MORGANTOWN - Three months ago, Ricky Rumph had a signed National Letter of Intent to play football at Division II Catawba College.
He also was advised to forego college football and play at an Atlanta prep school.
One season on the field and six months in the classroom was what Rumph was told he needed to make it to Division I.
"My coach always told me never to settle for anything less than what you want because whatever you think you are, that's what you are," Rumph said. "I always believed I was a good player."
Rumph had two things working against him and he'd have to overcome both to eventually make it to West Virginia, where he is today and where he practices as a second- and sometimes first-team cornerback.
The first was something he couldn't help. Rumph only started playing football as a junior at Florida's Mainland High. Before that, he was a point guard for the basketball team.
"Our defensive backs coach saw me play basketball and thought he could do something with me, and he said, 'Nobody wants a 5-foot-10 point guard. You need to play football,' " Rumph said. "At our high school, you really did have to be taller at point guard. Vince Carter set a very high standard. He was 6-5."
So Rumph played football as a junior and started as a senior and the word eventually spread. Rumph ended up as a Class 6A all-state player who made 68 tackles and intercepted six passes. He was a physical player who was getting better and better with the technical aspects.
"It wasn't really that hard," he said. "I had the mindset that I wanted to learn as much as I could about it. The first year, I was learning and getting better and that transferred to my senior year summer. I knew a whole lot more about corner because I was watching film and paying close attention to everything my coaches told me."
That work ethic would be needed again soon. When colleges got a closer look, they discovered the second obstacle. Rumph wasn't going to be eligible in college, though he was about as close as one could be. Rumph's grade-point average was fine, but his test score was a tad low. He scored 16 on his first ACT.
"I didn't have a calculator," he said.
Rumph targeted the ACT early in June as his best chance to gain eligibility and bypass prep school, let alone a Division II school. He leaned on teachers and guidance counselors and anyone else who would help him get the score he needed. He skipped lunches at school to cram in some test preparation and had a hard time sleeping as the date approached.