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National Signing Day made its annual appearance across the country Wednesday.

That day included a trio of Calvert County athletes who officially signed their letters to advance their athletic careers.

Patuxent lineman Raphael Douglas signed his name to attend North Carolina-based Davidson College.

“I’m very excited,” Douglas said moments after signing his letter late Wednesday morning. “This is something I’ve definitely wanted to do ever since I was little. It’s always been one of my dreams.”

A few hours later at Huntingtown High School, Karlie Quinn announced her decision to play field hockey at Lindenwood University (Miss.), while Jade Hudson decided the University of South Carolina Upstate women’s soccer team was the best fit for her.

“I’m really excited; it’s going to be a good way to transition into college,” said Hudson, 17, who will major in nursing. “I really love the team and the coach already, so it’s already a very good vibe. I’m excited.”

“I’m really excited to go out to Missouri; it’s going to be fun,” said 17-year-old Quinn, who plans to major in the exercise field and minor in business, and hopes to start by her freshman or sophomore year. “I’ve been working really hard, so [it’s like a dream’] finally coming true.”

Douglas also considered Lafayette College (Pa.), Princeton, Wesleyan University (Conn.) and Stetson University (Fla.) but ultimately elected to sign with Division I-AA Davidson.

“When I visited, it was a very nice atmosphere and it’s a small school, which is what I really wanted to go to,” said Douglas, who made his official visit to the school in mid-January and sports a GPA of 3.4. “It had my major [computer science], and one thing that really appealed to me is that they really focused on the academics and not just the football stuff. I wanted to be a little more [focused] on academics because that’s what my parents pitched me to do.”

The signing marked a shining moment for Douglas, who signed with cousins Adrienne Peterson and Tony Davis and younger brother Rafiq in attendance.

Douglas and his younger brother lost their mother Shanita Douglas to kidney failure in August 2010. Two years earlier, the brothers lost their father to pneumonia.

“[College is] definitely a challenge I can handle after everything I’ve been through,” Raphael said.

Davis said he thought being on the field and with their close-knit teammates helped the brothers through the tough times.

“I think football has helped just by being around and having camaraderie,” he said, “and it gives you something to shoot for and focus so you can take your mind off certain ills of life when you have something else to focus on.”

Rafiq, a junior running back/defensive end for the Panthers, was beaming for his brother.

“I’m very proud of him because he’s always wanted to get to that D-I level to play football,” Rafiq said. “It makes me proud seeing him go somewhere he wanted to go and especially somewhere he really likes. It kind of makes me want to get there, as well.”

But it wasn’t just family members who were swelling with pride for the lineman.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Patuxent head football coach Steve Crounse said. “He’s like family to me. I’ve known him since he was a middle school kid, and he’s gone through certain tragedies in his life and to see him overcome all of that adversity and become our strongest leader and be a kid who stayed on top of his academics and who stayed on top of his football and gave himself a chance and have an opportunity like this is just amazing and really one of the great stories in my 20 years of coaching.”

Douglas was a guard for the freshman football team his ninth-grade year and played defensive and offensive tackle on the varsity team his final three seasons, in which he helped Patuxent win 21 of 32 games.

Peterson said the end of Douglas’ sophomore year when he was named to the All-SMAC team on both sides of the ball was when she and he both knew he could play at the next level.

“He said, ‘Wow, I must be good if the coaches recognized me,’” said Peterson, who is also the Douglas brothers’ guardian. “That’s kind of when I felt a light went off for him.”

Last fall, Douglas was named All-SMAC first team offense after helping the Panther tailbacks average 9.36 yards per carry and score 42 touchdowns. Defensively, he registered 50 tackles (5.6 per game), including 25 solo. He also had nine tackles for loss.

“He is our gentle giant,” Crounse said of the 6-foot-2, 260-pounder. “He’s one of the most polite, respectful young men I’ve ever come across, but when he puts that helmet on and buckles that chinstrap, he’s very tenacious. He’s very protective of his teammates; he has an incredible motor, and he has real good athleticism for a kid his size. I think it’s his passion and devotion to the team that drives him to be such a good football player.”

“When I step on the field, there’s a lot of energy and adrenaline that goes through me,” Douglas said of his Incredible Hulk-like transformation. “It’s something that’s different from day to day and going to school and everything. It’s a place where I can release general anger if I’m upset.”

Rafiq said Davidson is getting a quality player by landing his brother.

“He’s a very committed player, and he’ll do everything you say,” he said, “but he’s not flashy or anything. He keeps to himself, but he’s a good overall player.”

Raphael said he hopes to earn a starting position his freshman campaign.

“He’s a driven young man, and he’s going to give them everything he’s got on the football field and he’s going to give them everything he’s got in the classroom,” Crounse said. “He realizes that football has given him an outstanding opportunity to get a degree from an outstanding university. And that’s his focus going down there, to develop a career path and start his life, and football is a vehicle that will allow him to do that.”

mreid@somdnews.com