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NATIONAL SIGNING DAY: It's official

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- The cap was white. His shirt was blinding white, and he wore khaki pants. And the tie? It was just the right mix of stripes and colors with a Georgia Tech look and feel to it.

Perfect -- just like the way Tony Zenon fits at Georgia Tech.

"It didn't take me long to pick out the tie,'' Zenon said. "I just picked it right out.''

Just like Georgia Tech. Just like the way he picks a hole to run through, or a major in college, Zenon makes decisions on and off the field the way he played tailback at Deerfield-Windsor -- with dead-wrecking speed and confidence.

Zenon, who signed a national letter-of-intent with the Yellow Jackets on National Signing Day on Wednesday, knew in a heartbeat he wanted to be in Atlanta.

His mother, Tonia Osborne, and father, Felonius Osborne, who were on hand with more than 100 friends, coaches and family members, both felt Tech was the right choice for their son, who had been dreaming of a college career since he was a 7-year-old playing rec league football in New Orleans.

The open-field run toward Atlanta came last June after a one-day camp at Tech. Zenon went to a half dozen camps from Florida to Auburn to Clemson and back again, but by the time he left Atlanta that night, he had a feeling about Georgia Tech.

"On the ride home my head was spinning,'' Zenon said. "I was thinking about a lot of schools, but Tech was definitely on my mind. I thought it was the place for me.''

And they loved him at Tech.

Zenon had been invited to participate in a camp that lasted from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., but after the workout, the Tech coaches liked what they saw so much, they invited Zenon to stay over for the evening workout as well.

Now he'll be staying there for the next four years.

It's not only the triple-option attack offense Paul Johnson runs at Tech that appeals to the quick-footed Zenon, but he plans to major in architectural engineering. Just like the tie -- perfect.

He's the fourth DWS player to end up at Tech, joining Wayne Riles, a former Louisville tight end and 2003 DWS grad; kicker Kyle Belcher, an '04 DWS grad; and receiver Paul Reese, an '07 grad, who is now a junior at Tech.

Zenon is a legend at Deerfield-Windsor, but there's more to him than Xs and Os.

It's one thing to listen to a football coach praise his best player, but when a basketball coach weighs in, everyone should listen.

"He's a great kid. He's got the stuff inside to be successful, the stuff that counts,'' DWS boys basketball coach and A.D. Gordy Gruhl said. "There's a lot of people with athletic ability but it's just as important to have it inside. He's got both. At Deerfield, we've been blessed to have him. The kids look up to him. He's a role model.''

It's not easy to be a role model at 17, but Zenon wears it well.

"Everyone looks up to him,'' DWS fullback Quinton Adkins said. "He's Tony Zenon. He does what he does. He's the best high school football player I've ever seen. There's no doubt he will (succeed) at Georgia Tech. He'll go there and get better, and once he gets adjusted, he'll just take off running -- and he'll just keep running.''

Zenon was The Herald's 2009 John Reynolds Player of the Year, gaining 2,268 yards and rushing for 27 touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for another 216 yards and three more TDs.

"I'll never forget the first time I saw him play,'' Gruhl said. "He scored something like six touchdowns in a B game. They couldn't catch him. Did you ever see the Rocky movie where Rocky is training and he's trying to catch a chicken? That's what Tony was like that day, (the opponent) was running around all day and couldn't get a hand on him.''

Zenon always heard that he was too small, but "that just made me want to prove everyone wrong,'' he said. At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, he was big enough to make a name for himself -- on and off the field.

"If they put 10-to-15 pounds on him, I think he'll be successful at Tech,'' DWS football coach Allen Lowe said. "When he makes his cuts, he's got a gear I've never seen. He'll be somebody who can make something happen. When he gets in the open field, I just don't think they will be able to make a play on him. He's the kind of kid everybody feeds off, and when he gets to Tech, the same thing will happen there."

Lowe then added: "I've had great players, but I wouldn't want my kids to emulate all of them. But I would want them to emulate Tony. He just gives it everything he's got no matter what he does. And he does it with such an even-keel. He does what he's supposed to do, and when it comes to running a football, he does what he is supposed to do, too.''

Zenon landed in Albany and eventually at Deerfield-Windsor after his family evacuated their home in New Orleans the day before Katrina devastated the city. And on the day he signed, Zenon's foremost thoughts were of others.

"I just want to thank everybody at Deerfield,'' he said. "Coach Lowe has done everything. He has treated me like a son.''

And what lessons will he take with him?

"To just stay humble,'' Zenon said. "That's the thing that got me here.''