Originally created 01/29/97

Deon a Vol at heart

In the end, Deon Grant went with his heart.

The USA Today All-American, one of the most heralded high school athletes ever from the Augusta area, will announce his intentions to sign with Tennessee today, at a 9 a.m. press conference at Josey High School.

"I thought hard and prayed a lot about it, and this is what the Lord led me to decide," said the 6-foot-4 star defensive back/wide receiver.

"Tennessee was where I wanted to go in my heart from the get go, but they fell out interest for a while. I was a little confused for a while, but I prayed every night and I realized it was the right choice for me."

Tuesday night proved equally productive for Florida State, who landed the Augusta area's other nationally-renowned star - Parade All-American linebacker Jamal Reynolds from Aiken High.

For Grant, his official visit to Tennessee two weekends ago was one of the deciding factors, and he becomes the Volunteers' 16th

non-binding oral commitment this recruiting class. He also visited Georgia and Georgia Tech, and has canceled this weekend's visit to Virginia.

Josey coach John Starr, who speculated earlier that Grant was leaning toward Georgia, was surprised by Grant's decision.

"He seems happy and relieved and I'm happy for him if this is what he really wants," Starr said. "But I'm going to say this. I still think this thing is far from over."

Since oral commitments are not legally binding, Grant is free to change his mind. College football's National Signing Day is Feb. 5.

Tennessee head coach Philip Fulmer was in town Monday night for the Washington County football banquet, but did not meet with Grant in person.

Grant said he spoke with Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer on the phone Tuesday evening and told him of his intentions.

"I'm looking forward to the chance to play right away," Grant said. "They told me I'll have a chance to play both receiver and (defensive back) and also on special teams."

The landing of the nation's No. 1 prep defensive back as rated by SuperPrep magazine caps a huge night for the SEC in the Josey recruiting sweepstakes.

Tight end/defensive end Percy Bland, a 6-5, 210-pounder, has expressed his intent to sign with Georgia, while 6-6, 250-pound lineman Shaun Williams says he plans to sign with Alabama.

Bland had official visits set up with South Carolina, Alabama and South Carolina State, but each school has canceled those trips. A moot point, says the Eagles' leading receiver in 1996.

"I'm excited about playing for Georgia and being able to stay close to home," Bland said. "They told me they would like me to play tight end, and also said I might play some inside receiver. I think I've got a chance to play as a freshman."

Bland still has not yet met the NCAA's academic eligibility requirements, but fully expects to qualify.

He is taking an evening class to help bring up his core GPA, and took the Scholastic Aptitude Test last weekend.

Like teammate Armark Tolbert, who said earlier this month that he plans to sign with Georgia Tech, Bland gave up playing varsity basketball this season to concentrate on his grades.

"I feel confident about my SAT score and know I'm going to qualify," Bland said.

Williams, a two-way tackle and an A student, has canceled his upcoming visit to Penn State. Alabama recruited the strong, mobile Williams as a defensive lineman.

oth wanted to get the whole recruiting process behind them, and I think they're both happy with their decisions," Josey head coach John Starr said.

That leaves defensive back John Fielding as Josey's remaining recruiting holdout. The 6-3 Fielding met with new Alabama coach Mike Dubose two weeks ago, and is reportedly leaning toward the Crimson Tide. Earlier this month, all-state defensive back/wide receiver Armark Tolbert, The Augusta Chronicle's two-time Player of the Year, announced his plans to sign with Georgia Tech.


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