Fontel Mines: Continuing the Tradition
by Chris Horne
TSL Extra, Issue #23
Virginia Tech has Ernest Wilford. Virginia has Billy McMullen. Michigan had David Terrell and North Carolina had Corey Holliday. In what seems like a tradition every few years, the Richmond (VA) area produces a tall, athletic and exceptionally skilled wide receiver prospect.
The results produced from these athletes have been pretty impressive as well. Corey Holliday is the current all-time leading receiver in yards for the Tarheels. David Terrell starred at Michigan for three years before becoming the #1 draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 2001. McMullen, an All-American caliber receiver, has set receiving records at Virginia. Ernest Wilford is the starting split end for Virginia Tech, and if he reaches his potential, could become a very good receiver.
Hoping to continue this tradition is Hermitage High School’s main man, wide receiver Fontel Mines. At 6-4, 205 pounds, he certainly has the height. He runs a 4.5 in the 40, which means he absolutely has the athleticism. And according to Hermitage Head Coach Patrick Kane, Mines compares favorably to at least two of the Richmond standouts.
"He is a good mix between the UVa receiver (Billy McMullen) and David Terrell," said Kane. "I haven’t seen anyone better except for Terrell, and that was because he ran a 4.2 or 4.3 in the 40. Fontel is an exceptional player."
Mines agreed with the assessment of his head coach…well, almost.
"If coach Kane says I’m like David Terrell, I won’t disagree with him," said Mines with a chuckle. "But I feel I compare better with Billy McMullen in terms of size and hands."
Before this summer, getting schools to notice Mines’ talent was a little difficult. The Hermitage Panthers were a one-dimensional, run-oriented offense last season. Mines ended his junior campaign with 29 receptions for 612 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those were very impressive stats for a receiver in a run-oriented offense. Unfortunately, they were not the kind of statistics that would impress potential recruiters from across the country.
So, early in the summer of 2002, Mines started making some noise of his own. It was then that, during the University of Virginia’s summer football camp, he ran an impressive 4.48 in the 40. This feat caught the eye of Virginia coaches, as they immediately offered Mines a scholarship. Soon after, the Hokies were in the mix, offering a scholarship as well. Mines has also received offers from Wake Forest and Richmond.
Despite the impressive camp numbers, Mines would have to prove himself on the field in hopes of getting even more attention. In the first game of his senior season, Mines had an opportunity to make even more noise for himself. Hermitage faced conference foe Lee-Davis Confederates with a new, more explosive offense. The Confederates, however, gambled that Hermitage would be the same run-oriented squad exhibited last year. They were wrong.
Throughout the game, Lee-Davis played with nine men in the box, daring Hermitage to throw the ball. The chosen defense was exactly what Fontel Mines was looking for, and he took advantage of it. Mines has the playmaker attitude, wanting to score each time he touches the ball. With only one defender guarding him, it makes it that much easier for him.
"I have so many things running through my mind" before a play, said Mines. "I concentrate to see where the linebackers are, and the safeties, and I think about how I can score a touchdown. If it is man coverage, I don’t even think about it.
"I just look right through him (the cornerback) like he’s not even there."
He wasn’t kidding. He carved up the Lee-Davis secondary to the tune of seven receptions for 151 yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers rolled to victory, trouncing the Confederates 42-7. Mines helped his team get off to a dominating start and, in the process, continue his own momentum. He made a statement…that Fontel Mines is a player.
When asked if the victory served as a breakout game for his high school career, Mines replied "Something like that. I mean, I had some good games last year too, but this is by far my best game" in high school.
Following his impressive early-season success, Mines has indeed become a hot prospect. He is one of the top targets, regardless of position, for both Virginia and Virginia Tech. This month he has received more interest from other schools as well, including telephone calls from Tennessee, Maryland, and North Carolina, among others.
Even with the growing interest from other top programs, Mines feels his collegiate decision may come down to the two in-state programs.
"Things could change depending on who offers me, but probably, yeah," said Mines when asked if he has narrowed his list to UVa and VT. He has scheduled his official visit to Virginia Tech for the November 30th game against Virginia (along with teammate and VT recruiting target, tight end Duane Brown), and he'll visit UVa for the N.C. State game on November 16th.
Mines has stated in recent months that UVa was a slight leader over Virginia Tech for his services. It appears he likes both schools, however, and the official visits may sway his decision one way or the other.
"Nah, I have no leader" at this time, said Mines. "I like Virginia’s academics, the recruiting class, and of course the location is great. I had a good time at the South Carolina game. It was a good game, a good atmosphere. I got to stand on the field for the final quarter, which was fun. I also got to talk to Billy McMullen, Darryl Blackstock, and (former Patrick Henry rival) Anthony Martinez.
"But Tech has a good team, a real good team, and I haven’t got to see them in a game yet."
For now, Mines wants to continue to get better in high school and hopes to attain his pre-season goals of 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns. More importantly, he wants to help his team reach the state championship. The Panthers are well on their way to a great season after two victories in their first two games, and Mines has continued his good start as well. In the second game, he finished with four catches for 60 yards, giving him 11 catches for 211 yards and 3 touchdowns for the year.
As for the recruiting race, this appears to be the makings of a classic in-state battle between the Cavs and Hokies. Both schools are itching to get Mines’ signature on a letter-of-intent in hopes of landing one of the state's top prospects and, further, seeing whether or not this young man will continue the "tradition" of Richmond receivers.