PICKERING — Irene Anderson still remembers the moment well.

PICKERING — Irene Anderson still remembers the moment well.

Her baby son, Dontay, was just a couple of months old. She had taken him for baby pictures and the little tyke was being a little fussy.

But once a football was placed near him, everything seemed to calm down.

“When they put that football under him, it was like he knew that's what he was going to be,” Anderson said.

Some 18 years later, Dontay Hargrove, the reigning Vernon Parish Most Valuable Player, watched his years of toting around a football pay huge dividends as he signed a national letter-of-intent to play at McNeese State University, spurning offers from Tulane, Northwestern State, Southern and UL-Monroe to play close to home.

“McNeese felt like home to me,” Hargrove said. “The coaches and the atmsophere were great. They've been recruiting me for a while and I am definitely comfortable there.”

Hargrove, an all-district first-teamer at many positions, will likely line up as a flex player on offense for McNeese, who plans on using him as a hybrid between a tight end and a wide receiver, hoping to find mismatches against linebackers to get him the ball.

However, Hargrove's high school coach at Pickering, Johnny Cryer, believes he can play anywhere they need him to.

“Dontay is a very deserving young man,” Cryer said. “I think he could play several spots at McNeese and play well for them. He could play on either side of the ball for them. He's done all we've ever asked him to do and we have leaned on him a lot over these past four years.”

The past four years at Pickering has been quite a renaissance. In the years leading up to Hargrove's high school career, the Red Devils had been struggling. When Cryer arrived and Hargrove moved into the freshman class, things began to change.

As a freshman, Hargrove and the Red Devils upset then No. 1 Many and eventually grabbed the No. 17 seed in the playoffs, where they fell on the road in the first round. As a sophomore, Hargrove and his teammates reached the second round of the playoffs, a narrow loss to Northeast.

As a junior, the Red Devils reached the state quarterfinals, a slim loss to Rayville on the road, a game where Hargrove had nearly 200 yards receiving.

And as a senior, the Red Devils reached the second round again, only to fall to the eventual state champion Sterlington Panthers.

“This has been a great four years,” Hargrove said. “The Red Devils are a great family and they have been of great support to me over my four years here. Everyone has been so supportive.”

Now, Hargrove can concentrate on graduating high school in May and enrolling at McNeese, where he hopes to help lead the Cowboys back to the Southland Conference championship.

“I am truly blessed to be able to further my education and play football at McNeese,” he said. “I'm ready to suit up and play for them. I'm truly excited and extremely happy.”