Four UVa football recruits from Norfolk Christian converted from basketball

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NORFOLK — Kwontie Moore, Mario Nixon and Courtnye Wynn were basketball guys. Football? They didn't know a slot receiver from a slot machine.

Wil Wahee was familiar with shoulder pads and a helmet, but he, too, preferred basketball.

So how did these engaging young men emerge as stars for Norfolk Christian's state-championship football team? And how did they all come to accept football scholarships from the University of Virginia?

Think about the improbability. Of the 23 commitments in the Cavaliers' acclaimed 2012 class, four hail from a fledgling, private-school program where the only barrier between the practice field and passing traffic is a chain-link fence not much taller than the players.

"I think they see each other as brothers," Norfolk Christian coach Heath Gibbs said of the foursome. "That's how close they are."

Sure enough, in a group conversation this week, Moore, Nixon, Wynn and Wahee hazed one another and completed one another's sentences as if they were lifelong friends. Rather, they met a few years back on the South Hampton Roads summer basketball circuit.

Moore and Nixon enrolled at Norfolk Christian as 8th graders, Wynn and Wahee a year later.

"We came here first of all expecting to get a Christian education and also just to play basketball … with James McAdoo," said Moore, a 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker. "Football wasn't even on our minds."

McAdoo, a North Carolina signee and the MVP of last season's McDonald's All-American Game, attracted scores of recruiters to Norfolk Christian, where high school enrollment is about 230. Meanwhile, the football program, started in 2005, staggered to a 13-32 record in its first five seasons.

But basketball coach Michael Allen, who also serves as the Ambassadors' athletic director, encouraged his players to try football.

"As the AD, I'm looking out for all our teams," Allen said. "As the basketball coach, I wish they could have been dedicated (solely) to basketball."

Wahee, Wynn, Nixon and Moore still play basketball, but they fell for football.

"We just started to help the team out, and then we got a love for it," said Wynn, a 6-5, 240-pound defensive end.

"We kind of created a relationship (with the basketball team)," Gibbs said. "The sports translate well. Mario is 6-4 and pushing 220 (pounds). He runs a 4.4 40. That's what you want in a football player. Plus, he's tough. Naturally, he's a really good football player. He just didn't know it."

Nixon projects as a college receiver, Wahee a defensive back, and last season they Wynn and Moore led Norfolk Christian to not only its first winning season (11-1), but also the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state championship.

"We just worked hard," Wynn said. "That's all. We came to practice, listened to the coaches. We went to summer combines, got better, watched film."

As the victories accumulated, folks began flocking to home games at the DLH Sportsplex in Virginia Beach — Norfolk Christian has no football field, and the team practices on a soccer field (no yard lines).

"Everybody was amazed at first," Wynn said.

"They thought it was a fluke," Nixon said. "Then they started getting on the bandwagon."

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