When defensive back Shawn Asbury received his offer from Virginia Tech on June 17, he knew right away the Hokies were the pick. However, the timing was not quite right to announce his intention. He waited four days, and on June 21 he opted for Tech over, most notably, an offer from Pitt. The delay? Well that was so he could announce on his mom's, Rochell's, birthday. The ultimate gift.
"She's been here for me the whole process," Asbury said. "Me growing up, she took me to practices, never missed a game, none of that. That's in both sports, basketball and football. I felt like that was a good way of paying her back for everything that she's done."
"Playing for your home state is just crazy," Asbury added. "A lot of people don't get the chance to play for their home state that they've lived in for their whole life. Me growing up in VA, watching Mike Vick, I've been to his camp when he had Tyrod Taylor there. I got an autographed ball from Tyrod Taylor, a picture with Michael Vick. Now I have the chance to go to the same school as both of them."
Ultimately, the Hokies added a versatile secondary defender to their 2021 recruiting class. The 247Sports Composite ranks the 5-10, 175 pounder as a 3-star (0.8255) corner. That doesn't tell the whole story though. His recruitment was slowed down substantially because he tore his ACL in February 2019. He missed the opportunity to camp ahead of his junior campaign, and didn't return to the field until midway through last season. However, when he did, he hit the ground running.
"He came back like gangbusters," said North Stafford head coach Neil Sullivan. "He was stronger. He was faster, in better shape. It was incredible. It speaks to his work ethic."
Even though Tech plans to initially slot him as a corner, due to his tackling prowess, range and high football IQ, Asbury mans the free safety spot in North Stafford's 4-2-5/man free scheme.
"We try to use him in a lot of different ways," said Sullivan. "We definitely want to make sure that we're able to use him in the passing game, but also in the running game. He's an outstanding tackler. We have things designed so that he's the free hitter, the guy that the offense can't block, to come up and make the tackle.
"He's an incredible cover guy as well. As a freshman he played strictly corner, and he was lights out as a freshman, but he transitioned to safety over the last two years for us."
As Sullivan summed it up, "when he's back there he just makes our whole defense a lot better", and he knew that from the get go.
"You would have never in a million years looked at our defense and been like, 'that kid's a freshman'," said Sullivan. "You would have thought he was a senior, you would have thought he was an established player. He was just so confident, smooth, polished, focused and hardworking. He just had such a whole different mentality and performance level that you don't expect from a 14-year-old. Right away, it was clear to me that he was going to be something special."
Credit Ryan Smith and Justin Hamilton for convincing Asbury to pledge to Tech.
"Coach Smith was definitely the first coach to reach out to me on the Tech staff," said Asbury. "So that was huge. Coach Smith really believed in me throughout this whole process. He's just a great guy."
And Hamilton, while at UVA Wise, coached Asbury's trainer, Nehemiah Jones. That connection played an important role in the recruiting process too.
Until Asbury works with the duo at Tech, he's focused on improving the little things in his game — pursuit angle technique, trusting his keys, eliminating extra steps in breaks. Both coach and player believe that's the most opportunity for improvement.
He took a self-directed, unofficial visit to Tech last weekend and really connected with the small town atmosphere which fits his relaxed vibe. The trip included a stop in Lane Stadium.
"That was my first time ever being on that field," said Asbury. "Me walking through there, envisioning plays that I could possibly make."
Now Asbury's attention is focused on bringing other players from the state of Virginia to Tech with him. He's teammates with 2022 4-star running back Tevin White and in the ear of 2021 4-star Unity Reed HS defensive tackle Tyleik Williams.
"I'm just trying to get the whole VA to come to VT," said Asbury. "That'd be one step, Tyliek comes. Tyliek could bring in another great athlete, and we can keep this ball moving."