5 Roselle seniors helped change the fortunes of Rams football; Hairston III, Byrd, Stephens, Young, Jones all play a key role

PHOTO COURTESY OF GENE NANN – Roselle quarterback Gerald Hairston III (No. 11), at left, follows blocker Xavier Young (No. 50) for yardage in home playoff win over Harrison.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GENE NANN – Roselle running back Isiah Byrd scored six of his 34 touchdowns in his team’s 69-26 playoff win vs. visiting Harrison.
PHOTO COURTESY OF GENE NANN – Roselle wide receiver Drew Stephens, at left, catches a touchdown pass here ahead of the Harrison defensive back covering him.

Roselle quarterback Gerald Hairston, left, breaks free for yardage in home playoff win over Harrison.[/caption]Five seniors that helped change the course of Roselle football include quarterback Gerald Hairston III, running back Isiah Byrd, wide receiver-punt returner-defensive back Drew Stephens, defensive tackle Xavier Young and defensive end Shaquil Jones.
They were all integral components for the Rams in 2016, leading Roselle to 10 wins for the first time and a 10-1 record and berth in the Central Jersey, Group 2 semifinals for the second time in three years.
Here is their story:
Gerald Hairston III (6-2, 230): Hairston became Roselle’s all-time leader in passing yardage, over 4,000, and touchdowns, 48. This year he threw for 2145 yards, 24 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He started every game his sophomore and senior seasons and was injured for much of his junior year.
Hairston had 19 touchdown passes his sophomore season and five last year. He helped guide Roselle to the CJ, G2 playoffs each of the past three seasons.
“A remarkable kid,” Roselle fourth-year head coach James Williams said. “He’s real solid and real smart.
“He’s just a good kid. He picked up the offense real quick. He was also a good leader.”
Isiah Byrd (5-10, 205): Byrd had one of the most productive seasons seen in Union County in recent years. He carried the ball 200 times for 2069 yards and scored 34 touchdowns, 31 rushing and three receiving.
Byrd ran for 810 yards and eight touchdowns during his first season with Roselle last year. He transferred from East Orange Campus to play with former East Orange Campus coaches Williams and Marion Bell, with Bell serving as Roselle’s offensive coordinator this season.
“He dedicated himself in the weight room and ran track,” Williams said. “Hands down he’s one of the top three running backs in New Jersey. I will put his numbers up with anybody.
“He’s just a powerful kid. He squats 400. When he hits the hole he doesn’t dance. He’s a north-south runner.”
Williams also reported that Byrd is the owner of a 3.7 grade-point average and a member of the National Honor Society.
Drew Stephens (5-9, 155): Another starter for three years, Drew had 1,000 receiving yards, including 11 touchdowns this season. On defense, he led the team in interceptions with nine, returning four of them for touchdowns.
Xavier Young (6-3, 240): “In my opinion, Xavier was the best defensive tackle in the Mid-State,” Williams said.
Young had a team-leading 75 tackles of which 30 were solo and nine were quarterback sacks. He also came up with four fumble recoveries.
“He just picked up an offer from (Division 2) Indiana University of Pennsylvania,” Williams said. “He’s a strong kid, another one who squats 400, and I expect him to be real good at the next level.”
Williams said that Young sports a 3.3 GPA.
Shaquil Jones (6-3, 230): Jones also started three years for Williams, producing 61 tackles this season that included 11.5 quarterback sacks. Jones also had one interception and two fumble recoveries.
“He’s a real steady kid, one of the best kids I ever coached,” Williams said.
All five seniors are seeking to play in college.
“They got offers and now we’re setting up visits and we’ll see what happens,” Williams said.
The signing period begins the first week in February.
“It will be tough to replace them,” Williams said.