Keshaun Abel
WR - 6-4 - 185 lbs. - Fr.
Charlotte, N.C. (Mallard Creek HS)
Prior to Western Carolina: Was listed as a three-star athlete by ... High school head coach was Mike Palmieri ... Also ran track as a prep where he was a part of the MCHS 4x100-meter relay team that ran the state's second best time (1:27.22) to win MECKA 4A title; finished ninth at states ... Also ran on the 4x400-meter relay team.
Personal: Full name is Keshaun Demonte' Abel ... Is the son of Krystal Abel and Larry Wilson.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over North Carolina Central ... Was recruited by Jason Nichols.

Kenny Benton
WR - 5-9 - 165 lbs. - Fr.
Columbia, S.C. (Blythewood HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Was a three-year letter winner as a kick returner and wide receiver ... Was a two-time first team All-Region selection ... Finished his prep career with 85 receptions for 1,633 yards and 13 touchdowns ... Returned 15 kickoffs for 312 yards, averaging nearly 21 yards per return with one TD ... As a senior, hauled in a career-high 43 passes for 820 yards and seven scores, adding five rushes for 67 yards and a touchdown in earning second team All-Midlands honors ... Received the Bengal Captain and Bengal Wide Receiver Awards as a senior ... High school head coach was Dan Morgan.
Personal: Full name is Robert Kenneth Benton, but prefers to go by "Kenny" ... Is the son of Melissa and Robert Benton ... His brother, Timel, plays football as a quarterback at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Limestone ... Was recruited by Jason Nichols.

Cameron Brown
LB - 6-2 - 210 lbs. - Fr.
Tallahassee, Fla. (Florida State University School)
Prior to Western Carolina: Was named first team defense on the Florida All-State Class 3-A football team following his senior season as he was credited with a career-best 140 tackles including a school-record 100 solo stops and 24 TFLs with 10 sacks ... Forced nine fumbles, recovering three while also intercepting a pass ... Tallahassee, Fla., Quarterback Club named him the 2016 Mickey Andrews Co-Defensive Player of the Year ... Was named All Big Bend in both his junior and senior seasons, collecting second team honors as a junior and first team plaudits as a senior ... Selected to play for the North Team in the 62nd annual North-South All-Star FACA Football Classic ... Recorded 193 career tackles, averaging 9.7 tackles per game ... Posted 14 sacks while also recording an interception and forced a pair of fumbles ... Was listed as a two-star athlete by ... High school head coach was Jerod Hickman ... As an all-conference prep wrestler, finished fourth in the state of Florida Class 1-A in the 195 lbs., weight class as a junior and qualified for the state tournament as a sophomore.
Personal: Full name is Cameron Michael Brown, prefers to go by "Cam" ... Is the son of Sam and Michelle Brown ... Has two siblings, Bin and Samaya.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Akron, Chattanooga, Kent State, Mercer, North Carolina Central, and UAB ... Was recruited by Mark Rhea and Blake Gideon.

Nick Campbell
OL - 6-2 - 280 lbs. - Fr.
Braselton, Ga. (Mill Creek HS)
Prior to Western Carolina: Three-year varsity letter winner as a center and guard on a three-time region championship squad ... Selected second team All-Gwinnett County as a senior ... Twice named Offensive Lineman of the Week during his career ... Was listed as a two-star athlete by both and ... High school head coach was Shannon Jarvis ... Was a finalist in the shot put in the Georgia 7-A Track & Field state championship. Personal: Full name is Nicholas Michael Campbell ... Is the son of Sherrie and Mike Campbell ... Was born in Jacksonville, Fla. ... His father played at Auburn University on the 1988 and 1989 SEC Championship teams before playing professionally in the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Hamilton TigerCats ... Has three siblings; Sabrina, Hannah, and Graham.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Charleston Southern, Georgia Southern, Kentucky Christian, Mercer, and Navy ... Was recruited by Tyler Carlton.

Trevor Childers
LB - 6-1 - 190 lbs. - Fr.
Lincolnton, N.C. (East Lincoln HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Three-year letter winner who finished with a school-record 366 career tackles including six sacks, recording 133 stops as a senior ... Also stepped in at running back as a senior, adding over 800 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on the ground in his final season to earn the Denver Weekly Two-Way Player of the Year honor and All-Gazette accolades ... Collected Southern District-7 all-conference plaudits and SD-7 Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior after finishing with 123 tackles including a school-record 26 tackles for loss and a career-best five interceptions ... Earned the Newcomer Award on the North Carolina State Championship team as a sophomore ... High school head coach was Mike Byus ... Also played baseball as a prep where he hit .292 with 26 runs scored, 22 RBI, and six extra base hits as a junior, collecting all-conference accolades.
Personal: Full name is Trevor Dean Childers ... Is the son of Angela and Paul Dean Childers.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Charlotte, Charleston Southern, Elon, Furman, Gardner-Webb and Liberty ... Was recruited by John Holt.

Owen Cosenke
TE - 6-3 - 220 lbs. - Fr.
Aldie, Va. (Fork Union Military Academy / John Champe HS)
Prior to Western Carolina: Played for head coach Jason Dawson at John Champe HS in Aldie, Va., before finishing his prep career at Fork Union Military where he played for head coach Col. John Shuman ... At John Champe HS, garnered first team all-conference and second team All-Region honors as a senior as a part of a conference championship team in just the Knights' fourth year of existence ... Garnered MaxPreps Offensive Player of the Game accolades in a game against Dominion (Oct. 16, 2015) ... Recorded 35 catches for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in his final season ... Also played basketball at John Champe HS.
Personal: Full name is Owen Mattingly Cosenke ... Is the son of Kelly and Stephen Cosenke.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Lafayette ... Was recruited by John Holt.

Willie Debruce
LB - 6-1 - 205 lbs. - Fr.
Moultrie, Ga. (Colquitt County HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Was a part of two high school state championships as a sophomore and junior ... Earned first team all-region plaudits as a senior, posting 89 total tackles including 68 solo stops with five sacks ... High school head coach was Rush Propst.
Personal: Full name is Dankerious Willie Debruce, but prefers to go by "Willie" ... Is the son of Willie and Lillian Debruce.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Chattanooga and Troy ... Was recruited by Zac Etheridge.

Elijah Hall
DL - 6-0 - 255 lbs. - Fr.
Kannapolis, N.C. (A.L. Brown HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Three-year varsity letter winner ... Finished with 116 career tackles including 90 solo stops and 26 tackle assists ... Was a two-time All-MEKA 4-A Conference selection and twice dubbed the school's Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman ... Led his team in sacks in both his junior and senior seasons ... Collected All-Observer defensive honors as a senior ... High school head coach was Mike Newsome ... Was in the Beta Club for three years.
Personal: Full name is Elijah Raekwon Hall ... Is the son of Marlon Hall and Natasha McCauley ... Has an older sister who played college basketball.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian ... Was recruited by Mark Speir and Jason Nichols.

Michael Harper
OL - 6-5 - 250 lbs. - Fr.
Wilkesboro, N.C. (Fork Union Military Academy)
Prior to Western Carolina: Played both offensive and defensive line, staring as a defensive end for head coach Col. John Shuman for three years at FUMA ... As a senior, collected All-Prep and All-State honors, as well as received The Cobb Award given to the Prep MVP ... Awarded the Distinguished Cadet Award at FUMA where he served as an officer ... Was named second team VISAA Division I All-State in 2015 ... Earned the 2013 Pioneer League All-Conference Award and Christian Character Award
Personal: Full name is Michael Brian Harper ... Is the son of Michelle and Michael Harper Sr. ... Is one of seven children in his family.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over VMI ... Was recruited by John Holt.

Alan Harris
LB - 6-2 - 225 lbs. - Fr.
Atlanta, Ga. (Mt. Vernon Presbyterian)
Prior to Western Carolina: Over his four-year prep career, recorded 458 career tackles including 200 solo stops and 29 sacks ... Was a three-year all-region selection ... Named the 5-A Defensive Player of the Year as a senior after collecting a career-high 130 season tackles ... Was an honorable mention Class A-Private All-State selection ... Credited with the most tackles by a freshman in his first year as a prep ... High school head coach was Wayne Dabbs ... Was an honor roll student and was selected to the Dean's List as a senior ... Also participated in field events, setting a school-record and finishing fourth in the state in the discus as a junior.
Personal: Full name is Alan Micah Harris ... Is the son of Daisy and Andre' Harris ... Has two siblings. Note: Chose Western Carolina over Tusculum, Pikeville, Chattanooga, and Samford ... Was recruited by John Wiley and Blake Gideon.

Will Horton
K - 5-10 - 165 lbs. - Fr.
Acworth, Ga. (North Cobb HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Named first team placekicker on the Georgia 3-AAAAAAA All-Region team ... According to rankings, was the No. 3 kicker overall and No. 9 kickoff specialist in the country ... Earned a four and a half star rating from Chris Sailer kicking ... Rated as the nation's top kicker by Ray Guy Camps ... As a junior, was an honorable mention on the Georgia Class AAAAAA All-State team as a kicker ... High school head coach was Shane Queen. Personal: Full name is William Archer Horton ... Is the son of Bucky and Kara Horton ... His father is the principal at North Cobb HS.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Elon and Missouri ... Was recruited by Pat Mills.

Reggie Jones
DB - 5-11 - 175 lbs. - Fr.
Sharpsburg, Ga. (East Coweta HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Collected first team All-Region honors for 2-AAAAAAA honors ... Was also named to the 2016 Newnan Times-Herald All-County football team on the first team defense ... High school head coach was Steve Pardue ... Also ran track as a prep.
Personal: Full name is Reginald Johnathan Jones ... Is the son of Reggie Jones Sr. and Chassity Anthony.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Charleston Southern and Jacksonville State ... Was recruited by Zac Etheridge and Blake Gideon.

Will Jones
QB - 6-4 - 200 - Fr.
Greensboro, N.C. (Page HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Was a three-year starter at quarterback at Page HS, taking over as a sophomore after an injury to the season starter ... As a senior, was named the Guilford County Football All-Stars co-Offensive Player of the Year ... Was also selected HSXtra All-Area first team ... Guided Page HS to the North Carolina 4-A state championship game in back-to-back seasons as both a junior and senior ... In his final season as a prep, completed 206-of-368 (56%) for 3,109 yards and 38 touchdowns, adding 599 yards on the ground on 97 carries and 11 TDs ... Selected to play in the 80th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas ... For his career, amassed 6,603 yards on 439-of-772 passing for 72 touchdowns while also rushing for 854 yards on 195 and 22 TDs ... Was listed as a two-star athlete by both and ... High school head coach was Kevin Gillespie ... Also played basketball as a prep, helping the Pirates to the NCHSAA Class 4-A regional semifinals.
Personal: Full name is Will Carlyle Jones ... Is the son of Bill and Kari Jones.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Elon, ETSU, Gardner-Webb, and Towson ... Was recruited by Brad Glenn.

Nate Link
DL - 6-2 - 250 lbs. - Jr.
Crowley, La. (ULM / Notre Dame HS)
Prior to Western Carolina: Transferred to WCU from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) ... Redshirted as a true freshman in 2015 ... Played in nine games as a redshirt freshman in 2016 recording five tackles including one solo stop; At Notre Dame HS: Earned first team All-Parish, first team All-District, first team All-Acadiana, first team All-State, and first team Coach's All-State as a junior in 2013 ... Tallied 65 tackles as a senior in 2014, including 22 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, and 30 QB hurries ... Earned Defensive MVP honors on both the All-Parish and All-District teams ... Was again named first team All-Acadiana and first team All-State in 2014 ... Selected to play in the 2014 LHSA East-West All-Star Game, collecting MVP honors ... Was a two-star recruit out of high school by both and ... High school head coach was Lewis Cook.
Personal: Personal: Full name is Nathaniel Joseph Link ... Is the son of Kerry and Jeanette Link ... Has three siblings; brother Jackson and two sisters, Amalie and Helen.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Montana ... Was recruited by Mark Rhea.

Ricky Palao
DL - 6-2 - 285 lbs. - Fr.
Hoover, Ala. (Hoover HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Was a part of the Alabama State 7-A high school football championship team as a senior, collecting one of Hoover High's nine sacks in the title game ... Selected to the "Over the Mountain Journal" All-OTM football team ... High school head coach was Josh Niblett.
Personal: Full name is Ricardo A. Palao ... Is the son of Ricardo Palao, Sr., and Neisha Glapion.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Alabama A&M, Central Arkansas, Robert Morris, Tennessee-Martin, and Tennessee Tech ... Was recruited by Blake Gideon and Zac Etheridge.

Bruce Squires
WR - 6-0 - 180 lbs. - Fr. 
Forest City, N.C. (Chase HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Two-time All-South Mountain Athletic Conference (SMAC) selection ... Selected as the Best DB at Chase HS, as well as the Specialist of the Year for the SMAC by the league head coaches following his senior season ... Was listed as a two-star athlete from ... High school head coach was Daniel Bailey ... Also ran track as a prep, winning the 200-meter dash at the NCHSAA 2-A state championship.
Personal: Full name is Bruce Lee Squires ... Is the son of Bryan and Lisa Lynch.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Elon and Georgia State ... Was recruited by John Holt.

Quintin Thames
DB - 5-11 - 170 lbs. - Fr.
Grayson, Ga. (Grayson HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Was a part of three Region 8 championships and the 7A state championship as a senior ... Named All-County in his final season as a prep ... High school head coach was Jeff Herron ... Also ran track and participated in the long jump as a prep. Personal: Full name is Quintin Jimani Thames ... Is the son of Enicka Harden, and Jihad Yusef and Tiffany Huey ... Was born in St. Louis, Mo. ... Has six siblings: Kita, Chelsea, Kealon, Amaris, Justin, and Autumn.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Carson-Newman, Elon, ETSU, and Savannah State ... Was recruited by Tyler Carlton and Blake Gideon.

Grady Thomas
OL - 6-4 - 285 lbs. - Fr.
Spartanburg, S.C. (Spartanburg HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Named to the first team All-USA South Carolina football team and to the Herald-Journal All-Area team ... Selected to play in the 80th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas ... High school head coach was Chris Miller ... According to, listed as the No. 5 wrestler in the state of South Carolina at the 5-A classification ... He also won the county championship in wrestling in 2017.
Personal: Full name is Grady Maguire Thomas ... Is the son of Tammy Thomas ... Is originally from Laconia, N.H. Note: Chose Western Carolina over Elon and Wofford ... Was recruited by Mark Rhea.

DJ Thorpe
QB - 6-3 - 185 lbs. - Fr.
Nashville, Tenn. (Cane Ridge HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: In two seasons as the starting quarterback, threw for 4,980 yards and 47 touchdowns in leading Cane Ridge High to a 20-4 record ... As a senior, completed 185-of-297 passes for a school single-season record 2,907 yards, setting a school benchmark with 28 touchdowns against seven interceptions, leading CRHS to an undefeated regular season, a Region 6-5A title and the program's first two playoff victories ... Collected Region 6-5A Offensive MVP plaudits, as well as all-region offensive player of the year honors ... Became the first player in CRHS history to receive the 2016 William E. Hume Award which is given annually to the top football player among Metro Nashville schools ... Also received the Hancock/Nipper football sportsmanship award from the Nashville City Civitan Club ... Was listed as a two-star athlete by ... High school head coach was Eddie Woods.
Personal: Full name is Dakarai Jashaun Thorpe, but goes by "DJ" ... Is the son of Kalvanetta and William Thorpe ... Has a younger sister, Laiya.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Cornell and Samford ... Was recruited by Blake Gideon and Brad Glenn.

Clark Willhoite
OL - 6-7 - 295 lbs. - Fr.
Cincinnati, Ohio (Roger Bacon HS)

Prior to Western Carolina: Played offensive tackle and was a team captain as a senior at Roger Bacon HS ... Selected first team All-Greater Catholic (GCL) Central lineman ... Awarded his team's Most Valuable Player honor along the offensive line ... Also received Academic All-Ohio honors in his final year as a prep ... Earned second team All- GCL Coed Central lineman in 2015 as a junior while also receiving the most improved team award ... High school head coach was Mike Blaut. Personal: Full name is Clark Evan Willhoite ... Is the son of Sonya Beeler and Mark Willhoite ... His mother played basketball at Bradley University ... Has a brother, Hagan, and a sister, Zoey.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Ashland, Charleston University, Sioux Falls, Eastern Kentucky, and Georgia State ... Was recruited by Mark Rhea.

Jacquez Williams
LB - 6-3 - 220 lbs. - Jr.
Cataula, Ga. (Georgia Military College / Harris County HS)
Prior to Western Carolina: Transferred to WCU from Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga., where he played for Burt Williams ... Played in 19 games over two seasons including nine a season ago ... Recorded 21 career tackles including 13 solo stops with two tackles for loss and a sack ... Was also credited with a forced and recovered fumble along with three pass break-ups ... Achieved academic distinction by making the Dean's List at GMC; At Harris County HS: Was listed as a two-star athlete out of high school by ... High school head coach was Dwight Jones ... Also played basketball as a prep.
Personal: Full name is Jacquez Devante Williams ... Is the son of Shanton Holloway and Terrence Williams.
Note: Chose Western Carolina over Presbyterian ... Was recruited by Zac Etheridge and Mark Speir.


  2016 Catamount Football Incoming Class:

NamePos.Ht.Wt.Hometown (Previous School)
Andrew AskewWR6-1190 lbs.LaGrange, Ga. (LaGrange HS)
Matthew BairOL6-4275 lbs.Anderson, S.C. (T.L. Hanna HS)
John Brannon IIIDB6-2180 lbs.Charlotte, N.C. (South Mecklenburg HS)
Bailey ByrumOL6-7310 lbs.Sweetwater, Tenn. (Sweetwater HS)
Devarius CortnerDB6-1185 lbs.Nashville, Tenn. (East Nashville Magnet HS)
Holden EdwardsDT6-2295 lbs.Mount Ulla, N.C. (South Iredell HS)
Lavell EllerbeWR6-3195 lbs.Rockingham, N.C. (Richmond Senior HS)
Shamon ElliottDB6-0185 lbs.Fayetteville, N.C. (Terry Sanford HS)
Jake HelmsDT6-2290 lbs.Mooresville, N.C. (Lake Norman HS)
Aaron MaddoxDB6-2185 lbs.North Augusta, S.C. (North Augusta HS)
Michael MurphyDB6-2180 lbs.Spartanburg, S.C. (Spartanburg HS)
Aubry PayneTE6-4235 lbs.Locust Grove, Ga. (Locust Grove HS)
Donnavan SpencerRB5-10185 lbs.Charlotte, N.C. (Vance HS)
Connell YoungRB6-0200 lbs.Greensboro, N.C. (Dudley HS)



WCU Retired Football Jerseys and Numbers

The first football player to have his number retired, was also the first football player selected as an All-American at Western Carolina. He played guard on both the offense and defense (imagine that today), and was a member of the Catamount team to win their first North State Conference title, and the same team holds the honor of earning the first postseason bid, a visit to the Smoky Mountain Bowl in Bristol, Virginia.

His retired number - #54, his name is Art Bird (1946-49).


The second Catamount to have his football number retired was also selected as an All-American (AP & AFCA), and also earned selection as an All-American in two other sports, Baseball and Track & Field. This individual remains the only three sport All-American in Western Carolina history. Over his career, he established over 40 football records, and was selected as the North Carolina College Athlete of the Year in 1975.

His retired number - #23, his name is Jerry Gaines (1970-1975).


The third and final Catamount to have his football number retired is probably the most honored football player in Western's football history. Named All-Conference 4 times, he remains Western's and the SoCon's only 3 time All-American selection (1984-86-87). He owned 5 NCAA 1-AA kicking records, 10 Southern Conference records, and 18 Western Carolina records as well as having the distinction of WCU's highest NFL draft selection, fifth by the Buffalo Bills in 1987. Kicked 71 field goals (11 of which were 50 or more yards) and only missed one (1) extra point attempt in four seasons.

His retired number - #14, his name is Kirk Roach (1984-87).