SMITHS STATION, Ala. -- Mary Emma Thomas got a surprise early Wednesday that made her cry.
She was told great-grandson Lorenzo Betties II was going to sign a scholarship to play college football, and she was going to see it.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” the 84-year-old woman said. “They told me this morning and I cried tears of joy.”
It was at 11:15 a.m. that the Smiths Station High School running back put his signature on the grant-in-aid from Highland Community College in Highland, Kan., a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
His parents, Bridget Williams and Lorenzo Betties, sat next to him in front of a black and white curtain bearing the words “Panther Pride.” A throng of friends and family stood nearby and cheered.
“I’m so proud of him,” said his mother.
“The school is a good fit for me,” Betties said of Highland.
He will be a tailback in a power-I offense, and he hopes to play NCAA Division I football when he is finished there. He said a lot of players who go to Highland do just that.
“They bring a lot of talented players in there,” he said.
Betties, 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, rushed for 1,023 yards and 22 touchdowns as he led Smiths Station to a 7-4 record, including an appearance in the state playoffs. He rushed for 251 yards and six touchdowns in an season-opening win against Russell County. For the season, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
“It was a good season,” said Betties.
He has never been to Kansas, but he said he is sure with his studies and football keeping him busy he won’t get homesick.
“The same Lord who is watching over him here will be watching over him there,” said Thomas.