CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Albemarle football traditionally sends a few players to play at the Division II or Division III level, but this year's Early National Signing Day was special as Eb McCarthy Jr. signed with VMI.

McCarthy Jr. is the programs first Division I signee in the eight years since Brandon Isaiah took over as head coach. While more Patriots will make their college decisions down the line, this day was a unique honor for McCarthy Jr.

"It means a lot, it did not come easy at all," McCarthy Jr. said, "There was a lot of hard work over the quarantine summer, the year and a half that we were gone I spent a lot of time working out, putting on weight, staying with my brothers, my whole senior class, we stuck together for three or four years. It's a really big deal for sure."

In an abbreviated high school career between a shortened junior season due to COVID and missing two games with an injury this year, McCarthy ended his career rushing for more than 3,400 yards for the Patriots. As a senior, McCarthy helped lead Albemarle to a share of the Jefferson District title, while earning first team All-Jefferson District honors and racking up more than 1,230 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.

For an area lightly recruited, McCarthy felt the Keydets believed in his talent to make an even bigger impact at the next level for a program just a year removed from making their first ever FCS playoff appearance.

"They took a chance on me, that's the big thing, they took a chance on me, some schools passed up, but they definitely took a chance on me," McCarthy Jr. said, "They saw a lot of potential, they run the same type of offense that we do and I love the coaches at this school, I love the players, I love everything about it."