Local Georgia Southern players prepare to return to practice


Georgia Southern is the first college in the two-state to welcome athletes back to campus, where they’ll be quarantined until workouts begin June 15. At least eight local players will be on the football roster this fall – including redshirt senior linebacker Rashard Byrd from North Augusta High School, and redshirt freshman cornerback Derrick Canteen from Evans High School.

The local players on the Eagles’ 2020 roster include:

  • #13 Derrick Canteen – CB – R-Fr – Evans HS
  • #27 A.J. Brown – RB – R-Fr – Harlem HS
  • #31 Darrell Baker – CB – R-Sr – Hephzibah HS
  • #37 Caree Collier – LB – R-Fr – North Augusta HS
  • #45 Rashad Byrd – LB – R-Sr – North Augusta HS
  • #61Drew Wilson – OL – R-Sr – Bamberg-Ehrhardt HS
  • #86 Mills Ridings – WR – R-So – Thomson HS
  • #89 Jeremy Smith – DE – R-Jr – Greenbrier HS

Byrd was among the first wave of players to be back on campus June 1 and get tested to begin the process of returning to organized team workouts. Canteen will do the same later this month.

Both players say it was a strange off-season as they tried to stay in shape without normal access to facilities and weight-rooms due to the current pandemic.

“It’s very tough doing it by yourself, but that’s what it’s all about when people talk about integrity and just doing the right thing when no one’s looking,” said Byrd. “So I’m excited to see how much work has paid off and I know it’s nowhere near what it would be if I was working out with my boys, but like coach (Lunsford) said, anything is better than nothing,” added Byrd.

Former North Augusta linebacker Rashad Byrd is entering his final season at Georgia Southern (courtesy GSU Athletics).

“You’ve got to get creative,” said Canteen. “You have to really push yourself and really dedicate,” he added. “It starts with the coaches and work your way down to the leaders on the team to become a leader also,” said Canteen. “I think it brought us closer together as a team,” added Canteen.

Former Evans HS standout Derrick Canteen works out during the offseason before returning to campus at Georgia Southern.

In his final season with the Eagles, Byrd wants to do more than just win games.

“I just want to make sure the younger guys are getting the leadership they need and building them up, because I really want to be a legacy here not just when we’re balling out or making big plays,” said Byrd. “It is about developing the young guys and making sure that I leave the place better than it was when I got here,” added Byrd.

Canteen says going from being the star player at Evans, to redshirting last season was tough, but he got advice from players like Byrd who had to go through the same thing.

“Yeah, especially with Rashad being from the Augusta area,” said Canteen. “He did redshirt, so I can talk to him, and just different guys throughout the team,” he added. “They’re older, they have experience, some redshirted and some didn’t. Some players play every snap, some players don’t play as much. All the different aspects and all the positivity that I had around me were a big help,” said Canteen.

Byrd and Canteen also noted the players and coaches are meeting to address the current social injustice and race issues in the country.

“I feel like it’s everyone versus injustice and everyone versus racism,” said Canteen. “I feel like once people get that through their head and understand that the problem isn’t so much color, it’s just injustice, then we can work in the right direction,” added Canteen.

“Having their (coaches) support with us is great because social injustice is real and the coaches are letting us know they’re not going to stand for it, and that helps us out a lot and lets us know they have our back,” said Byrd.

Georgia Southern is scheduled to open the 2020 season on the road at Boise State on September 5.

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