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LaFayette High’s top two staying together in college

LaFAYETTE — Me’Kevion Shealey and Markevious Tolbert do everything together.

They play sports, video game and have grown up together, and next week, they’ll graduate from LaFayette High School as the top two students as a result of studying together.

“This is my friend, for real,” Shealey said. “We grew up together. We competed all throughout kindergarten through twelfth grade, and [the results] just shows.”

The duo, as well as a host of other friends in the area, used to assemble after every school day at the home of Nick Fell, who finished third in LaFayette High’s graduating class.

“We’ll do Spanish, we’ll do math, current events for Coach Thornton, we’ll do something else for Mr. Nelson,” Tolbert said. “We’ll do everything at Nick Fell’s house. That’s basically the study house. We’ll just chill, eat snacks and study. We’ve had long nights up there, so we might have practice and get home at 6. We’ll go home and take a shower, get to Nick’s house at 7, and we might not leave until 11. I’m going to miss that, too. The long nights.”

Shealey, Atkinson and Fell will be attending Norfolk State in the fall on full-ride scholarships. The multi-sport athletes both learned along the way that their way to college was academics. Shealey said he probably could’ve signed an athletic scholarship if he applied himself more and wanted to, while Tolbert can remember the exact moment that high school marked the end of his time playing football.

“It was my ninth-grade year in spring practice,” Tolbert said. “I was having a good practice. I was at linebacker then. They moved me to cornerback, and I got trucked. I had a concussion. He knocked all of the athletic ability out of me? They said I woke up with one eye pointing that way and the other was pointing the other way. I realized then that ‘yeah. This ain’t for me.’ That’s when I realized that academics were going to be the way because I can’t get knocked out all my life.”

Shealey finished high school with a weighted GPA of 4.68, while Tolbert’s stands at 4.67.

“[Tolbert] says I’m No. 1 because my last name goes before his,” Shealey said after cracking a smile.

Tolbert immediately responded.

“Technically, the counselor said it was a tie,” he said. “To be honest, it’s going to come down to this Spanish course.”

Both Shealey and Tolbert scored 23s on the ACT.

The students also credited their mentor Travis Smith, who gave them books about how to maneuver in manhood. He taught them the traits of selfishness to uplift their community. Smith is the supervisor for the group “UNITE,” the youth program opened to students in LaFayette, Valley, Opelika, Auburn and Bullock County. The group goes on HBCU tours, and Tolbert served as the chapter’s president this past year.

“He mentored us, and taught us how to be a black man,” Tolbert said. “I give all the thanks to him, Nick and God.”

Although both students said that they look forward to bringing their own version of “Nick’s house” to a freshmen dorm at Norfolk State in a couple of months, no place can replace their hometown.

“I’m going to miss basketball season, most definitely,” Shealey said. “The gym, the Dog Pound, gets packed. LaFayette vs. Lanett rivalry, I’m going to miss all of that.”

A few moments later, Shealey took a look around the “Dog Pound,” and reflected one last time.

“I’ve been in LaFayette my whole life,” he said. “Walking in here just feels like home, so to leave the nest and spread your wings for a little while, it’s going to be tough, but as time passes, I’ll get used to it.”