Bruins' Kirkland inks with S.C. State Bulldogs

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Star lineman joins SCSU football program

By Robert Howey

Lancaster High School third-year head football coach Bennie McMurray called Thursday “a great day” at LHS.

McMurray’s words Thursday morning described the occasion he witnessed in the LHS office conference room.

William Kirkland, a Bruins’ star offensive lineman, signed a scholarship to play football at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg.

“We’re extremely proud of  William and what he has achieved,” McMurray said. “I speak for our coaching staff in saying we’re elated for William and what he’s accomplished. It’s been a tough road and there are challenges ahead, but he’s persevered and worked hard.

“That kind of attitude and desire will get you there,” he said. “William is a prime example of what hard work can do for a person looking to improve himself.”

Kirkland, a 6-4, 300-pounder, faced a major challenge at the start of his junior year when his mother, Linda Truesdale, died while the Bruins were at preseason football camp in Summerton.

“William has overcome a great deal of adversity at a young age, but he’s persevered and thrived,” Lancaster High School principal Dr. Joe Keenan said. “It’s a happy day for our football team, athletic program and school because of the example he has set.

“William carries himself well at school and on the field,” Keenan said.

Kirkland, who earned the Bruins Most Valuable Offensive Player this season, capped a four-year LHS football career with a banner senior campaign.

Kirkland, an All-Region IV-AAAA pick and Lancaster News’ all-county selection, graded 89 percent with 24 knockdown blocks for the Bruins, who went 10-4 and finished as the No. 9 team in the final Class AAAA state football poll.

Kirkland was a late selection to the S.C. Shrine Bowl squad, receiving word early in game week. His play in the second half was a key reason the Sandlappers rallied for a 24-16 win over N.C., which held a 16-3 first-half lead in the elite charity game at Spartanburg on Dec. 20.

During the Bruins’ postseason run last fall, Kirkland outdueled Louisiana State University signee Sam Montgomery of Greenwood, who after LHS’s 14-10 comeback win over the Eagles gave Kirkland his lineman gloves and helmet sticker in a show of admiration.

In the Bruins’ 13-10 Region IV-AAAA comeback road overtime win over Blythewood, Kirkland showed his versatility, making a key defensive stop to force the Bengals into a field goal and later provided the clutch block on LHS senior running back Jamias Clark’s touchdown run in OT.

McMurray said the win was a pivotal point for the Bruins.

“William is well-deserving of this opportunity,” said LHS athletic director Mark Strickland, who doubles as the Bruins’ offensive line coach. “He’s one of the few offensive lineman we’ve had sign, but he has a wealth of talent and I think he will excel.

“S.C. State is getting a steal,” Strickland said. “I look for William to contribute and make a major impact in Orangeburg.”

Keenan said Kirkland has tremendous potential.

“I’m no football coach, but I could see William playing on Sunday one day,” Keenan said.

McMurray said Kirkland’s skills are a plus for him.

“William has the tools and he comes to play each day,” McMurray said. “He has tremendous size and he moves real well for a player his size.

“William’s senior year was phenomenal and he’s earned this chance to continue his education and play football at the next level. If  William continues to work hard and applies himself, he can get his degree.

“He has good character,” McMurray said. “He’s the kind of person you hope your son will grow up to be.”

Kirkland, who plans to major in pre-law at SCSU, noted a host of reasons for picking the Bulldogs.

“I’m excited about going to S.C. State,” Kirkland said. “It’s a nice atmosphere.

“When I visited there last month, I met a lot of players and they made me feel welcome,” he said. “The football players are like family. I was glad they were there.”