ALBANY -- The birth of successful college football careers begin today.
It's National Signing Day across the country, and Southwest Georgia once again has a bevy of stars ready to commit.
The biggest signing of the day is no secret. That belongs to 2009 John Reynolds Player of the Year, Deerfield's Tony Zenon, who was offered a scholarship Friday to Georgia Tech, then committed on Sunday as first reported by The Herald. Zenon will sign at 3:30 p.m. today at the school.
But Zenon isn't the only player headed to a major Division I university this afternoon.
In Sylvester, Worth County's Justin Tukes will ink his national-letter-of-intent with Central Florida at 9 a.m., followed by defensive tackle Sherrod Loud signing with Division I upstart Georgia State, which will begin playing football this year.
Worth County football coach Scotty Ward said he had hoped that Tukes and Loud would wind up going to school together, but it didn't work out that way.
"Well, UAB offered them both and they went up and took a visit, but I think ultimately Justin really liked UCF and Loud had a great visit with (Georgia State coach Bill) Curry and he wanted to go there. We're excited for both kids."
Back in Albany, Dougherty will have offensive lineman DeAndre Williams signing with Albany State at 9 a.m. at the school, while rounding out the other major signees of the day will be Americus-Sumter outside linebacker Keldrick Cochran -- who is also headed to Albany State -- and Panthers receiver Keon Wiggins, who will ink with national junior college powerhouse Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
"Keldrick had a great year and I really think his best football is ahead of him," said former Americus-Sumter football coach Mark Wilson, who resigned after this past season. "Same with Keon, he's a great player. They'll do just fine (at the next level)."
As for the rest of the area, there are several schools who have players on the verge of signing scholarships but won't be taking part in the National Signing Day festivities.
SOUTHWEST GEORGIA ACADEMY:
Coach David Bell said he could have several players sign in the coming weeks and months, most notably star running back Nile Knapp, who will likely sign with an NAIA or Division III program.
Knapp, according to his father and former Sherwood Christian coach, Ted "Rock" Knapp, was traveling Tuesday in Kansas, taking one of the many official visits he plans during the next few weeks.
"(Tuesday) he was at MidAmerica Nazarene and then he's going to visit Upper Iowa and then Sioux Falls," Rock said. "But the place he seems to be kind of high on right now -- and I am too -- is Lindenwood (in St. Charles, Mo.). We already visited and I tell you what: Their facilities are as nice -- if not nicer -- then any Division II program in the country. That school is really unbelievable and it's (supposedly) the fastest growing college in America."
Lindenwood lost in the NAIA National Championship last season -- to none other than Sioux Falls.
Rock added that Georgia Southern and Valdosta both contacted him about Nile, but that the Blazers have "nine scholarship running backs" and Georgia Southern "stopped calling when (coach Chris Hatcher) was fired."
"Right now, he's just looking around and he'll make a decision in a couple of weeks," Rock said.
Raiders star defensive lineman Bo Minor garnered interest from Carson-Newman and Lenoir-Rhyne, but decided he would rather stay close to home and try to walk on at Valdosta State.
"He talked to Carson-Newman, but they didn't offer, and Lenoir seemed to be to far away," Southland coach Tim Goodin said. "But I think Valdosta will be good. He can play down there (with those guys)."
The Pirates won't have any signees today, but look for three players to ink scholarships soon, according to coach Frank Killingsworth.
"Several small colleges," said Killingsworth, are looking at Cosby Salter, Shawndre Sheffield and Zenario Shuler.
"I don't want to say which ones right now, but these guys have gotten some good interest," Killingsworth said. "We're just waiting right now."
GISA Region 3-AA Coach of the Year Reggie Mitchell said Tuesday that he has three players on the verge of signing letters-of-intent: star running back Dontavious Brown, linebacker Derinique Daniel and kicker/running back Pete McSwain.
"Dontavious was being recruited by Clemson and Middle Tennessee, but those offers are off the table, and now he is getting looked at seriously by Arkansas State, Southern Miss and Duke," Mitchell said. "And I am pretty sure Daniel is going to sign with Tuskegee. Right now, we're just waiting on the offers (to be sent over)."
McSwain, meanwhile, is headed to LaGrange College.
Speaking of LaGrange College, Patriots coach Ottis Griggs has three players headed there in the fall: Loy DeVane (QB), Alex Weeks (K) and Michael Ledford (OL/DL).
Interestingly enough, Weeks may also try to play baseball -- something Griggs has no doubt he can do. Weeks was a member of last year's GISA Class A state title team that beat Terrell Academy in the finals.
"Alex is a great kicker and a great baseball player -- I think he'll be able to do them both. I really do," Griggs said.
Hornets coach Jim Morrell's phone isn't ringing off the hook right now, but he thinks that once Signing Day is over, it may be.
Michael Cochran (LB) and D.T. Almond (RB) both have strong chances to wind up with a college program in the fall, the coach said.
"We're waiting on their latest test scores and to see which schools have scholarships left," Morrell said. "We've got film out there, so we'll see what happens."
State championship star Cole Byrd, who helped lead the Eagles to their second consecutive Class A title this past season, likely is going to sign with a Division III school in the next few weeks, according to Terrell Academy coach Bill Murdock.
"Cole is also our star student academically, so he'll have a few good choices (when he goes to make his decision)," Murdock said.
CALHOUN COUNTY: The only player Cougars coach John Williams sees a chance of getting signed is quarterback/defensive back Freddie King, who Williams says likely will land with a top level junior college.
The Trojans had a turnaround season last year, but with many of its top players being underclassmen, the stage is set for a big signing class in 2011.
But this year? Not so much.
"Right now, any that we have sign will mostly be small college guys," Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said.
On another note, Lee County LB/OL Jarred Strength received a scholarship to the National Football Foundation late last week and is headed to the Air Force Academy, although likely not for football.
'Jarred was a real good player for us," Fabrizio said. "We're real proud of his appointment to the Air Force."
The Indians likely will only have one player sign in the next month, offensive lineman Patrick Johnson.
"He's had a couple of D-II looks but nothing concrete right now," Seminole County coach Alan Ingram said.
Westover and Monroe will both have signings this year, but don't plan to announce them until today. Both signings will take place at their respective schools Friday.