Rakeim Ashford didn't receive his scholarship offer from NC State until June 11.
Just over a month later, he committed to the Wolfpack.
On Wednesday, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound native of Ackerman, Miss., became the 17th member of coach Dave Doeren's 2021 recruiting class. He's also the third cornerback in the group, emphasizing State's priority to improve its pass defense.
Although there are already four defensive backs among State's class of incoming 2020 freshmen, Doeren and his staff clearly felt as though there was still room for one more -- especially one with a year of college ball to his credit.
Ashford earned all-conference honors at Jones County Junior College in Mississippi last season after recording a team-leading four interceptions with 39 tackles. He also recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
In an exclusive interview with SI's All Wolfpack, the newest member of State's Class of 2021 discusses his whirlwind recruitment, his virtual visit and his reasons for choosing State.
What made you decide NC State was the best fit for you?
"It started with the coaches, especially Coach (Brian) Mitchell. He stayed in contact with me daily from the day they offered me. It felt like I had a close relationship with the coaches."
You mentioned in your commitment Tweet that you were undecided what to do because of COVID-19. What made you finally decide to make the move?
"It just felt right. They really showed me that they wanted me."
Even though you couldn't actually come to campus in person, you were able to do a virtual visit to State. What was that like?
"It was good. I saw everything I needed to see when I was looking at it. I just felt like it was home, like a good home."
Do you feel as though your two years of junior college experience will put you in a position to contribute right away when you arrive at State?
"I feel like I'll be able to handle it, because JUCO was a big difference for me (from high school). I know things at North Carolina State will be even faster, but JUCO helped me a lot with what I had to learn and how to play."
What kind of things have you learned at Jones County Community College?
"I had to learn coverages, my alignment ... everything because in high school, I mostly played running back my senior year. But my junior year I played receiver, safety and running back."
How would you describe your style as a cornerback?
"I like to get my hands on the ball when I get a chance to."
What made you decide to go the JUCO route?
"I ended up at Jones because I didn't have any D-1 offers. I had all junior college offers."
What does it say about how much you've learned and grown in you one season at Jones that you've now attracted Power 5 attention?
"I had no other choice to go out there and do what I had to do. I had a point to prove that I was at a JUCO, just like I'll have a point to prove when I get to North Carolina State."
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