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Posted: Wednesday, February 5th 2014 at 6:32pm

NATIONAL SIGNING DAY 2014: Wood, Miller recall different era of signing day

By Jeff Hart Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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AREA FOOTBALL PLAYERS THAT ARE EXPECTED TO SIGN WITH COLLEGE FOOTBALL PROGRAMS ON NATIONAL SIGNING DAY

These players are from lists that coaches have sent us -- if you have knowledge of any other players signing, please send that info to us at: sports@jacobsmedia.net

BUFORD
Korie Rogers -- Clemson
Tre Neal -- Central Florida
Thomas Wilson -- Missouri
Taylor Mitchell -- Davidson
Deion King -- Princeton
Terrance Wilson -- Buffalo
Zavior Hoxie -- Boise State
Harrison Morgan -- West Georgia
Donte Gordon -- Gardner Webb
Cameron Poole -- Dartmouth

EAST HALL
Travis Foster -- LaGrange College
Milton Whelchel -- Lenoir Rhyne University

FANNIN COUNTY
Peyton Satterfield -- University of North Alabama

FLOWERY BRANCH
Andrew Miles -- Western Carolina
Jackson McDonald -- Western Carolina
A'lencio Graham -- Wofford College
Davante King -- Carson Newman University
Cody Santmyres -- Tusculum College
Jeremy James -- Mercer University
Rashaan Doleman
Thor Smith
Kellen Clark
Justin Thomson -- Lindsey-Wilson College
Cameron Davis

GAINESVILLE
Deshaun Watson -- Clemson
Gage Turner -- Charleston Southern
Brenton Merritt -- Lindsey-Wilson College
Brenquese Dukes -- Middle Georgia College
Brenquez Dukes -- Middle Georgia College
Colton Quinones -- Limestone College
Chastin Newman -- Point University

JACKSON COUNTY
Evan Breakspear -- Berry College
Xavier Harper -- Kennesaw State

JEFFERSON
Jordan Tyler
Tristen Jackson
Isaiah Blake

MILL CREEK
Darnell Augustin -- West Georgia Tech
Michael Leonard -- Jacksonville State University
Keanu James -- East Tennessee State University
DeVozea Felton -- Tuskegee University
Kyle Stepherson -- Point University
J.D. Al-Khatib -- West Georgia Tech
Andrew Sciara -- Campbell University

NORTH FORSYTH
Jerret Paige -- Berry College
Josh Petz -- Kennesaw State University
Harris Roberts -- Furman University
Clay Barton -- United States Military Academy (West Point)
Payton Holbrooks -- Tusculum College

NORTH HALL
Andrew Smith -- Air Force Academy
Will Cape -- Kennesaw State
Thomas Marchman -- Mercer University
Russell Gillespie -- Berry College

RIVERSIDE MILITARY
Colin Pettell

UNION COUNTY
Luther Jones Kenesaw State

WEST HALL
Hunter Atkinson -- University of Georgia
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Check back later tonight and tomorrow for reflections from the some of the area's college-bound stars on National Signing Day.)

Buford High Athletic Director Dexter Wood knows all too well how the recruiting process works.

Almost 45 years ago to the day in 1969, Wood, then a gangly teenager from Ozark, Ala., sat at a small table with his parents and a coach and signed a scholarship to play wide receiver for Bear Bryant and Alabama.

There were no hospitality tables over-flowing with food, no media table, no television cameras, no crowds of fellow students sandwiched like sardines into the lunchroom to witness the occasion. Just one photographer from the local newspaper.

“I think there was a mention of it the next day in the paper. That was it,” he said. “Most people didn’t even know about it until after they read it. Things were a lot different back then.

“I knew where I wanted to go and I don’t really recall going through a whole lot of recruiting. I had always wanted to play for (Alabama) and I had the chance and I signed.”

Wood even recalled when current Buford coach Jess Simpson, who played for him at Marietta High, signed to play at Auburn in 1989.

“Maybe just his parents and a couple of coaches,” he said. “That was one of the biggest signings we had had at Marietta in a while and I don’t think the newspaper even came. I could be wrong. But, that’s just how things were handled back then.”

National Signing Day, as it’s become known, is now a national obsession with fans. Gone are the small, backdoor signings that go unnoticed. Local kids from all over northeast Georgia, in a variety of sports, will put ink to paper Wednesday as they officially accept scholarship opportunities around the state and country.

Local print and television media routinely cover major signings and local radio stations, like WDUN AM-550, now provide live on-air feedback with signees to discuss how and why they choose their particular school. If that isn’t enough, there’s always ESPN.

“It’s kind of interesting to hear some of their decision-making,” Wood said. “Things might be a little overblown now but it is fun to see the kids get that one moment in the sun where everyone is focused on them. It’s become more of a day of celebration than anything else.”

Current Gainesville High coach Bruce Miller has a slightly different story. Just one year after Wood was signing up for his dream, Miller was begging for just a chance to play after high school after a an admittedly modest high school career as a receiver at South Stanley High School in Norwood, N.C. Anywhere was just fine with him.

“I wasn’t that great a player but I wanted a chance to prove myself and go to college,” Miller said. “Mars Hill College, now university, was willing to take a chance on me. It changed my life. Until then, no one in my family had ever gotten a college degree.

“But there wasn’t any ceremonies or things like we have today. That decision changed my life. I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for a football scholarship.”

Miller admits he has a soft spot for the modern-day pomp-and-circumstance of it all.

“I kind of like making a fuss for the kids,” he said. “We get a lot of enjoyment out of it. To see kids get a chance to change the direction of their life is worthwhile to me.”

But both Wood and Miller agree that Signing Day has begun to add pressure to all those involved with each passing year. More and more attention, with daily trackings of recruits on a plethora of websites, brings with it new challenges.

“It used to be real simple,” Wood said. “A couple of coaches came to see you, they asked you and coaches questions, and maybe there was one tape of you playing. That was it.

“Now, fans know everything about every recruit out there, and every time someone quotes something or puts something on Youtube it brings controversy or unwanted negative attention. I don’t know if I could have handled that back when I was being recruited. There’s a lot of pressure out there and the magnitude of it all has grown every year.”

And the pressure isn’t just on the kids.

“I talk to a lot of college coaches and they all tell me the pressure is unreal,” Miller said. “They sometimes have recruits change their minds on a daily or weekly basis. Every year a dozen or so players will change their commitment the day of signing. That’s a tough job to have.”

While both are still old-school, Wood and Miller understand that it is a new era and that change is, and was, inevitable.

“Honestly, we have gotten where we are because the public wants to know how their favorite teams are doing and where their local kids are going,” Wood said. “The media is just giving the public what it wants. What we try to do is help the kids stay informed about their choices and try to make the best one for them possible.”

“What I do is I’ll stand up in front of the kids and parents and tell them that (signing) is just the first step in the journey,” Miller said. “I try to explain that hard work is ahead and that the real goal at the end should be getting an education and a degree because there is always life after sports.

“It's hard to explain to kids today that very few actually make the NFL or the NBA or the Major Leagues. It’s hard. I try to tell them to prepare for life outside of sports. Get an education and get a degree. They’re being given an opportunity to do that with help of a scholarship. Don’t waste it.”

Miller, however, also looks forward to when the last ‘T’ has been crossed and the last ‘i’ has been dotted on the final paper of the day.

“Once the excitement dies down I’m always a little glad it’s over because there is a lot of hard work that goes into it, for every coach,” he said. “It’s tiring. The hard part is trying to find the right fit for every player who has an opportunity.

“But, that being said, we’ll get ready to do it again next year and help everyone who has a desire to make their dreams come true.”
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