Big next step

Geordan Livingston, seated center, will play at Charleston Southern University next year. Others in the photo are, left to right: seated, Livingston’s parents Andrea and Geramie; standing, East Carteret Principal Katherine Steele, Athletic Director Tod Morgan, Livingston’s grandmother Essie Johnson, sister Andralyn Livingston, Assistant Principal Juanita Russell and football coach B.J. Frazier. (Contributed photo)

BEAUFORT — Geordan Livingston said he was stuck in the middle when it came to playing football at the next level.

 Sometimes the middle can be a good place to be.

The talented former East Carteret wide receiver signed a scholarship with Charleston Southern University of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA).

“Division I (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools were saying I wasn’t big enough,” he said. “And Division II schools said they didn’t want to take a chance on me because they felt like a Division I school would come in and take me.”

FCS schools dominated Livingston’s list as he began looking at college programs, including Campbell, Western Carolina and Furman. FBS program Coastal Carolina and Division II North Greenville were also in the mix.

He narrowed the list to Charleston Southern, Campbell and Western Carolina but didn’t visit Western Carolina after his visit to CSU.

“When I went to Charleston Southern, it pretty much felt like home,” Livingston said. “The visit went great. I met with the new coach, the new offensive coordinator, and they told me how they would use me and they felt like I could contribute this year. I felt like it was a pretty good fit.”

Mark Tucker resigned from CSU in December 2018 after a two-year mark of 11-11, including a 6-5 record in 2018 and a 5-6 record in 2017. The Buccaneers were the Big South Conference champions in 2015 and 2016.

Autry Denson became the fifth head football coach in program history when he was hired in January.

Both coaches recruited Livingston.

“I thought the coaching change might impact my recruiting, but when coach Denson came in, I looked him up,” he said. “He played in the NFL, he was the running backs coach at Notre Dame last year, and so after seeing that and after meeting him, it helped a lot.”

Denson came to the Buccaneers after spending the last four seasons as the running backs coach at Notre Dame.

He finished his playing career as the all-time leading rusher in Notre Dame history with 4,318 yards. Denson currently ranks second in school history with 43 career rushing touchdowns and 5,327 all-purpose yards. He was a three-year starter and was named All-American as a senior.

Denson, who also coached at South Florida, Miami (Ohio) and Bethune-Cookman, spent four seasons in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.

Offensive coordinator and inside receivers coach Felton Huggins played five seasons in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. He was Southeastern Louisiana’s career leader in receptions (162) and receiving yards (2,350) when he finished his collegiate career. Huggins, who earned All-American honors as a senior, still holds school records for catches in a season (84) and receiving yards in a season (1,313).

“Their coaches had a lot of good things to say about him,” East Carteret coach B.J. Frazier said. “They liked him and told him he’s got a good opportunity to come in and play. I think it’s a steal for them. And I think it’s a perfect situation for him.”

Livingston put up big numbers as a senior, hauling in 66 catches for 1,050 yards and 14 touchdowns for a team that went 8-5 and visited the second round of the 1A playoffs.

He got better as the season went on.

After producing 29 catches for 405 yards and a touchdown in the first six games of the season, he had 37 catches for 645 yards and 13 touchdowns in the last seven games with a score in all but one contest.

But like East’s go-to receiver before him, he struggled to gain a lot of traction with college coaches as he measured out at 5-9, 165 pounds.

“He went under the radar a little bit,” Frazier said. “It was like it was with Maceo (Donald). They were both overlooked. At 165 pounds, you don’t get a lot of attention. There are just a lot of guys that size. We knew it if he didn’t get offered last summer, it was going to be a long process.”

After a protracted recruitment, Donald ended up at East Carolina as a preferred walk-on. Livingston reported that Donald was a source of great wisdom during the stressful recruiting process.

“The same thing happened with him,” Livingston said. “And with us being like brothers, he was always in my ear, giving me advice, telling me what I needed to do.”

While he may not benefit from his size at the college level, Frazier said Livingston, who will play slot receiver at CSU, would definitely benefit from his mind.

“He can talk to me about coverages, stems, steps, releases, college-level stuff,” he said. “It’s extremely impressive. His football IQ is amazing. He would tell me how he could do things on the field, but then he would tell me why he could do it, and that is big. That makes my job a lot easier.”

Livingston will join two area players on the Buccaneers roster. Northside-Jacksonville’s Demetrius Jones was a freshman wide receiver this past fall, while West Craven’s Shaundre Mims was a redshirt freshman defensive lineman.

The Buccaneers will open the season Aug. 31 at Furman before traveling to South Carolina on Sept. 7. They will welcome North Carolina A&T on Sept. 14 for their home opener. Livingston hopes to be on the field for those games.

“I’ll leave for camp in two and half weeks,” he said. “They told me to come and compete. With a new coaching staff, everyone is getting a chance to show what they’ve got. I’m going in, hoping I can take advantage of my opportunity and make plays.”

A standout student with a 3.6 GPA, Livingston said he plans on majoring in business management.

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