By Brian Paglia
With a summer of travel baseball complete, Jordan Akins returned to Union Grove's football team over the summer for a workout. He walked through the coaching staff's office, past the board listing each scholarship offer a player had received, and stopped.
Before he took a hiatus from the team to play baseball, Akins' space was empty. Now, finally, one school was listed under his name: Ole Miss.
"It kind of shocked me," Akins said. "I went to talk to coach to make sure it was true. And it was an offer."
Since then, Akins has made a rapid rise from relative obscurity. Union Grove has been Akins' platform to emerge from the anonymity of Strong Rock Christian Academy, where he played for a year-and-a-half, into a serious Division I prospect in both football and baseball.
And both parties have prospered from Akins' transfer. Akins has received seven scholarship offers and Union Grove (8-2) added a new dimension to its offense, one that certainly helped it reach tonight's first-round playoff game at Windsor Forest (6-4) at 7:30 p.m.
"I think it was the best decision I made" to transfer to Union Grove, Akins said.
Akins attended Union Grove as a freshman before his parents enrolled him at Strong Rock the next school year. He played in front of sparse crowds that usually left at halftime, he said. Only a handful of Division II colleges showed interest in the multitalented athlete.
More than that, life at Strong Rock was different.
"At Strong Rock, it was clean-cut, military. You've got too many rules," Akins said.
After leading Strong Rock into the Georgia Independent School Association playoffs as the Patriots' quarterback last fall, Akins transferred to Union Grove the next semester. He promptly made the baseball team, becoming the Wolverines starting rightfielder and leadoff hitter.
Then came the challenge for the football team's coaching staff. During spring practice, Akins exhibited good hands and explosive athleticism, unique abilities that seemed hard to leave on the sideline. But how would Akins fit into an offense with a cache of weapons?
"To be honest, it's hard," Union Grove offensive coordinator Russ Atkins said. "We already had a couple guys that we considered explosive guys that could score touchdowns on any play. You add the caliber of player like Jordan in there and now you've got another one.
"It tests your creativity in the different ways you can get them all the ball, as well as spreading it around to make sure they all get the amount of touches we want them to get. It can be challenging at times, but it's also fun."
"There's only one ball," Wolverines head coach Steven Collins said, "and we have four or five different kids we'd like to get the ball into the hands of. But you've got to spread the wealth. These kids know that. They support each other in that."
Collins and his staff have employed Akins in a variety of ways. They created a package of plays with Akins at quarterback, where his speed and instincts are utilized in the Wolverines option attack. At times he helps on defense at free safety. At times he returns kickoffs and punts.
But Division I colleges such as Georgia, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Central Florida and Connecticut envision Akins at wide receiver. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound target has given Union Grove a big, explosive threat it didn't have last season.
"Any time Jordan