Originally created 02/03/05

Glenn Hills' signees have defining day



They had sat there long enough, surrounded by books and family and friends and coaches.

Behind them on the library wall were four football jerseys. In front of them on the table were four official documents with their names already dry at the bottom.

Travis Jefferson was ready to move on.

"Guys, guess what?" Jefferson said. "We're going to college."

This was a scene played out in high school libraries all over the country Wednesday. Few ceremonies, however, could surpass the satisfaction at Glenn Hills High School.

"This is the pinnacle right here," coach Felix Curry said after four Glenn Hills seniors committed the next four years of their lives to colleges. "Finishing 8-3 was great, but this is the pinnacle. This is better than a playoff."

It took nearly 20 years for the Spartans to produce a winning record on the football field. It took 11 years before the school produced an academically qualified Division I-A football player.

With a stroke of a pen that committed him to Central Michigan, defensive end Larry Knight became the first Glenn Hills player since Gary Ellison (Hawaii) in 1994 to sign a Division I-A letter of intent.

But it's not the level of the football program that mattered this day. Reggie Wesby signing to play linebacker for Division I-AA national champion James Madison, Jefferson vouching to play for

Division I-AA Charleston Southern and Xavia Anderson joining Division II Miles College as a cornerback set the same fine example for a Richmond County school system in need of fine examples.

"We need to go to college and do well to give Glenn Hills the reputation of a school that produces," Anderson said.

In an era when studying and getting good grades seems less cool, Curry has been able to put a little hip in the idea of higher education.

"The thing we've been selling is if you have the opportunity to go to high school for four years and somebody was going to give you two Cadillac Escalades, would you buy into it?" Curry said. "Because that's what a college scholarship is."

These players bought into it. They made the sacrifices necessary in the classroom as well as the weight room to fulfill a dream too few standout high schools athletes achieve. They represent nearly 40 percent of the Richmond County players who signed on with any level of college on Wednesday.

"This is big for the school, being we've been known for not having players qualify academically," said Wesby. "People think of Glenn Hills they think of the negative stuff. Maybe this can change that."

You have to hand it to Curry as well as these kids. In four years, he's been able to turn the Spartans into not only winners on the field but achievers in the classroom.

"It's the endurance mentality," Curry said. "Everybody can start something. It takes the strong to finish."

National Signing Day is one of my favorite events, but not for the same reasons as the recruitniks digesting each signee that trickle in at colleges. Those people are all about adding up commodities and boasting about worthless rankings and evaluations.

There is simply no way to tell whose haul was better or which prep stars will pan out. I guarantee you that nobody did any little touchdown dances when Georgia signed a modest tight end named David Pollack five years ago, but many of them have sported his jersey number on most Saturdays since.

Likewise, Bulldogs fans salivated like Pavlov's dogs when Screven County's Michael Cooper put his ink down on a letter of intent in 2002. How many of them even remember Cooper's number now?

Those vultures are missing the point.

Signing Day isn't about the class, it's about the individuals. These kids did more Wednesday than shape the futures of their respective programs. They shaped their own futures, which is far more important.

That's why parents and grandparents dress up like they were going to a wedding and celebrate one of the defining moments in any young person's life.

"I'm on cloud nine right now," said Delores Knight, Larry's mother. "I think what's important with this all is the academics. Without it, they wouldn't be where they are."

The scene seemed to have an impact on two Glenn Hills juniors who watched their teammates take the next step. Wide receiver Brandon Whitley and running back Ricky Young sport the pedigrees to be big-time college stars. They have their sights set on major Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference schools.

On Wednesday they watched the figurative keys to the Cadillac Escalades being handed out to their friends. It's up to them to build on this new Glenn Hills tradition.

"I feel that the four guys that signed this year was real big at our school," said Young. "It's a big opportunity for us to come after."

It's a big opportunity that everyone should buy into. There are few things in life more rewarding than standing up in front of the world as saying, "Guess what, I'm going to college."

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.