COVINGTON, Ga. — On a day that many consider a national holiday for sports fans, hundreds of athletes signed their names to national letters of intent to play football on the collegiate level.
Typically, this encompasses players signing to schools all over the country, which means that many would be moving on from their high school teammates.
However, this wasn’t the case for three Eastside High school players: Hunter Williams, Tomarkus Woods and Antavious Cobb, all of whom decided to continue their football careers at the Georgia Knights Prep Academy.
“It feels good that I get to play with my brothers again,”Cobb said. Woods and Williams nodded their heads in agreement.
“It’s special to play with these boys again, side by side, more time,” Williams added.
The three only played one season together, as Cobb transferred from Newton his senior year, but they made the most of it, helping the Eagles to a 12-1 record that included an undefeated regular season, their first region title since 2009, and a trip to the Class AAAA quarterfinals where they ultimately lost to eventual AAAA state champion Blessed Trinity.
And although they are writing a new chapter in their lives, they are a rare case in that they are going to be teammates past their high school years.
“I feel like I’m at home again,” said Cobb, referring to extending his time with his fellow teammates.
“The bond can’t be broken between these three boys,” Williams said. “Me and Tomarkus on the defensive line and Smoke at defensive back. It’s different.”
For Woods and Williams, they shared many snaps together on a defensive line that was virtually disruptive in every way for almost every game of the season, but they are taking a humble approach to coming in together as they look to make a name for themselves.
“I would say the first thing is we’ve got to keep a strong mindset, because we can’t just sit there and be like, ‘oh we’re going to dominate,”’ Woods said. “We have to take it easy and think smart.”
“If coach tells us what to do, we’re going to get it done,” Williams added.
Another thing these three share a bond over is the trials they have faced in their lives leading up to this point. As the three that probably showed the most emotion signing their letters of intent, they all talked about how they have lost loved ones in their lives.
Williams, who lost his grandfather before his senior season, dedicated his season and his future to him. Cobb and Woods on the other hand both lost parents — Cobb lost his mother at the age of 16 and Woods mourned the loss of both his parents just as he entered his teen years. Both players took time Wednesday to thank the loved ones still surrounding them for their support and comfort.
Those challenges, however, helped mold all three into the people they are today, and will continue to help them as they transition to this new chapter of life.
“Those obstacles showed me how to be a better man on and off the field and show people how I can do it,” Williams said. “It will teach you to stay humble, do your job, stay on it and also try your best and don’t be cocky,” Woods added.
Working hard on and off the field, especially in the classroom and weight room, was a big factor in the team’s major success this past season according to Cobb.
“That’s where the bond came from,” he said. “We just carried those things onto the field and in practice. In practice, we competed with each other and on game day it shows.”
“Every week, the mindset was to be 1-0. It wasn’t about being 4-0 and 5-0, it was about 1-0 every week,” said Woods.
As they began to reflect on their time together at Eastside, they noted one important thing the program has prepared them for that they will carry over into this next stage.
“It taught us how to become a better man on and off the field,” said Cobb which generated a nod of agreement from Woods and Williams.
Another point of reflection came when reminiscing about their favorite moments of the season.
For all three, being able to make history by finishing 12-1 and having the first undefeated regular season in the county was the biggest moment of their high school career. Cobb also added with a laugh that beating his former team, the Newton Rams, felt pretty good too.
But as that magical season has now transitioned into a legacy, the three hope that what they did on and off the field will leave a lasting impression on the younger guys looking to cement their own legacies as well, and they had solid advice to do just that.
“Be humble, stay positive and always keep God first,” said Cobb. Woods added the importance of staying on top of things in the weight room and in the class room.
“Always stay positive on the field,” said Williams. “Do what the coaches ask of you.”