MAHONE: NSD is only the beginning for area athletes

Derrick Mahone

Derrick Mahone

The day started early and ended late.

Such is life for a sports writer on National Signing Day. Between Henry and Clayton counties, there were 60 senior football players that made their college choice official.

As with any signing day, there was some minor drama as several players changed commitments and a few announced for the first time on Wednesday where they will be playing for the next four years.

Signing day has become the biggest offseason college event. Players donned their best outfits and wore the caps of their future college team. They posed for pictures, signed autographs and made brief speeches.

There was some laughter and a few tears were shed.

Over the last 25 years, I’ve covered many signing day ceremonies. And this year’s in the Southern Crescent brought about two new experiences for me.

My second stop brought me to Eagle’s Landing Christian where they did their daily chapel service before allowing the seven football players to sign their offers. That was a first for me.

The day ended in Jonesboro as teammates Cameron Sutton and Taurean Ferguson celebrated their signings at Hooters with family and friends.

Ferguson arrived moments after getting off an airplane ride back from Austin, Texas, where he played in an all-star game the night before. Hurrying back from Texas, Ferguson did a wardrobe change in an airport restroom to don his Vanderbilt shirt and cap.

Sitting across the table from the speedy defensive back at the restaurant was Sutton, who earlier in the day signed with SEC rival Tennessee.

While Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd is proud that his two former players will play in college football’s best and most powerful conference, he was more proud of what they have done off the field.

“These two young men have over a 3.5 grade-point average,” said Floyd as the large crowd cheered.

A former longtime coaching friend use to tell his players on National Signing Day that it was his “state championship” when he saw his former players sign scholarships. That coach sent over 100 players to the next level with over 90 percent of them getting their degrees.

Wednesday was only the beginning for the former high school standouts.

Here’s hoping that these guys realize that long after the cheering stops on football Saturday’s that getting their education will be the key to a more successful life.

There is no question that a few in the Southern Crescent Class of 2013 will get to play on the professional level, but the majority will have to rely on their college degrees to be their meal ticket.

And ELCA’s Isaac Rochell gets it. The stalwart defensive end signed with Notre Dame, one of the top universities in the country.

He said whether the Fighting Irish had played for a national title or went winless, he was going to make South Bend his home.

“It is too good of an education to pass on,” Rochell said.

Hopefully no one of the Class of 2013 will pass on their educational opportunity.

Derrick Mahone is the sports editor for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald newspapers. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com. On Twitter? Follow him @derrickmahone_