COVINGTON, Ga. — Throughout Tanner Feeney’s high school athletic career, it’s always been hard for the Eastside senior to choose between football and baseball — the two sports he loves.
Now he won’t have to choose.
Feeney signed with LaGrange College Friday, and he did it with both baseball and football on his mind. And the opportunity to play both in college, just as he has in high school, is a dream come true for him.
“It feels good to see this happen,” Feeney said. “I just think to be able to do both shows that the hard work has finally paid off for me, and I can’t wait to see how it’ll turn out at the next level.”
Feeney is a solid catcher for the Region 4-AAAA runner-up and Class AAAA state tournament qualifying Eastside baseball team. And that’s saying something, considering he had to fill the shoes of Austin Holloway, last year’s catcher considered one of the top players in the state at his position.
He’s done the job admirably, helping Eastside to a 23-4 mark ahead of its first round state tournament series with Thomson that begins Thursday at 4 p.m.
But the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder also did a job this past football season as a defensive lineman.
Feeney recorded 65 total tackles, including 44 solo stops to go along with nine tackles for losses, six quarterback sacks and 11 hurries. And Eastside football coach Troy Hoff has seen enough to know that the sky is the limit for his former player.
“Tanner’s a high-motor guy who plays with a lot of energy and a lot of effort,” Hoff said. “I think he’s got a high ceiling. He’s got area to grow and to continue to develop. And that’s going to be his trademark. He pursues the ball relentlessly, and when you’re a defensive player, that’s top priority. When coaches push play on the film, that stands out.”
And quite a few coaches, indeed, put their eyes on Feeney’s film and expressed interest. Feeney chose LaGrange over more than half a dozen schools, and kept his reasoning for why he did it fairly simple.
“The people,” Feeney said. “And just the college. I went to a couple of different colleges and just something about LaGrange felt really good. The football and the baseball connected to me. I liked it a lot.”
About those two sports, Feeney said he’s glad that he didn’t have to make a hard decision to choose one or the other.
“No, I couldn’t choose,” he said. “At first it was football, but then baseball backed it up. Football really helped me, but baseball was like one of my main things I like to do.”
It wasn’t just Feeney’s coaches who took notice of his prowess on the diamond. Several other coaches of opposing teams, such as Woodward Academy and Newton’s Andre Byrd, also stumped for Feeney as a baseball player — something Feeney is appreciative of, but not necessarily surprised about.
“I always go out and give 110 percent in what I do,” he said. “When you do that, other coaches out there see that and recognize that, so it helps me out a lot. I never give up.”
Feeney will join sophomore Shawn Bailey as Eastside alums playing at LaGrange. The pre-existing connection between Hoff and the NCAA Division III school certainly paved the way for Feeney to find a home there.
“We’ve got a good relationship with coach (Jarred) Rutherford, coach (Kendall) Todd and those guys,” Hoff said. “(Head coach) Steve Pardue does a great job, and of course Shawn is there. It’s really a great program.”
It’s not all about athletics for Feeney though. He’s already got his sights set on what he wants to do once college days are done, and has found people on the LaGrange staff who have been where he wants to go.
“Another reason why I liked LaGrange is because they have my major, exercise science,” Feeney said. “I wanted to be a physical therapist or something like that, but then when I went down there and talked to the guys, the team’s workout instructor for football came through exercise science, so I think that could be something I’d like to look into doing.”
Feeney said he’ll miss his friendships built at Eastside when it comes time for him to say goodbye. But he also credits the school for readying him for life’s next levels on and off the fields of play.
“Everything the coaches have taught me is definitely going to help me going to college,” he said. “Not just for sports but also to just grow and be a man.”