2 more Pearl River standouts sign with 4-year programs

Published 5:15 pm Thursday, February 2, 2023

POPLARVILLE, Miss. — The Pearl River football team is sending two more Wildcats to the next level as Bryan Whitehead II (Bartlett, Tenn.) signed with Liberty and Antonio Gayden (Harvey, La.; West Jefferson) signed with Jackson State.

“Both of these guys are foundational players for us,” Pearl River coach Seth Smith said. “They were part of our first full recruiting class. They are two foundation-laying guys who came in and did everything that we asked. They are leaving this program way better than how they found it. They are two awesome young men and awesome football players who we will miss. We are rooting for them.”


After a breakout 2022 season, Whitehead was recognized as a Second Team All-American by the National Junior College Athletic Association in addition to being named the Mississippi Association of Community College Coaches South Division Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-MACCC on the season.

The sophomore finished the 2022 campaign with 39 tackles, 19 tackles-for-loss, 11.5 sacks, three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and one interception. Each fumble that was picked up by Whitehead II was returned for a touchdown.

Whitehead II’s sack total ranked fourth-best in the NJCAA and his 19 tackles for loss ranked sixth.

With the help of the defensive end, Pearl River’s defense was one of the best units in the country. PRCC ranked 17th in the NJCAA in passing yards allowed per game (165.7) and 18th in rushing yards allowed per game (116.2). The Wildcats ranked 20th in sacks with 26 as a team.

“Bryan is such a special human. To see him be player of the year in the league and an All-American was special,” Smith said. “It couldn’t have happened to a better person. He is an All-American human. He checks every box. We just feel honored and spoiled that we got to coach such a great person.”

Whitehead II talked about what Pearl River means to him.

“I knew coming here that I was going to get a lot better,” he said. “I went through some tough times with my injury, but that made me the player that I am. It’s rare that a JUCO this far south would come up to us in Tennessee to scout. I am so grateful that they gave me a chance. Without God, none of this would be possible.”


Gayden became a go-to target for the Wildcat offense in the second half of the season.

He finished 2022 with 20 receptions for 267 yards and two touchdowns. For the year, he averaged 29.7 receiving yards per game and 13.3 yards per reception.

Gayden’s top performance came against Southwest Mississippi CC where he had six receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Gayden also returned nine kicks for 111 yards with a 14.3 yards per return average.

“He’s so explosive and is a game-changer,” Smith said. “I’d be shocked if you don’t see him score a ton of touchdowns at Jackson State. He’s got rare speed and tremendous hands. For his size, he’s a very physical football player. We’re excited to see him compete at the next level.

Gayden talked about his time as a Wildcat.

“Pearl River developed me from a boy to a man,” he said. “It showed me how to be successful and get my priorities straight. On and off the field, I had great mentors who kept pushing me to get to where I needed to be.”


Whitehead II and Gayden bring the total number of Wildcats moving to the next level to 18.

They join Nicholls State signee Jordan Aaron (Columbia), Harding signee Terrick Bryant (Meridian; St. Martin), Prairie View A&M signee Freddie Byrd III (Woodville; Wilkinson County), Toldeo signee Micah Cherry (Petal), Mississippi College signees Jordan Foushee (Bay St. Louis; Hancock), Conner Mallette (Vancleave), Nick Milsap (Raleigh; Oak Grove), Michael Montgomery (Port Gibson; Vicksburg), JuVonta Raymond (Picayune) and Qavonte Swanigan(Foxworth; West Marion), South Alabama signee Christopher Holifield Jr. (Mobile, Ala.; LeFlore), Mercyhurst signee Ken Irving (D’Iberville), Alabama signee Justin Jefferson (Memphis, Tenn.; Bartlett), Illinois signee Kaleb Patterson(Byram; Terry), Southern Arkansas signee Hosea Singleton (Bay St. Louis; Bay) and Florida International signee Marquez Tatum (Mobile, Ala.; LeFlore).

For the latest on Pearl River Community College athletics, follow us on Twitter (@PRCCAthletics) and Facebook (PRCCAthletics).