An ink pen and a piece of paper are the simplest of items, but Wednesday they became tools to fulfill the dreams of seven high school seniors in Columbia County.
The Magnificent Seven sat down on National Signing Day and made official commitments to play college football this fall.
Before the ink was dry, and before the cheers of friends, family, teammates and coaches had subsided, the secret of success was revealed.
One four-letter word kept coming up in conversation, and the shared mantra had the ring of truth.
"Whenever you're playing football, you picture yourself playing in front of 80,000 people," Greenbrier coach Mickey Derrick said after seeing Wolfpack seniors Rashad Dunn and Brooks Robinson seal deals with high-profile college programs. "I'm sure they've had those same dreams, and now because of the hard work they've put forth, it's going to come true."
Robinson, who signed a letter-of-intent to attend Western Carolina on a football scholarship, missed most of his junior season with a shoulder injury, and that lost time made it that much harder for the quarterback to be noticed by college recruiters.
Still, when Robinson returned as a senior, he wasn't looking to pad his stats in hopes of securing a college offer.
"I just played every game like it was my last, hoping we would come out with a win," Robinson said. "You just work hard, and that's where I'm at today - signing a scholarship to play college football."
In other ceremonies across the county, Harlem's Tim Camp (U.S. Air Force Academy) and Foster Moore (Fort Valley State University) signed on the dotted line; Augusta Christian players Adam McKinney (Presbyterian College) and Sam Pitts (Furman University) finalized their football futures; and, Lakeside standout Alex Bragg (Charleston Southern) put injury problems behind him and is eager to excel at the next level.
Quite a crowd gathered Wednesday at the Brierpatch, but Greenbrier's Rashad Dunn knows he ain't seen nothin' yet.
By signing a scholarship with the University of Iowa, Dunn will compete in the Big 10. When asked what it will be like when the Hawkeyes travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to play Michigan in front of more than 100,000 fans, Dunn had only one thing to say.
Dunn starred at offensive guard for the Pack, and the all-region selection combined with Brooks Robinson to help lead Greenbrier to the state playoffs last season.
The longtime teammates at Greenbrier reunited for a double-signing ceremony, where Dunn became the first player from the school to earn a scholarship with a Division I program, and Robinson was the first Pack player to secure a football scholarship with a Division I-AA squad.
Their coach senses the best if yet to come.
"There's no doubt in my mind that they'll be starting at their respective schools before it's all said and done," Derrick said. "We'll be seeing both of these guys on TV one day, I'm sure."
Though Dunn settled on Iowa nearly two weeks ago, Robinson didn't make up his mind until Monday night. The 2003 Region 3-AAAA Offensive Player of the Year thought things over and decided to head for the hills in Cullowhee, N.C.
"I've thought about it the past few weeks, and it's a stressful process," Robinson said. "I just took the best offer. At Western Carolina I'll get to play football and baseball. That's a good deal to me."
Robinson didn't seem intimidated by tackling two sports in college, but Dunn was a bit in awe of what he saw during his recruiting visit to Iowa. He described the Hawkeye players as "very, very large men."
"There's excitement, fear and what not, but I'm ready to go," Dunn added. "To make an impact, I'll have to work hard. I'll have to show strength, speed and power - the things that distinguish you from other people."
Lakeside's Alex Bragg signed a letter of intent to play football for Charleston Southern.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Alex Bragg missed part of his junior and senior seasons at Lakeside after suffering knee injuries, but those travails had one benefit - Bragg had an easy time deciding to major in sports medicine at Charleston Southern.
Football, of course, also is on the agenda. Bragg is not sure whether he will play tight end or defensive end for the Buccaneers, but he is healthy enough now to have an impact with the Division I-AA program.
"It's going to be a great opportunity for Alex," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said. "Because of injuries, he had a hard time reaching his potential in high school, but he hung in there and kept working. Colleges like to see that."
At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Bragg has the size to play on either side of the ball. His position will be decided when he begins working out at Charleston Southern, but Bragg has already solidified his goals.
"I just want to get in there, try and make a name for myself as a freshman and go from there," Bragg said. "The only way I'm going to do that is by working hard."
Harlem's Tim Camp signs a football scholarship with the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
As sophomores, Tim Camp and Foster Moore were part of Harlem's state playoff team, but as seniors, their best efforts couldn't boost the Bulldogs back to the postseason.
That disappointment gave way to a happy ending Wednesday, as Moore committed to play football at Fort Valley State University, and Tim Camp signed a scholarship with the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"I'm real proud of both of them," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "These guys played as hard as they could possibly play, in every game and in every practice. If hard work will carry you through college, they should do well and contribute to their teams in the next year or two."
Camp established himself as one of the best defensive backs in the CRSA, and he also was one of Harlem's toughest offensive players. As a senior, he played quarterback and led the Dogs in rushing yards.
Coaches from Colorado Springs learned about Camp's abilities and jumped into the recruiting battle, and they had no trouble convincing him to join the Falcons.
"It's kind of been a dream of mine to go to a service academy," Camp said. "There was no real decision about it - it was Air Force, hands down."
Camp would prefer to play offense at Air Force, but he's keeping an open mind. "I told the coaches I'd play any position that works for them," he said. "I'm just going to work hard and try to get on the field as early as possible."
Harlem's Foster Moore committed to play for Fort Valley State University.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Unlike his highly-touted teammate, Moore had a harder time deciding on a college team, but in Fort Valley State, the defensive end thinks he has found the perfect fit.
"They have a good football tradition," Moore said. "When I went for my visit, they had some of their former players that went on to the NFL come and talk to us."
Among the players produced by the Division II Wildcats is New England Patriots cornerback Tyrone Poole, who claimed a Super Bowl title earlier this month.
For Moore, the Super Bowl will have to wait, but when he arrives in Fort Valley, Ga., this fall, he plans to make the most of it.
"It's really been like a dream to play college football," Moore said. "I'm going to work hard and try to get a starting spot, because nobody wants to sit the bench."
Talent was their ticket to the next level, but when Augusta Christian's Adam McKinney and Sam Pitts prepared to make the leap to a college gridiron, they relied on intellect instead of athleticism.
Pitts chose Furman University, where along with playing for the Paladins, he will benefit from an academic scholarship while majoring in pre-med.
Augusta Christian's Sam Pitts committed to play football at Furman University.
Photo by Mike Howell
McKinney considered Furman, but his head told him the best place to be was at PC - he is headed to Clinton, S.C., to suit up with Presbyterian College.
"It was a tough choice, but I felt like it was the right choice for me," McKinney said. "I don't think this was an accident. I think that's where God wants me to be."
McKinney was AC's starting quarterback the past three seasons, but his impact with the Division II team will be on defense and at punter, two positions he also manned in high school.
"I think they're getting an outstanding football player, and more importantly an outstanding young man," AC coach Bruce Lane said. "Adam has tremendous leadership skills. That has been an important part of the success we've enjoyed here the last two years."
At defensive end for the Lions, McKinney lowered the boom on opponents, and he also led the Georgia Independent Schools Association last season by averaging more than 42 yards per punt.
For McKinney, the transition from high school to college won't be like starting over.
"It's a continuation, in that you still have to train hard," McKinney said. "You have to be constantly practicing and preparing. I'm just looking to contribute my first year in any way I can."
Pitts was the final Columbia County player to sign Wednesday. His ceremony was at French Market Grille West, where his parents and AC's coaching staff convened for a celebratory supper.
Augusta Christian's Adam McKinney signed a scholarship to play football for Presbyterian.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The standout defensive lineman, though, was most interested in the winning recipe cooked up in Greenville, S.C. "I wanted to go somewhere that has a winning team," Pitts said.
Pitts expects to play either defensive end or linebacker in college, where his quickness and upper-body strength will be his primary weapons.
"He is capable of shutting down the run. Sam is a quiet individual, but he's a different person on the football field," Lane said. "He's a very intense player and he has the intelligence to figure out what the guy in front of him is going to do on any given play."
Like all of the Columbia County seniors committing to colleges last week, Pitts has a love for football, and that's enough to make all of the hard work along the way seem like child's play.
"I've been wanting to play college football ever since I started playing," Pitts said. "I'm just going to work hard and try to impress the coaches."
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