Columbia County was well represented on National Signing Day as five county athletes signed letters of intent to take their games to the collegiate level.
Lakeside High School's Chris Drayton and Paul Miller secured a spot on NCAA Division 1 football teams, while Lady Panther Amanda Wade will take her soccer skills to Milledgeville. Evans High School's Chad Strader and Greenbrier High School's Stephanie Fransoso also committed to NCAA Division 1 colleges.
Chris Drayton, Kentucky
Lakeside senior football star Chris Drayton has been highly recruited since spring of 2005. With interest coming from both Kentucky and Louisville, Drayton said he made up his mind after taking an official visit to the University of Kentucky in November.
"The facilities and the atmosphere was great," Drayton said. "I wanted to have the opportunity at the starting job."
The pride of Lakeside toured the football facilities and much of the campus but, Drayton said, the most impressive sight had nothing to do with athletics. "Their library is huge," he said.
Drayton led the Panthers with seven rushing touchdowns and two passing scores this past fall. The senior safety/quarterback for Lakeside was named to the All-Region 2-AAAA Team.
Paul Miller, Wofford College
All-Region football standout Paul Miller, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker, showed the least emotion Wednesday afternoon. The senior approached the signing ceremony as business as usual when he committed to Wofford College.
"Most players get all fired up, but I'm pretty mellow," he said. "It's not a bad thing. I'm just a cool-headed guy."
Drayton, who backed up Miller in the Lakeside secondary all season long, said his teammate doesn't always hide his emotion.
"He's not always like that. He's a madman on the field," Drayton said.
Until recently, Miller said, college football wasn't even in his sights. After recording 33 solo tackles and seven sacks this year, Miller couldn't avoid the attention he was getting from college coaches.
With both Georgia Southern and Wofford showing interest, Miller said he chose the team that needed him the most.
"I have the speed they're looking for," Miller said.
Amanda Wade, Georgia College & State University
Wade, a starting striker for the Lady Panthers, took an official visit to Georgia College & State University in October. The senior said she fell in love with the campus and decided her future was with the Bobcats.
"I always knew I could play somewhere," Wade said. "I made my decision in December. It's nice that I don't have to worry about it."
Wade, who also plays basketball for the Lady Panthers, still has a full senior year of soccer to play at Lakeside.
With 10 of 11 starters returning, Wade will spark a promising Lady Panther squad this year.
"Amanda's my playmaker in the middle," Lakeside girls soccer coach Chris Newman said. "She's the distribution point on the offense."
Stephanie Fransoso, Auburn
When Fransoso takes her soccer skills to the SEC in the fall, she'll also take most of the Greenbrier girls soccer record book with her.
The senior holds the record for goals in a season (34) and goals in a career (85) and needs only two assists to break that career mark.
Even with all the big numbers, her teammates said, Fransoso is one of their most team-oriented players.
"You couldn't find a better person," senior Sarah Daniel said. "She's so unselfish."
Daniel knows her teammate better than anyone when it comes to friendship. After Daniel broke her leg in a game in April of last year, Fransoso offered to wear Daniel's jersey for the rest of the season.
This spring, Fransoso will lead a Greenbrier girls team ranked No. 7 in the state preseason poll.
Chad Strader, Georgia Southern
As the only male soccer player in Columbia County to officially commit on National Signing Day, Evans' Chad Strader was glad that part of his senior year was over.
"I didn't find out until Jan. 13, and up until then I was nervous," he said. "This relieves a lot."
Although he said soccer is his life, he also said he recognizes what playing for a D-1 soccer program means.
"It's a job. They're paying me to play," he said.
Evans boys soccer coach Brian Killips said Strader's attitude toward a college scholarship and soccer in general is exactly where it needs to be.
"That's the reason he's there," Killips said. "Just watch him for two minutes and you can tell he's got a great work ethic."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.