COVINGTON, Ga. — Chris Edgar spent his last act as Alcovy’s football coach making good on one of his first promises when he took the job over three years ago.
Edgar wanted to make national signing day become a big deal at Alcovy.
That wasn’t a small feat for a school that hadn’t had a ton of recent success before Edgar took over for the program’s first coach, Kirk Hoffman. Edgar inherited a region losing streak when he took the job, and saw it grow from five to 19 before he resigned in December of last year.
But when you look at the athletes who have signed football scholarships over the last three, with several such as Quindrelin Hammonds (Army) and now Jalen Banks (Presbyterian) and Bryson Wilcox (Stetson) who are, or will be, playing NCAA Division I ball, Edgar can say mission accomplished.
Banks and Wilcox both participated in a Tuesday signing ceremony in the Alcovy High School foyer, six days after quarterback Nick Simmons and receiver Eric Johnson Signed to Clarke University (Iowa) and Georgia Knights Prep Academy respectively. Those four were apart of a senior class that Edgar said had “north of 10” of its 22 seniors receive some sort of scholarship offer to play football collegiately.
Some chose not to continue their careers. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that those opportunities were there, and that Edgar and his staff did what they could to help orchestrate them, even despite lack of win column success on the football field.
“It’s extremely gratifying,” Edgar said. “Signing day is becoming relevant around here. Kids are buying into the grades. The classes that are coming up behind this one, hopefully they do the same thing and keep it up.”
Each year since Edgar’s first signing day class in 2017, the number has gone up. And Banks said he’s happy to be a part of helping the program reach Edgar’s first week of February goal.
“I’m really excited, because not only is it a testament of our hard work, but a testament of the culture change we’re going through at Alcovy,” Banks said. “Every year the number of signees has gone up, and I’m just trying to add to that and just keep it going and show that even though we’re out here in the middle of nowhere, we still have talent, and guys who can get after it.”
Banks kept his college choice under wraps until the Tuesday afternoon soiree. When it was time for him to choose, after thanking family, coaches and teammates, he slipped on a blue and white Presbyterian College hat, signifying he’d be attending the Football Championship Subdivision school in Clinton, South Carolina.
Banks chose Presbyterian over Shorter University and Berry College. He said academics played a part in it — he wants to major in computer science with a business minor with aspirations of getting into app development.
But Banks also said that the opportunity to get on the field immediately and show off his Alcovy-bred talent was also appealing.
“They’re graduating a lot of people at my position,” he said. “And even the players tell you that if you come in ready to compete and do your thing, they’ll play you no matter what grade you are. And I think Alcovy’s prepared me to do that.”
Wilcox, who’s headed to Stetson in DeLand, Florida, had similar sentiments as his teammate about the opportunity to show a portion of the college football world that good things do come from the school “in the middle of nowhere,” down Highway 36.
“It feels great to have this opportunity, and to share this with Jalen,” Wilcox said. “Coming from an 0-10 season as a freshman up to being able to play another four years of college ball from right here out of Alcovy makes you feel good. People always say that kids out of Alcovy don’t get the best chances in high school ball to get ready for college, but me and Jalen are going to be playing against each other one day for Division I schools, so folks can watch us on TV, and we get to prove everybody wrong.”
Both Wilcox and Banks said it’ll be different playing against each other for the first time. Both players have been teammates since their days at Veterans Memorial Middle School in Covington. And the playful banter and trash talk has already begun.
“I just hope Jalen brings it when we play against each other,” Wilcox said with a laugh. “Seriously, it’s gonna be some fun competition.”
Said Banks: “It’s gonna be a real nice experience. We’ve been at the same school and on the same team for the last six seasons, and now to be on different sides, it’s gonna be real fun. But I’m ready for it. I’m ready to see what it’s gonna be like to go against him.”
For Edgar, it wasn’t just the signing ceremony experience that made this such a special day. It was also the fact that Wilcox and Banks represent the things he hoped players who played in his program would embody most.
“It’s only appropriate that two of the guys that have been with me for four years are going out together,” Edgar said. “These two are outstanding students, outstanding football players and leaders on the team. Alcovy’s going to miss them. I’m going to miss them, but I’m excited about the future for these men.”
And it’s possible that several other seniors may be sitting at the table, inking their national letters of intent in the next few weeks.
Edgar mentioned James “BJ” Adams who posted an offer to Trinity International University on Twitter late Tuesday morning. That’s in addition to him having been accepted to Birmingham Southern. And defensive back Max St. Juste received an offer from Community Christian College Atlanta just last week.
The push to get kids playing at the next level isn’t a bragging point for Edgar. More like a signpost of his mission as a football coach.
“At the end of the day, everybody has a last football game, whether that’s winning a state championship or whether it’s not,” Edgar said. “But regardless of which it is, it’s all about the future. It’s all about these kids. And my goal forever is for kids to have free or reduced college education, and that’s the only thing that matters.”
And he points to guys like Banks and Wilcox, both as academically astute in the classroom as they are physically impressive on the gridiron, as examples of what happens when the recruiting process gets done right.
“Both of those guys are going to have amazing futures,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what kind of Fortune 500 company Jalen will work for. I might end up working for them some day.”