LAURINBURG — Mazani Stubbs, the latest Scotland High School football product to publicize his plans to play college football, will take a far different path to the next level than his senior classmates.
Jonathan Smith (North Carolina), Timon McMillan (The University of North Carolina at Pembroke) and J’Quan Breeden (UNCP) all elected to remain in state after their high school careers concluded, but Stubbs will head west.
More than 2,100 miles west.
The 6-foot, 240-pound Scots defensive lineman announced Tuesday morning his intentions to sign with Phoenix College, a junior college program in Arizona.
“I’m going there to play football and just become a better person and all-around athlete, and get ready to go play big-time football,” Stubbs said.
He intends to attend Phoenix for two years before transferring to a four-year university.
Stubbs said he will join the Bears’ linebacker corps — Phoenix runs a 4-3 defense whereas Scotland deployed a 3-4 scheme during Stubb’s career, so the Scots senior will move from defensive end to the second level.
“I’ll be playing the Sam (strong side), the Mike (middle) and I think the Will (weak side) also, so all three linebackers,” Stubb said. “They pretty much all have the same job. It’s a good deal.”
Stubbs was named to the all-Southeastern Conference squad his junior and senior seasons at Scotland, racking up 59 tackles (14 for loss), five sacks and a fumble recovery in his first year as a starter. He followed with 33 tackles (12 for loss), two sacks and a forced fumble during his senior campaign.
In early March, Stubbs was selected to play in the 68th annual North Carolina East-West All-Star game on July 20. He will represent the East team.
The senior credits his time as a Fighting Scot for transforming him into the young man that he is today.
“This football program made me who I am,” Stubbs said. “I love all the coaches on that staff, they taught me brotherhood. Of course I thank all the coaches, but our defensive coaches always had our own little thing and it was always something about our defensive coaches that made us better people. They molded me into the person I am these past few years.”
Stubbs has lived in Laurinburg and Rock Hill, South Carolina, during his life but will move to a part of the country he’s never experienced before.
According to Google Maps, Phoenix is a 32-drive from Laurinburg, but Stubbs won’t be alone during the next phase of his life. He said he will live with his cousin, whom he calls his uncle, at an off-campus site.
“It’s going to be different for me, just me seeing the world and seeing different things and something else besides Laurinburg,” Stubbs said. “Another thing that made me go ahead with the decision (to sign with Phoenix), when I leave, everything here in Laurinburg is still going to be here when I get back. I took it upon myself, and it’s really the first ‘big boy decision’ I’ve made on my own.”
Stubbs hopes to visit home about twice a year — once around Christmas, and another time during the summer. He has not decided whether to drive or fly to his new destination, but said he will report to campus in time for football practice beginning Aug. 1.
The Bears, who are coached by Dan Cozzetto, offered Stubbs about a month ago, and the two-time all-SEC defensive performer said he made the decision to commit two weeks ago.
Though he likely won’t have the opportunity to watch his former teammates take the field next season, the departing star expects Scotland to continue to compete for a 4A state championship year in and year out.
Despite what he says was a disappointing end to his high school football career, Stubbs couldn’t help but reflect on how much he will miss donning Scotland blue and red.
“Zamir (White) and all them boys are going to hold it down, I’m just trying to get through their head how fast high school goes by, it just seemed like yesterday I was walking in as a freshman, itching just to play varsity.
“After it’s all said and done, you look back on it like, man, those four years went by fast and I’ll never get those four years back in my life.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.