BY CORY WOODROOF
As pens hit paper all across the country Wednesday for the opening day of the NCAA’s National Signing Period, happy faces, new hats and sighs of relief got the spotlight out at Battle Ground Academy.
Six student-athletes signed letters of intent at the Jewell Athletic and Wellness Center on BGA’s campus mid-morning, signaling the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
Football players Chico Bennett, Jr., Tiy Reed, Jaylen Frierson and Kenny Rawls, softball standout Kyah Keller and volleyball standout Taylor Tigue all celebrated their new colleges.
“BGA has a great tradition of having its student-athletes continuing to play and excel at the next level,” BGA Director of Athletics Fred Eaves said of those signing.
“We are proud of these kids and what they’ve accomplished on the fields and courts and in the classroom. We know they will represent BGA well as they continue their athletic careers in college.”
Bennett will be attending Georgia Tech, the second local prospect to make it to the ACC to continue his football career along with CPA’s Kane Patterson, who’s off to Clemson.
The standout defensive end saw GT’s Paul Johnson, the coach who recruited him, retire before his signing day, which put his status with the Yellow Jackets in flux with a new coaching staff coming in.
“[There was] definitely some uncertainty at first,” Bennett said. “It was tough because you don’t know whether or not the offer still stands, or it may not be a good fit for me anymore.”
Though, things worked out, and Bennett’s Atlanta-bound.
“My new coach, Coach [Geoff] Collins came in, and he reassured me that everything was going to be just fine,” he said. “Just from our conversations and the conversations he had with my parents, it definitely put my mind to ease knowing that he would be there. He was there for me. He was there for the players.”
Keller is another ACC-bound athlete who will join the Clemson Lady Tigers softball team.
“It’s really exciting,” she said of the moment. “It’s awesome to have my friends and family here. I’m just really excited for this new journey in my life.”
She has been a perennial All-District and All-Region talent with the team, and will finish out her career with BGA softball in the spring.
An All-Region talent and team captain, Reed will be heading off to Georgetown in Washington D.C., a credit to his athletic and academic abilities.
“It’s literally just a dream come true,” he said to signing. “I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time. Just for it to happen now…surreal. It hasn’t really hit me yet.
“Since Georgetown’s academics are so rigorous, [I’ll] just take the skills that I learned,” he said of succeeding in the classroom. “Also, with the athletics department, I was instilled with a great work ethic and a great sense of accountability. So those are things I’ll be able to translate to the next level.”
Tigue, honored on the All-District First Team and All-District Tournament Team, spoke on the morning as well, as she’s off to Walters State in Morristown, Tenn., in the fall.
“It’s a really big moment to me,” Tigue said. “It’s a really big transition from school, club [volleyball] and then to college…I’m just very honored to be able to go to Walters State.”
For 2018 All-Region standout Rawls, the offer from North Alabama came through in just the nick of time.
“At first, I didn’t think I was going to be able to sign,” he said.
He recalls how they pulled him out of class to notify him of the offer.
“I committed on spot,” he remembers. “It’s a great experience [to be able to sign].”
A team captain for the Wildcats, Frierson, noted smile intact, talked about what it meant to him to be able to continue his career out in Johnson City, Tenn., with East Tennessee State University.
“It means the world to me and my family,” he said about signing. “This opportunity is insane. It’s a great opportunity, and I can’t be more thankful for ETSU.”