National Signing Day, a phenomenon across the state of Georgia, made its way through Newton County with several local football stars committing to their athletic careers at the collegiate level Wednesday.
Alcovy, Eastside and Newton all had players put pen to paper, agreeing to go to institutions from all athletic levels, ranging from junior colleges to Division I universities.
At Eastside, Region 2-AAAAAAA’s Defensive Player of the Year, Antonius Sims agreed to go to Georgia Military College for the next two years while he works on qualifying for Division 1 schools.
Sims finished his senior season with 39 tackles, including 12 for loss with four sacks, two forced fumbles, one recovered and one defensive TD in limited action due to injury.
“He’ll go back in that recruiting pool in two more years,” Eastside coach Rick Hurst said. “I think he’ll play in Division 1 in 18 months. As long as he goes down there, does what he’s supposed to do in the classroom — and being at a military school is going to help him keep focused on what he needs to do in the classroom — I think he’s going to have a great career there and end up somewhere a lot bigger.”
While Sims heads off to junior college, Zach Kimmel signed with NAIA-level Faulkner in Montgomery, Ala.
Kimmell had 19 tackles with three sacks, but was more of an asset to the Eagles away from the stat sheet.
“I told their coach he does a good job on the defensive line; he eats up blocks and that’s what he did for us. He ate up blocks and allowed people like our linebackers to make tackles,” Eastside coach Rick Rasmussen said.
Across town at Newton High, the Rams had four players sign letters of intent with three coming on the defensive side of the ball and one on offense.
Offensively, James Hardeman, who played just one year with the Rams, being named starter in week two, agreed to go to the University of Pikeville in Pikeville, Ky., after talking with coach Cortez Allen.
Allen told him he had a cousin who, after starring as a track athlete, broke all of the rushing records for the Union College football team and now plays for the Carolina Panthers. Allen feels Hardeman can follow a similar path.
“He’s going to go to UPike and break all of their rushing records because he has that ability,” Allen said. “One day, we’re going to see him playing in the NFL.”
Hardeman finished with 1,035 yards and five touchdowns on 194 carries, drawing the focus of opposing teams’ defenses. Drawing the focus of opposing offenses was the offensive line, key among them defensive end Kingsley Ejike and Treyvon Richardson.
Ejike, who had 82 tackles, including 21 ½ for loss, 15 sacks, one fumble and two fumbles recovered, is headed to UAB of Conference USA.
Richardson is going to Football Championship Subdivision Jackson State after putting up 38 tackles with 5 ½ for loss and four sacks.
“I went there for a visit and I just really felt at home there more than the other visits I took,” Richardson said. “They have a really good facility, good education. They’re real rich in history and they’re an up-and-coming good football team.”
With education on the forefront of his mind, Durante Carter, decided to pursue his engineering degree at Mercer, while playing football for the Bears. Carter finished with 39 tackles and one interception for the Rams in his senior season.
“Duronte is an outstanding student who was on the preseason AAAAAA All-Academic team,” Allen said. “He has good grades and is a terrific young man. He ended up choosing Mercer because they have a good engineering program on its campus.”
While Newton and Eastside had multiple athletes sign on the first day of eligibility to pledge their talents to a college, Alcovy saw just one signature Wednesday with more to follow.
Joaquin Ross signed a letter of intent to go to Presbyterian after finishing with 60 tackles, including four for losses, along with five sacks and one forced fumble.