By Derrick Mahone
There was a time when Justin Akins' mother, Willie, couldn't get her youngest son in the swimming pool. The younger Akins would cry everyday during swim lesson as a youngster.
Finally, Willie Akins got tired of the tears and decided to just throw him in the pool as his instructor waited in the water.
"He wasn't quite three yet, and he didn't drown," the elder Akins joked. "From that point on, he has been swimming ever since."
And swimming quite well.
On Friday, the North Clayton senior's hard work finally paid off as he signed a scholarship with Darton College in Albany. He became the first North Clayton swimmer to receive a swim scholarship. Darton is a two-year college that is a member of the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association.
"It was the best fit for me at Darton," the younger Akins said. "I liked everything that I saw about the school and team. I'm looking forward to it."
An accomplished swimmer, Akins was the only county swimmer to qualify for the state meet. He had a time of 22.79 seconds to finish 25th overall in the Class AAAA-A meet at Westminster in February.
Akins called participating in the state meet "real special", but wished he had gone a little faster.
"It is good to go to state, especially in your senior year," Akins said. "I'm happy about the season."
Since Darton is a junior college, Akins will be looking at the recruiting process again in two years. He said he hasn't thought about where he would like to go after his eligibility is up at Darton.
"I'm not worried about that right now," Akins said. "I'm just looking forward to swimming at Darton. It is a great opportunity for me."
Swimming wasn't always Akins first love. He was a member of the school's basketball team until finally deciding his senior season to concentrate fully on swimming.
During his signing ceremony Friday at the school's media center, former basketball teammate Antwan Murphy praised Akins for his dedication to playing two sports during the same season. Last week, Murphy signed with Bluefield College in Virginia.
Despite his son giving up basketball this season, Jimmy Akins was a regular at North Clayton basketball games this winter. He said he will continue to support the program even though his son will graduate next month.
"Coach, when I'm not in Albany watching him swim, I'll be at your games," Jimmy Akins told North Clayton basketball coach and athletics director Martisse Troup.
A lefty, Troup said Akins was a good shooter who contributed to the team. This past season, North Clayton won the Region 4-AAAA regular season championship and advanced to the second round of the state tournament.
"Swimming was where his heart was at," Troup said. "It wasn't a problem for us when he split time between swimming and basketball. He would miss some practices, but whenever he had time, he would be in the gym shooting with Antwann. I always tell the kids don't put all their eggs in one basket. This is real special for the school. Hopefully it will inspire some more kids."