October 10, 2008

Dream comes true for Ohio athlete

West Chester (Lakota West), Ohio, athlete Stephen Houston committed to Ole Miss on Thursday, giving the Rebels their second commitment of the week and their 12th for the 2009 signing class.

The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Arkansas native primarily plays running back at the Greater Miami Conference school. However, he is expected to get looks on both sides of the football when he matriculates to Oxford. Houston has also been pursued by Tennessee, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Miami (Ohio) and Akron.

"The (Southeastern Conference) is the conference I've always wanted to play in all my life," Houston told Cox Newspapers of Ohio Thursday. "It's a dream come true. It's a great fit for me and my style of play. Plus it is close to my hometown. They have an awesome coaching staff and the program is great. They are on their way back to a winning tradition."

Houston attended a camp at Arkansas when then-Razorbacks coach Houston Nutt was still there. Nutt offered him a scholarship to Arkansas, and the offer to join Nutt at Ole Miss was extended recently.

"You're stepping into the SEC - arguably the best football conference in the nation," Lakota West coach Larry Cox told Cox Newspapers. "You're banging heads with the best. He likes the school, he likes Coach Nutt. I told him if he feels all that great about it, go ahead and do it."

So far this season, Houston has accumulated 612 yards and six touchdowns on 144 carries despite playing with a nagging ankle injury.

"He's got tremendous upside," Cox said. "He's really young as a senior (turns 17 on Oct. 28). He has tremendous speed, explosive strength and a good vertical jump. He has all the physical attributes that you look for. His best football is lying in front of him."

Houston spent his sophomore season at the Ohio school before playing as a junior at Little Rock (Fair), Ark., where he rushed for more than 1,500 yards. Houston moved back to Ohio prior to his senior season.

"Ohio football is much more intense," Houston told the Ohio newspaper chain. "In Arkansas, it's not too bad. But I wanted to get back to a school where I felt better at and get more opportunities."

Cox said Houston ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at a college camp this summer. He also boasts a 36-inch vertical leap. Houston plans on studying sports medicine in college.

Verbal commitments are non-binding. National Signing Day is Feb. 4.

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