Tyquan Statham had already long since made up his mind, but he couldn’t resist pulling one last designed play as a West Hall Spartan.
The senior linebacker/safety placed a ballcap for Wake Forest on a table before quickly replacing that with a hat from the University of Cincinnati Wednesday morning at West Hall High, signaling his commitment to sign a letter of intent to play for the Bearcats this coming fall.
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Statham said there was no hesitation when he committed to Cincinnati a little over a week ago. He had been considering offers from Wake Forest and Vanderbilt.
“I just felt it,” Statham said of Cincinnati. “I felt that peace. It’s a relief to let people know. I’m still in that moment.”
The linebacker visited the campus on Jan. 22 and said he saw himself fitting in at the facilities. He said he’ll likely be playing a “rover” position, which straddles the line between safety and linebacker. He played both of those positions at West Hall.
Statham earned a spot on the 2015 All-State Class AAA football First Team and was named on The Times’ First-Team All-Area for the past two seasons. He completed his senior year with 70 tackles, including six for a loss, with a fumble recovery, a defensive touchdown and a blocked field goal to help West Hall reach the state playoffs.
Statham was also a key cog in the offense during the 2014 season when West Hall earned its first region title in school history.
As a Bearcat, Statham will be learning directly from linebackers coach Jeff Koonz. Cincinnati’s head coach is Tommy Tuberville, an 18-year coaching veteran. Last season, Cincinnati finished 7-6 overall (4-4 in the American Athletic Conference) and competed in the Hawai’I Bowl.
“Coach Koonz helped me through it all,” said Statham, who said the school stuck by him despite suffering an injury in his junior year. “He opened up my mind to see new things. The relationship we made, he knew I could come through it better than I was before.”
West Hall's Kwon Williams and Anthony Lotti also inked their letters of intent to play at Georgia State and Wisconsin, respectively.
Williams recently flipped his commitment from the University of Central Florida. He said the Panthers are offering him a "huge opportunity" to compete at the next level as a safety. He'll be joined in Atlanta by fellow West Hall alumnus Hunter Atkinson, who previously played at the University of Georgia.
"A lot of people told me to go where I'm wanted," said Williams. "I was wanted at UCF, but Georgia State was my first offer, probably the first college coach I've ever talked to in high school. My entire high school career, they've shown me love, so I knew I wanted to go there."
Lotti, a longtime verbal commit to the Badgers in the Big Ten, said he hasn't yet wrapped his head around the fact that he'll be competing against some of the country's best talent in Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. As a punter, he said he didn't think it would take too long to adjust to the college game. Lotti is the son of West Hall High football coach Tony Lotti.
"It's all the same mechanics, so I'm looking forward to getting up there and competing as soon as I get on campus," said Lotti. "I want to make sure I do everything I can to put them in a position to win ball games."
GAINESVILLE HIGH PLAYERS INK LETTERS OF INTENT: Two previously-uncommitted Red Elephants inked letters of intent Wednesday morning to play football.
Messiah Dorsey, who played quarterback for Gainesville in his senior year, signed to compete at Highlands Junior College in Highland, Kan. Dorsey said he was looking forward to studying more defensive coverages and learning more about zone reads. The quarterback was responsible for 23 touchdowns and helped to lead the Red Elephants to a second-round appearance in the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Tae Turner, a wide receiver/kick returner inked his letter of intent to play for Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn.
Turner said he was impressed by its Christian-based education, which often reminded him of his old school of Lakeview Academy.
"Once I got on campus, they showed me a lot of love," said Turner. "It gave me a lot of flashbacks to the good times."
Offensive linemen and Gainesville teammates Dylan Blanchard and Cole Handte both officially signed to play together at Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, N.C. Blanchard said the two got to know each other well after Handte moved to Gainesville High after spending time at North Hall.
"We would pitch knowledge to each other, try to get better," said Blanchard. "We thought it would be cool to be roommates, because it's easier to go to school with someone you already know."
The two are preparing to study for business degrees at the college.
FLOWERY BRANCH'S CORTEZ READY FOR UT-CHATTANOOGA: Wide receiver/defensive back Cortez Davis said signing to play for the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga was a "better fit," following his decommitment last month from Kennesaw State University.
Davis will take a redshirt year in his freshman year on campus while he gets stronger. The Flowery Branch senior said that the coaches are looking for him to become a "man-to-man" cornerback.
HURST SIGNS FOR GEORGETOWN: White County kicker Bradley Hurst signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play for Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.