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PREP FOOTBALL: Putting pen to paper
Newton County takes part in National Signing Day 2020
Dre Butler Signing
Former Newton High School football standout Dre Butler penned his National Letter of Intent to play at Auburn University on Wednesday afternoon. He was one of 16 current and former Newton County football players to take part in NSD 2020. - photo by Mason Wittner

COVINGTON, Ga. — Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

They’re yours, college coaches.

More than a dozen student-athletes from across Newton County took part in National Signing Day on Wednesday and penned their agreement to play football at the next level. A group of 16 current and former players from Eastside, Newton and Alcovy realized their dreams by signing National Letters of Intent throughout the day.

Here’s a look at how Wednesday’s events unfolded, as well as a breakdown of where the 16 signees from Newton County will be taking their talents this fall.

Eastside High School

Eastside FB NSD
Eastside High School seniors Jeffery Haynes and Noah Cook signed their National Letters of Intent to further their academic and athletic careers at the next level Wednesday morning. - photo by Mason Wittner
The Eagles kicked off the morning by hosting their NSD 2020 celebration inside their media center at 8:30 a.m.

Seniors Noah Cook and Jeffery Haynes participated in the event by signing NLIs with their respective programs. Cook, a three-year starter at quarterback, signed with Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kan. Haynes, who was a major contributor at wide receiver and defensive back, penned his commitment to play at West Virginia State University in Institute, W. Va.

“I’m really, really excited for both these guys,” Eastside head coach Troy Hoff said. “A pair of team captains that played a ton of football for us. Both of them do a great job off the field as well. It’s no secret why they’ve gotten the opportunities that they did — they’re tremendously talented, and they put in the work off the field. Their work on the field speaks for itself.”

Like the majority of student-athletes who play at the next level, both Cook and Haynes eventually selected the college programs that felt most like home to them. However, the routes they took to making their decisions were a bit complex.

Haynes flew under the radar for a while, but he never lost hope. Over time, he managed to capture the interest of the Yellow Jacket coaching staff in West Virginia.

“It was hectic at first waiting for offers, and then they showed a lot of interest,” Haynes said of WVSU. “I like the coaching there. They just showed me love, and I like what they’re doing out there. I’m happy to join the family.”

Meanwhile, Cook was balancing offers from Georgia Military College, Independence Community College, Dodge City Community College and Garden City Community College. It was a tight race, and he found himself weighing his options up until the final day. 

In fact, he didn’t finalize his selection until 1:45 a.m. on Wednesday — less than seven hours before signing his NLI.

“I really loved all of my options. That’s what made it so hard,” Cook said. “I want to thank all the coaches for the opportunity that they gave me. I just feel like Garden City was the best opportunity for me to get out of there to further my career. That’s what you go to JUCO for, to get a second chance at recruitment. I felt like that was my best option, and I went with my gut after a lot, a lot, a lot of prayer.”

Haynes and Cook helped lead the Eagles to a 7-4 record and a Class AAAA state playoff berth in 2019. They were members of the program’s smallest class since 2015, with Eastside bidding farewell to only 12 seniors at the end of the year.

Newton High School

Newton FB NSD
The Newton High School football team had 11 seniors sign National Letters of Intent to extend their academic and athletic careers to the next level on Wednesday morning. - photo by Mason Wittner
Next up were the Rams, who flooded into the school’s auditorium for their NSD 2020 festivities at 10:15 a.m.

Newton had 11 seniors sign NLIs to further their education while also continuing play on the gridiron. The list of Rams who signed to play college football on Wednesday is as follows: Micah Archibald (Gordon State College), Tyon Bigby (South Carolina State University), Diondre Glover (Albany State University), Ronald Graves (South Carolina State University), Keaton Hambright (Gordon State College), Josh Hardeman (Marshall University), Josh Hightower (Gordon State College) Neal Howard (Gordon State College), Greg Lewis (Clark Atlanta University), Robert Lewis (Georgia State University) and Javari Smith (Independence Community College).

“I’m very excited and relieved,” Newton head coach Camiel Grant Jr. said. “There’s always a lot of work that goes into getting to this point, so you’re excited for the guys and their families. It’s tiring, so you’re relieved to be able to get to the end of the process, and for them to be able to have things tightened away.

“But in terms of these guys and this class, it's a great group of guys. An extremely hard-working group, and a great leadership group. It’s going to be very, very difficult to replace them. You say that every year, but I think in my time as a coach, I don’t know that there have been very many classes that have had this much depth in terms of the leadership ability, the on-the-field talent, the work ethic, the commitment to the classroom. Just a great group of well-rounded guys.”

The 11 seniors that were honored Wednesday were members of a squad that went 7-4 last fall and qualified for the state playoffs for the eighth consecutive season.

Grant believes this class has instilled their strongest qualities in their teammates. Consequently, they’ve paved the way for the Rams to continue producing remarkable senior classes on an annual basis.

Newton dedicated the morning to celebrating the future, but later opened its doors for a former Ram who returned to his roots to take part in NSD 2020.

Former standout Dre Butler, who has since become the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the country while playing for Independence Community College in Kansas, held his ceremony in Newton’s media center at 3:30 p.m. Butler signed his NLI to play at Auburn University this fall after graduating from Independence in May.

“I’m excited, you know. This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Butler said. “Hard work pays off. I just prepared, lifted hard, everything. It took a lot of hard work.”

Alcovy High School

Alcovy FB NSD
Twin brothers Adrian and Andrae Robinson participated in National Signing Day on Wednesday. The two Alcovy Tigers will continue to be teammates this fall when they strap on their pads at Tusculum University. - photo by Mason Wittner
At a few ticks of the clock past 12:30 p.m., twin brothers Adrian and Andrae Robinson sat adjacent to one another in matching shirts and hats.

The Tiger tandem announced that they will continue their run as teammates at the next level, signing their NLIs to attend and play for Tusculum University in Greenville, Tenn.

“Their impact is going to be felt for years to come. They laid a great foundation for us,” Alcovy head coach Jason Dukes said. “They’re extremely athletic kids who have provided valuable leadership down the stretch for us in our program. We’re going to miss them, but we’re going to be happy to see them move on and do great things at Tusculum.”

The recruiting process is often grueling, and signing with a school can offer just as much relief as it does excitement for what’s to come in the future. That was the case for the Robinson brothers Wednesday afternoon.

“Being able to find a good school where it feels like I’m at home away from home feels good,” Andrae said. “My recruiting process was frustrating at times, not thinking people were looking, but eventually them offering me and me going up there to see how things looked made me feel good.”

Adrian offered similar sentiments.

“The recruiting process is stressful. Long nights, a lot of visits,” he said. “But, it’s cool at the end of the day. You need to take a chance and just enjoy the scenery, enjoy the places that you visit, find something good out of it. There’s something good in every school.”

The Robinson brothers also shared high praise for one another. They expressed their excitement for getting to spend their college careers at each other’s sides.

“Me and Andrae have a really good connection. We sync really well on the field. Just to be able to play beside him again for at least the next four years will be fun to watch,” Adrian said.

“[Playing together] was one of the main things we were looking forward to when looking at playing football after high school,” Andrae added. “That’s definitely one of the most important things for me.”