"She had a big impact on my life," Searcy said of his grandmother, who succumbed to natural causes at 82. "That was a tough pill to swallow. She was like my second mom. She always encouraged me to do stuff."
Now, more than three years later, Searcy has secured his educational future with a football scholarship from North Carolina, guided by the inspiration that his grandmother is still watching over him.
"She would be so proud, she would probably bake me a cake," Searcy said. "I knew she wouldn't want me to give up."
Searcy could have chosen just about any school he wanted. He's a good student and stays out of trouble. Still, he says he's had enough of inner-city Atlanta, and all the distractions present in metropolitan areas.
"I just need to keep a level head and work hard," Searcy said. "I'm doing real well in school."
When he met UNC assistant Tommy Thigpen, Carolina moved to the forefront of his options. Then after a camp visit in June, and close counseling from defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders, Searcy was sure he wanted to relocate to Chapel Hill.
"They got my attention," Searcy said. "I got a real good feeling the first time up there. When I came up the second time, I got the same feeling. I just fell in love with the whole environment."
Searcy has been around football all his life. His father was a high school All-America tailback at nearby Columbia (Ga.). He also has two cousins currently on NFL rosters.
"He's got good bloodlines," Towers coach Phil Noble said. "His daddy taught him well. He reminds me of Ray Lewis. He's rated a [Top 20] linebacker in the nation [by Scout.com], but I think he would have been ranked higher if they had put him at safety.
"He won't hurt you off the field, but he knows how to click it on and off."