BY CHIP CIRILLO
Nate Clifton didn’t look like a future SEC defensive linemen back in the fall of 2015.
“Freshman year, I was, like, 5-10, 200 pounds,” Clifton said. “Really pudgy guy.”
A lot has changed since then for Clifton, who was honored along with nine other college signees at Brentwood Academy on Wednesday morning.
“I hit a tremendous growth spurt all throughout high school, growing two or three inches every year,” Clifton said. “And muscle built.”
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound defensive tackle signed with Vanderbilt in December.
Football wasn’t even on Clifton’s radar during his freshman year.
“Yes, I did not want to play football at all,” Clifton said. “I came here for basketball. I quit (football), like, two or three years ago. My mom forced me to play and it paid off in the end, so I thank her for it. She’s such a blessing in my life. Love her.”
BA nose guard Thomas Gore signed a letter of intent with Georgia State, picking the Panthers over Wofford.
“That’s where my heart led me to,” Gore said of the Sun Belt Conference team in Atlanta. “I’ve got family down there.”
He was one of the cornerstones of the BA defense with 13 sacks. Gore helped lead the Eagles to their fourth consecutive state title.
“After winning one, you want another one,” Gore said. “After winning two, you want another one. And you just keep wanting more. You never want to stop. It becomes an obsession. It’s crazy.”
BA’s Tahir Annoor continued a family tradition when he signed with Wofford in December.
His older brother, Aaquil, played safety at Furman and Radir was a running back at Tennessee Tech.
“They want me to play safety, some nickel and a little bit of cornerback, so really everything in the secondary,” Tahir said.
BA linebacker Grant Stacy, an Ann Arbor, Mich., native, signed with Denison, a Division III program in Granville, Ohio.
Eagles assistant coach Jack Pittman kidded him about a Michigan man signing with a school in Ohio State country.
Stacy intercepted a pass in the state championship game, a 28-6 win for BA over Memphis University School.
BA pole vaulter Alex Swindle signed with Vanderbilt in track and field.
“I had a coach in eighth grade that kind of pushed me into it kind of against my will, but I ended up loving it,” Swindle said of pole vaulting. “I’m a clumsy person, so I was kind of like, ‘Why would you have me do that?’ But the second I started actually getting into it, I loved it.”
BA’s Matthew McMillan signed with Tennessee in track and field.
BA’s Will Taylor, who went 125-42 with 72 career pins, signed with Williams Baptist in Greco-Roman wrestling.
“Greco is what the World Championships and Olympics are,” Taylor said. “I’m going into training, so I’ll try to make it to the World Championships and the Olympics.”
He will also play saxophone in Williams Baptist’s jazz band.
BA’s Grace Klippenstein (Tennessee-Chattanooga) and Kat Shofner (University of the South) both signed in soccer.
BA’s Jackson Elzinga signed with Trevecca in golf.
Photo courtesy of Brentwood Academy.