THOMSON – A statewide mandated tornado drill was followed by a flurry of in-state college football signings at Thomson High School on Wednesday.
Tight end Jordan Davis, with red shoes, red vest, red bowtie and red Bulldogs cap accenting his black outfit, signed a national letter of intent to play for Georgia. Running back Chris Jordan, safety William Bussey and linebacker Bernard Dawson all signed letters of intent to play at Georgia Southern.
“They’re in-state so we get to go see them and continue to follow their careers,” Thomson coach Milan Turner said. “I couldn’t be more happy for them and their families.”
Celebrating with families and sheet cakes already iced in their new school colors, all four Thomson players were excited for the long recruiting process to be over and their choices made.
“This day is just like a big relief,” Davis said of fulfilling his dream to play in the Southeastern Conference. “All the work that I put in came to a close now. I’m ready to finish school and graduate and get started in Athens.”
Georgia has long been Davis’ first choice, but he got a later offer from the Bulldogs who waited to determine which one tight end they would sign in its 30-man 2013 class. He also got offers from South Carolina, Florida, N.C. State and Louisville.
“That offer meant a lot to me and it’s where I wanted to be,” said the 6-foot-4 Davis, who had seven catches for 102 yards as a senior in Thomson’s rush-oriented offense. “I was close to going to those other schools, but Georgia just had that home feeling and a lot of advantages. I knew where I wanted to be.”
“After seeing more film of him I think they realized he was the total package,” Turner said of Davis. “If you’re going to take one guy, what better guy to take than a guy like this. I think the potential for him is unlimited.”
Georgia Southern netted another big haul from Thomson to go along with what is considered a highly touted recruiting class for the perennial Division I-AA powerhouse that narrowly lost in the NCAA semifinals in December.
“We're really excited about this group of kids," said Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken of the 23 players the Eagles signed on Wednesday.
Jordan, who became only the second running back in Thomson history to rush for more than 2,000 in a season, came to the signing ceremony on crutches after having ligaments repaired in his left ankle the week before. He’ll be back at 100 percent strength by May and ready to join Bussey and Dawson in Statesboro, Ga., in June.
“I’m going there with a couple of my friends and know I can count on them if I ever need anything,” Jordan said. “Hopefully we get down there and all play big roles on the team and help them win more championships.”
Jordan, 5-10, 205 pounds, signed as a B-back in the Eagles’ option offense, the featured offensive player. He rushed for 2,046 yards and 20 touchdowns in 244 rushes last season for Thomson despite being limited late in the season with ankle injuries. His 328-yard rushing performance against Lakeside on Sept. 7 was a school record for a single game.
"We think he's the perfect fit for our B-back position in our offense," said Monken of Jordan. "And we run more than any team in the country, so I'm sure he's excited to come here."
Bussey, who had 79 tackles and contributed critical interceptions for a Bulldogs team that was ranked No. 1 and 12-0 before losing in the Class AAA quarterfinals, is expected to play safety for the Eagles. He is the cousin of recently graduated starting safety Darius Eubanks, also from Thomson.
“I ain’t scared of hitting nobody,” said the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Bussey of his preferred position at safety. “I’ve been waiting for this ever since I’ve grown up looking at football. Being from Thomson ... we’re just born with talent and try to do what we do to our abilities.”
"Eubanks had a great career here and we're hoping (Bussey) can be like him," said Monken, who lost four safeties to graduation and was needing the reload.
Dawson, 6-1, 231 pounds, had 105 tackles for the Bulldogs at linebacker, but he is expected to compete as a defensive end or outside linebacker for Georgia Southern.
“I like the fact that I’ve been playing with these guys since we all were young, going all the way back to third grade,” Dawson said. “It feels good to be successful in high school with my friends and take it to the next level and get better. Georgia Southern is a great program with a tremendous amount of history and they’re always going to be winning. I feel like this signing class we have is tremendous. I feel like we can change this program and bring another national championship to Georgia Southern.”
Monken likes Dawson's potential to grow into a force on the edge.
"Of all the defensive ends we evaluated, Bernard was as athletic as any of those guys," Monken said. "He made a lot of plays for (Thomson). He's got a frame to carry more weight."
Thomson had several other potential signees waiting to get qualified scores. Turner was proud of the four seniors who had their day Wednesday.
“It’s bittersweet,” Turner said. “It’s great for them and a great opportunity to further their education and go play football but sad to have them leave us. They’re great kids.