terrence Mitchell, the seventh-ranked cornerback prospect in the nation who signed with USF, but Terriers quarterback Tarean Austin also signed with Division I New Mexico and Johnson with FAMU. Three other Terriers linemen center Dan Ljuna, tackle Brandon McFadden and tackle Adolphus Barnes also signed with NAIA Webber International.

Mitchell, who committed to USF this week after originally pledging to FSU, was excited about staying close to home.

"I have the opportunity that some kids who have to go two hours away to school don't have," Mitchell said. "I wanted to be able to play in front of my family and friend and be able to start something at home."

Austin, a three-year starter, chose New Mexico for another reason, to get away from home.

"I wanted to challenge myself to focus," Austin said. "That's a big part of becoming a man is challenging yourself to focus. I wanted to try something new and expand my life."

Another interesting signing day story was Ljuna's. The 6-foot-3, 315 pounder landed at Hillsborough after his family left Serbia. Terriers coach Earl Garcia approached him about playing football, of which Ljuna wanted no part of. Garcia was able to talk him into it, and even though the transition was tough -- "He had a hard time with snap counts," Garcia joked -- he will now play in college.

"He has his best football in front of him," Garcia said.

-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (eencina@sptimes.com)

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