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National Signing Day: Local football standouts ready to take it to the next level
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From storied programs to upstarts to service academies, the college programs represented on National Signing Day ran the gamut.

From All-State and player of the year performers to local standouts, the football players that signed on to play for those programs did too.

All told, 23 local football players signed their Letters of Intent on Wednesday and seven of them were from Class AAA’s state runner-up Gainesville.

“We have a hard-working program,” said Red Elephants’ running back Teryan Rucker who signed to play for North Greenville next year.

“Our coaches put us in a position to not only make plays, but get our names noticed. I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Blake Sims was finally able to make his future plans official when he signed to play for Nick Saban and national champion Alabama.

“It feels good,” said Sims of signing. “Now I can focus on getting to school and helping our basketball team continue to get better.”

It was announced when Sims signed that he would play wide receiver for the Crimson Tide.

“God’s blessed me with the ability to do a lot of good things on the field,” Sims said. “I’ll still line up at quarterback in the Wildcat, but I’ll mainly be a receiver.”

Joining Rucker and Sims on signing day were Thomas Sprague (Youngstown State), David McConnell (Gardner Webb), Justin Owens (West Georgia) and Daunte Carr, who signed on to play at Arkansas.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Carr of signing. “I’m relieved and I’m happy (football) isn’t over and that I’ll have the opportunity to play at a higher level.

“It’s going to be exciting,” he said of playing in the Southeastern Conference. “In the SEC you have to work day in and day out because every game is a battle, every game is a war.”

Gainesville has one more on its list of signees in Alberto Sanabria, who will play at the Air Force Academy next year.

“The question for me was why not the Air Force Academy,” Sanabria said. “I had other choices, but the Academy is a Division-I football program where I’ll get a great education, it’s very prestigious, it’s in a beautiful town and it will provide me with the discipline I need to become a man.”

Sanabria won’t be alone in Colorado Springs, Colo., as Chestatee teammates Ben Souther and Brantley Beck signed Wednesday to play for the Falcons as well.

“I’m glad I’m going with guys from here because it’s a long way from home,” Sanabria said. “We’re going to show them how we play football down here in the South.”

For Souther, the challenge of the lifestyle that comes along with enrolling at the Air Force Academy, along with the academics, were the biggest draw.

“Chestatee taught me how to work hard day in and day out and how to build relationships and be a leader,” Souther said. “That will go a long way in helping me at the Academy.”

Other football signess Wednesday were White County’s Lafoga Tokio (Valdosta State) and Mark Bardenwerper (West Georgia),
North Hall’s Daniel Blitch (Wake Forest), Union County's Blake Gowder (Vanderbilt) and Johnson’s Anthony Prophet (Savannah State).

Along with Tokio, Flowery Branch’s Darius Kimbrough signed on to play at Valdosta State.

“I’m going to have to work harder than I ever have,” Kimbrough said. “I’m the little one again.”

Riverside Military Academy had two of its cadets sign on to play at the next level, as Brandon McKinney signed with Georgia
Military College and Aaron Gambrah signed with first-year program Georgia State.

“It feels great to be going to a school with a coach that has a lot of history,” said Gambrah of Georgia State coach Bill Curry.
Gambrah noted that the school being close to home and being one of the top schools for his major — business — played a big
role in his choosing Georgia State.

But there was one other deciding factor for the Eagles’ standout: Georgia State is a new program.

“It’s a better opportunity to start,” Gambrah said. “Everything’s brand new and I’ll be a part of making history.”

Buford had nine players sign on the dotten line Wednesday, they included Jessel Curry (Auburn), Kolton Houston (Georgia), Du'Von Millsap (South Carolina), Shaun Artz (South Alabama), Jerome Davis (Kent State), Mitchell DeWalt (North Greenville), Tyshawn Holley (Albany State), A.J. Cunningham (Albany State) and Andrew Swope (Hutchinson).

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