MONTICELLO, Ga. — If JT Webb finds his way onto a NCAA Division I college campus to play football, he’ll get there by taking the road less traveled.
Webb, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end has been turning heads at camps with his size, speed and athletic ability for a guy his size. He’s been raising eyebrows with both his catching and blocking ability, and he’s also been shocking people when they find out where he goes to high school.
This is the route Piedmont Academy’s best football player is taking en route to what he hopes will end at a scholarship to play college football. It’s unconventional because Piedmont plays in the Georgia Independent Schools Association — a league with filled with smaller private schools with rosters and players typically dwarfed by even the smallest Georgia High School Association squads.
Webb knows this, and has remained resolute that he can get done what’s necessary for his college football goals right where he is. But with just a little more than a month before the 2018 football season kicks off, Webb’s new coach — one with ample GHSA head coaching experience — has given him a pretty major challenge to take things to the next level.
“I’ve spent some time with JT and I’ve told him he can’t be an average player in this league,” said Piedmont head coach Mike Parris. “He can’t be average. I’ve told him, ‘You’re gonna have to be a dominant player in this league if you’re going to get where you want to go.’ And he definitely seems up to that challenge.”
Webb has tried to fit in as many camps as possible during the summer, including several trips to Tennessee-Chattanooga, the school Webb says he’s had the most communication with.
“I’ve also had a lot of contact with Kennesaw State, Ohio University, Navy and Air Force,” Webb said. “I attended the Mercer Elite Camp, the KSU Elite Camp and the Champions Elite Camp in LaGrange. Each of them had at least 25 or 30 colleges in attendance, and I’ll be going back to UTC on July 16.”
Between that and Webb’s parents sending “countless emails and film” to colleges and camp organizers, Webb says the grassroots recruiting process has given him a different perspective about the idea of having a dream scholarship offer.
“My dream school is whatever school has faith in me and offers me a chance to further my education and contribute to their football team,” Webb said.
In Webb’s new coach, the rising senior may have received a boon to his college football playing hopes, as Parris comes to Piedmont after head coaching stops at Forest Park, Jackson, Loganville and Heritage — all GHSA programs. All schools filled with players Parris has had to help navigate through the college football recruiting process.
“I’ve been around the recruiting thing a lot, and I’ve seen a ton of it,” Parris said. “What I know about JT is he is a special young man, and I think he’s going to be Bigger than most of the kids we play against. We’ll use that to our advantage. We’ll get him the football in the open field a lot, and that can only help him. And the thing with recruiting now, with hudl.com and everything that’s online, coaches have a chance to look at a ton more kids. And if you’re good enough, they’ll find you no matter where you are.”
That said, Parris has also done his part with making calls and trying to use his ample college coaching contacts to help Webb get his shot. And that is something Webb said he’s greatly appreciative of.
“Coach Parris has definitely been in contact with a couple of college for me this summer,” Webb said. “But more than that, he has really emphasized that we need to get stronger and work on our conditioning. Conditioning is key in our league since most of us play both sides of the ball. His strength program is definitely from the GHSA level, and I believe his experience will definitely benefit us when the season gets started.”
Beyond Webb’s success on the football field, his 3.5 grade point average is sure to make recruiters smile, as academic eligibility continues to get stressed more and more over athletic ability alone. In fact, his academic progress is one of the main reasons why he’s chosen to sidestep the temptation to transfer to bigger schools.
“I just fell in love with Piedmont since I enrolled in the seventh grade,” Webb said. “I like the smaller classes and atmosphere of the school. The smaller classes seem to help with the learning and instruction. Ninety-five percent of our graduates go to college, and then even with sports, we all play multiple sports, so it helps us with team bonding.”
After taking the Fourth of July Week off, Webb and his Piedmont teammates will get back into the summer heat starting Monday to continue prepping for the 2018 season. Webb, himself, will go to a couple more camps, including one at Reinhardt later in the month.
He believes that between the strength training with his new coach, reps against high school campers who will likely go on to be Division I players and the classroom rigor he regularly experiences, he can round himself into a solid, high-level college prospect, despite the humble confines of a school that may only field about 25 players on its 2018 roster.
“I’ve put in a lot of work this spring and summer to make my game more complete,” Webb said. “Last year I was double covered about every play on offense, and still produced. I hope that my improved route running will get me more wide open targets. Really, I’m just looking for a chance to play football and get my education, and I also want to build life time friendships and memories, and I’m working hard to get there.”