IRVINGTON, NJ — Another Irvington success story: 18-year-old Latrell Couchman, a 2021 graduate of Irvington High School, was honored by the IHS football team, friends and family during a July 7 college-signing ceremony, held in the weight room of the high school. The linebacker officially signed with the University of Maine, solidifying his collegiate football career with the school.
According to IHS head football coach Ashley Pierre, aka Coach Smoke, what sets Couchman apart from many other successful athletes before him are his stellar grades.
“Today we’re having a signing day ceremony celebration for Latrell Couchman, who just received and accepted a scholarship to the University of Maine about four days ago,” Pierre said on July 7. “We wanted to make sure to send him out the right way and do this the right way as family.
“I’ve been working for a long time. Since he’s been here, I’ve been telling people about him and I’ve been impressed with him academically, athletically and just as an overall person,” Pierre continued. “I’ve been telling collegiate coaches about who he is as a person. He’s been doing a great job.”
Pierre explained how it was a team effort from the coaches and Couchman to get the attention of the University of Maine and then secure Couchman a spot at the school, which is located in Orono, Maine.
“The whole staff is excited, and the head coach (at Maine) was on the phone with him earlier today. They’ve been talking to him for the past four days, and it’s excitement all around from family, from our program to the University of Maine program as well,” Pierre said. “This is amazing to be able to do this, it’s amazing for our kids to be able to trust the process and for inner-city kids to be able to reach the goals that they have set and not having to go elsewhere to do it. Latrell is our ninth signee of the 2021 class, and it feels really good to be able to close this class and have kids across the country going (to college) for zero dollars.”
During the ceremony, Couchman spoke to University of Maine defensive coordinator coach Mike Ryan and offensive coordinator coach Andrew Dresner via FaceTime; Dresner played a pivotal role in recruiting Couchman. At that moment, Couchman donned a hat with the university logo, officially becoming a Maine Black Bear.
Couchman’s mother, Trichia Ishmael, who couldn’t have been any prouder of her son, is now a believer of the process.
“My son got a full football scholarship to the University of Maine and we’re here celebrating,” Ishmael said July 7. “I’m very grateful, and I’m thankful to God because he worked hard — he deserves every bit of it. Irvington kept him grounded and they kept their promise to me, so it was fulfilled.
“When I found out, I went down on my knees and I cried, because we had basic offers and we didn’t have anything else, but he told me whatever I wanted and whatever I could afford, that’s what we’ll go with. I told him whatever school he wanted to go to, that’s what it’s going to be,” she continued. “But I would love Latrell to know that my love for him is unconditional, it’s pure and he’ll always be my baby. I’m grateful for the humbleness he has. We’re a team and he always knows to put God first in everything that he does.”
Detailing his journey from Mater Dei Prep in Middletown to IHS, Couchman spoke about his hardships.
“I transferred to Irvington before the pandemic. I was planning on going to six school visits, but, due to the pandemic, I couldn’t visit those schools, and that set me back,” Couchman said July 7. “I’ve been through a lot and lost my grandmother in June. This is all dedicated to her.… I believe in God, I trust the process and now here I am, blessed to be here today. Once you put your mind to something, you’ll get it done. You can do anything once you put your mind to it. It’s a true blessing to be in this position right now. It’s a big moment for me. My mom is happier than me right now, and that’s all that matters.”
Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman