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NSU adds nine on National Signing Day

by Russell Hedges

Northwestern State Sports Information

NATCHITOCHES – The Northwestern State football team took the first steps toward solidifying its 2023 roster Wednesday.

The Demons added five high school signees and landed four transfers from four-year institutions as the early signing period opened.

“It’s the start of what is the 2023 roster going to look like,” said head coach Brad Laird, who begins his sixth season at the helm of his alma mater. “This is the first step in the process. I’m excited about today. It’s always an exciting time when you have the opportunity to better your roster. We were in the first step in the process of bettering our 2023 roster.”

The Demons added a pair of quarterbacks on opposite ends of the experience spectrum.

NSU picked up Idaho State transfer Tyler Vander Waal, who began his career at Wyoming, and was named the spring 2021 Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year.

Vander Waal arrives in Natchitoches having started nine games for Wyoming before transferring to Idaho State.

Joining Vander Waal in the quarterback room is JT Fayard from Foster High School in Richmond, Texas. Fayard threw for more than 3,500 yards and added 36 touchdown passes while playing in a challenging 5A district in suburban Houston.

Fayard will be an early enrollee, joining the Demons in the spring.

“You’re always excited to see a young man join your roster, especially one who will go through spring practice,” Laird said. “You don’t always get that, especially at the quarterback position. I’m excited to see what he brings.”

The Demons mined their geographic backyard for a pair of high school offensive lineman, adding Captain Shreve’s Chris Allen and Nacogdoches High School’s Ryan Larson. That pair will be joined by Mississippi Valley State transfer Tyler McMillan as new NSU offensive linemen.

“Any time you can get in North Louisiana, Shreveport-Bossier and the East Texas area, that’s good,” Laird said. “There are a lot of good players from there who have come through Northwestern.”

The Demons added one skill position transfer with Shreveport ties Wednesday as ULM’s Colton Derrick signed with the Demons. Derrick played his high school football and baseball at Shreveport’s Calvary Baptist Academy.

Derrick’s most productive ULM season came in 2021 when he caught 25 passes for 353 yards and a touchdown. He added a 3-yard touchdown pass at Texas State this season.

Northwestern State picked up a pair of defensive linemen – one each from Texas and Louisiana.

The Demons’ mined northeast Louisiana to find Richwood’s Keshawn Reed, who had 57 tackles, including 23 for loss this season. In the past two seasons, Reed has tallied 127 stops for the Rams.

SMU transfer Trevion Sneed, a two-star at Mineola (Texas) High School, signed with the Demons on Wednesday after seeing action in nine games for the Mustangs across the past two seasons.

Nolan Catholic cornerback Antonio Hall was a first-team TAPPS all-state selection as a receiver and a second-team all-state cornerback whose 6-foot-1 frame and athletic ability made him an intriguing fit for the Demon secondary.

“As we go through the recruiting process, the two most important areas defensively are up front and in the back end,” Laird said. “I’m excited to get Keshawn Reed and what he brings. Antonio Hall is a young man who could play on either side of the ball. He’s a guy who’s done a lot of different things, but because of his length, we think he can do a lot of things on the back end of our defense.”

2022 Northwestern State Early Signing Class

Chris Allen, OL, 6-3, 265, Shreveport, Louisiana-Captain Shreve High School

Will Derrick, WR, 6-0, 170, Shreveport, Louisiana-Calvary Baptist Academy (ULM)

JT Fayard, QB, 6-5, 220, Richmond, Texas-Foster HS

Antonio Hall, CB, 6-1, 160, Fort Worth, Texas-Nolan Catholic HS

Ryan Larson, OL, 6-4, 290, Nacogdoches, Texas-Nacogdoches HS

Tyler McMillan, OL, 6-6, 315, Detroit, Michigan-River Rouge HS (Mississippi Valley State)

Keshawn Reed, DL, 6-3, 271, Monroe, Louisiana-Richwood HS

Trevion Sneed, DL, 6-2, 242, Mineola, Texas-Mineola HS (SMU)

Tyler Vander Waal, QB, 6-4, 220, Sacramento, California-Christian Brothers HS (Idaho State)

Early Signing Day Bio Capsules

Chris Allen, OL, 6-3, 265, Shreveport, La./Captain Shreve HS

High School: Named second-team all-district as a senior … helped the Gators rush for an average of 216.8 yards per game and paved the way for an offense that averaged 361.6 yards and 22.1 points per game as a senior.

Will Derrick, WR, 6-0, 170, Shreveport, La./Calvary Baptist (ULM)

Prior to NSU: Played in 22 games in four seasons at ULM … caught 29 passes for 390 yards and a touchdown in his career … former walk-on earned a scholarship before the 2021 season and set career highs with 25 catches and 353 yards that season … named ULM’s “Receiver of the Year” in 2021 … threw a touchdown pass against Texas State in 2022 … had career bests of five catches, 135 yards and a touchdown against South Alabama in 2021 … his 81-yard touchdown grab against the Jaguars is the fifth-longest in ULM history.

High School: Lettered one season for coach Rodney Guin’s Cavaliers … had 31 receptions for 532 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior, earning all-city and all-district honors … also completed all six pass attempts for 97 yards and two touchdowns that season … caught three passes for 88 yards and two TDs and completed a 24-yard pass in playoff game vs. D’Arbonne … had four catches for 89 yards and three scores vs. Loyola … hauled in four passes for 76 yards and a score against Bastrop … lettered five seasons in baseball for Shannon Cunningham as an outfielder and pitcher … earned three all-district honors, two all-state selections and made one all-city team.

Personal: Born July 8, 1999 … son of Kim and David Derrick … mother was a competitive gymnast … has one brother, Colton, who played football at Mississippi College, and a sister, Heidi Kai … already has completed his undergraduate degree in criminal justice … hopes to play in the NFL or join the state police.

JT Fayard, QB, 6-5, 220, Richmond, Texas/Foster HS

High School: Two-year letterman for coach Shaun McDowell’s Falcons … threw for 3,539 yards and 36 touchdowns in his career in one of Texas’ toughest 5A districts … completed 63 percent of his passes and had a 110 QB rating … longest pass was a 95-yarder … was named the District 10-5A Preseason MVP ahead of his senior year … earned first-team all-district honors as a quarterback as a senior … named second-team all-district as a junior … also lettered in basketball … has a 3.8 GPA and was named to the Academic All-State team as a senior. 

Personal: Born July 5, 2004 … son of Nicole and Jon, a former team captain at LSU … has one sister, Rebekah … plans to major in business administration … hopes to be drafted in the NFL and earn his MBA.

Antonio Hall, CB, 6-1, 160, Fort Worth, Texas/Nolan Catholic HS

High School: Three-sport letterman for the Vikings … lettered two seasons in football for coach KJ Williams … earned first-team all-state and all-district honors as a wide receiver and was a first-team all-district and second-team all-state cornerback as a senior for the district champs … as a junior was named second-team all-district as Nolan Catholic went 8-4 and reached the second round of the playoffs … also lettered in track and field and baseball … has a 3.6 GPA.

Personal: Born April 3, 2004 … son of Michelle and Rodney Hall … has a brother, De, and a sister, Yasmin … plans to major in mathematics … wants to play in the NFL and become a teacher. 

Ryan Larson, OL, 6-4, 290, Nacogdoches, Texas/Nacogdoches HS

High School: Lettered three seasons for the Dragons … earned first-team all-district and first-team academic all-district in his final two seasons … was a first-team academic all-district pick and an honorable mention all-district selection as a sophomore … also lettered in powerlifting … has a 3.6 GPA.

Personal: Born Oct. 20, 2004 … son of Tricia and Kent Larson … has one sister, Ashton … plans to major in veterinary technology … wants to attend veterinary school and become a vet.

Tyler McMillan, OL, 6-6, 315, Detroit, Michigan/River Rouge HS (Mississippi Valley State)

Prior to NSU: Competed in football and track and field at Mississippi Valley State … initially committed to Tulsa.

High School: Played for coach Corey Parker’s Panthers … three-star recruit as named by ESPN and … helped River Rouge improve from a winless team his freshman year to a team that went 25-3 in his final two seasons … honor roll student carried a 3.3 GPA anwas a magna cum laude graduate.

Personal: Born Oct. 9, 2003 … son of Rashida and Terrence McMillan … has two brothers, Xavier and Juwon, and a sister, Morgan … majoring in criminal justice … wants to play in the NFL or become an FBI agent. 

Keshawn Reed, DL, 6-3, 271, Monroe, La./Richwood HS

High School: Three-time all-district selection for Marcus Yanez’ Rams … finished his senior season with 57 tackles, including 23 for loss, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception … earned all-district honors on defense and special teams as a holder as a junior … had 70 tackles, five for loss, four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception as a junior.

Trevion Sneed, DL, 6-2, 242, Mineola, Texas/Mineola HS (SMU)

Prior to NSU: Appeared in nine games in two seasons at SMU … had one tackle in six games in 2022.

High School: Two-way standout for coach Luke Blackwell’s Yellowjackets … was a three-star recruited according to and … was an SI All-American candidate … recorded 144 tackles, 11 for loss, and three sacks as a senior while also rushing for 3,082 yards and 36 touchdowns as Mineola reached the Class 3A Division I regional championship … had 13 100-yard rushing games that season … named first-team all-district and first-team All-East Texas as a junior after recording 98 tackles, five for loss, and 12 quarterback hurries … named the District 8-3A-1 Defensive MVP as a sophomore … rushed for more than 4,400 yards and had 52 rushing touchdowns in his career.

Tyler Vander Waal, QB, 6-4, 220, Sacramento, California/Christian Brothers HS (Idaho State)

Prior to NSU: Lettered two seasons at Idaho State after beginning his career at the University of Wyoming … appeared in three games in 2022, throwing for 335 yards and three scores … threw for 375 yards and two touchdowns before suffering an injury in the 2021 fall season … named the 2021 spring Big Sky Conference Newcomer of the Year and second-team All-Big Sky after throwing for 1,843 yards and accounting for 12 touchdowns in six games … started his career at Wyoming, appearing in 17 games (nine starts) across two seasons … led the Cowboys to fourth-quarter comebacks against Wofford and Air Force in 2018, earning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week honors after the win against Air Force … threw for 225 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 22 yards and two scores against the Falcons … earned Academic All-Mountain West honors in 2018.

High School: Two-year letterman for coach Dan Carmazzi’s Falcons … was a three-star recruit as rated by, and … named first-team All-Metro by the Sacramento Bee as a senior after completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,926 yards and 25 touchdowns … added 378 rushing yards and six touchdowns … helped lead Christian Brothers to the Sac-Joaquin sectional championship game … graduated with a 3.75 GPA.

— Featured photo by Chris Reich, NSU Photographic Services

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