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Alcovys Payne, Barnes make collegiate pledges
Alcovy senior Daja Barnes inked herNational Letter of Intent Thursday morning with Andrew College. - photo by Matt Smith

Alcovy High School football player Tristan Payne and basketball player Daja Barnes inked their National Letters of Intent Thursday morning in a ceremony held at Alcovy.

Payne, who quarterbacked the Tigers into the first round of the state playoffs this past season, made his pledge with Montgomery, Alabama’s Huntingdon College, while Barnes signed with Andrew College in Cuthbert, Georgia.

“It’s great to celebrate the signing of both of our athletes today,” Alcovy assistant athletic director Kirk Hoffman said. “Anytime you can help kids reach their athletic and academic goals, it’s a good thing.”

Payne signs with Hawks

After helping the Tigers to a 7-4 record and their third consecutive playoff appearance, Payne made his college choice, signing with the Huntingdon Hawks. Payne said he chose the Hawks over other schools including LaGrange, Reinhardt, Georgia Southern and Georgia State.

“Going through the process was difficult,” Payne said. “You have to look at so much for each individual college. It’s not just football. You have to pay attention to the academics, the city itself – all of those other things factor into it. I had to ask myself where I fit in best at and Huntingdon stood out. It has a good mix of all of those things – a great program, great support and great academics.”

Payne, who has been sidelined this off season due to a hip injury, said he’s eager to get back on the field.

“It’s a big relief and I’m excited this day is here,” he said. “With baseball season coming to an end, signing today kind of brings me back into football and I’m ready to be healthy and get back on the field and start practice. I’ve had some setbacks this spring, but I’m ready to sign today and start preparing for the future.”

Payne led the Tigers in rushing and passing from the quarterback position this year, throwing for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns while running for 1,105 yards and three scores.

As a two year player that also recorded 37 tackles from his defensive back position, Payne was named The News’ Athlete of the Year on its annual All-Area football team.

Hoffman said that Payne will do well no matter what he faces next season at Huntingdon and said that his process of going through and visiting each individual school he considered was a model for other athletes.

“He’s a leader,” Hoffman said. “Not just in football, but in our community. Good things happen to good kids and he’s a great kid. He’s the sparkplug of our program and made our engine run. I couldn’t be any more proud of him or happier for him.

“He picked the school that was the best fit for him and did a good job of going through the process,” he said. “He didn’t get hung up on signing on National Signing Day or anything like that. Tristan went through the process and took his time, visiting four or five schools. I think he made the best decision for him.”

Payne said he will always be grateful to the Tigers’ program for preparing him for the next level.

“Alcovy has instilled in me a great work ethic,” he said. “That’s going to be what I take away the most from my time here. The Alcovy program is an up and coming program and I think we’re going to have a lot of players over the next couple of years doing big things.”

Payne's parents, Sheri and Greg, said that they’re looking forward to seeing their son continue his career.

“We’re proud of Tristan and this is something he’s worked hard to achieve for a long time,” his father said. “Playing here has been a great experience for him and we’re looking forward to him playing next year. The coaches, players and staff here have always been behind Tristan and their support has helped us reach his signing today.”

Payne will play both football and baseball with the Hawks. The Huntingdon football team went 7-3 overall last season, while the baseball team is currently 21-17 and 16-9 in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Barnes inks with Andrew

Barnes, who helped the Alcovy Lady Tigers to a first-round playoff bid this season, chose the Andrew College Fighting Tigers Wednesday morning, pledging her next two years with the program.

Barnes and the Lady Tigers finished the 2013-2014 season with a 10-19 overall record, but defeated Lovejoy in the opening round of the Region 2-AAAAA tournament before defeating Rockdale County in the region consolation game.

The third place tournament finish gave the Lady Tigers’ their first playoff appearance under new head coach David Baker, with Barnes taking on the role of a 3-point specialist this season.

Barnes will bring her shooting to the Fighting Tigers program and said it she was excited to continue her basketball journey.

“It’s going to be a big change, but I’m looking forward to it,” Barnes said. “My time at Alcovy has prepared me to go onto the next level. I’ve gotten a chance to learn how to balance academics and improve my playing skills.”

Barnes plans to major in sports marketing and plans to blend her athletic and academic careers into her future position.

The daughter of Cheryl and Kirk Tenn, Barnes will join an Andrew program that competes in Region XVII of the National Junior College Athletic Association. The Fighting Tigers went 7-16 overall last season with a 6-14 mark in conference play.

“I’m just proud of her,” Kirk Tenn said. “She has worked hard and we’ve worked hard. I want to say a special thank you to her coaches and teachers that have helped get us here. They have always been there to make sure that she gets to this moment. We’ve just proud parents who are excited to see our child continue her career and have the opportunity to advance her education.”

Alcovy assistant coach Eartha Lewis said that the Lady Tigers’ program will miss one of their top players.

“(Coach Baker) and I really believe in them playing at another level,” Lewis said. “It’s all about getting them a free education. Obviously, we’re going to miss her, but it was great to at least have this year to work with her and develop some of the things she needs to take to Andrew.”

Barnes also considered attending Florida State University and Clarke University.