Counting down Southwest Georgia's Top 10 sports stories of 2013 -- No. 5: Prep football stars sign with major colleges

Albany High's Juwon Young, left, is committed to the University of Miami, while Lee County's Stephen Collier will join the Ohio State football team next season.

Albany High's Juwon Young, left, is committed to the University of Miami, while Lee County's Stephen Collier will join the Ohio State football team next season.

ALBANY — College football recruiters don’t always make it through Albany. There is no interstate within 35 miles, and the two major road arteries are U. S. Highway 19 and 82.

Yet, two of the perennial top football programs in the nation took advantage of the area’s talent this past year. Ohio State landed Lee County quarterback Stephen Collier, while Miami (Fla.) signed Albany High’s Juwon Young.

Collier, who will enroll next month with the Buckeyes, was rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, known for his national recruiting, offered Collier after watching him throw at a football camp earlier this summer.

Collier committed to the Buckeyes on the spot.

The senior helped the Trojans to a 10-2 record and the Region 1-AAAAA title. Collier led the Trojans to a first-round playoff win with some of the best stats in the state (146-for-304 for 2,291 passing yards and 24 TDs and 163 carries for 1,021 yards and 20 TDs).

“They flipped every stone, looked at a bunch of quarterbacks, and told me ultimately that I was going to be their guy,” Collier told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this summer. “That’s when they gave me the offer and asked if I wanted to be a Buckeye. I said yes because I knew that’s where I wanted to be.”

The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder was a big reason for Lee County’s run to the region championship. Last season as a junior, he passed for 1,887 yards and 23 touchdowns, while rushing for 485 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Collier also had offers from Wake Forest, Cincinnati, Middle Tennessee State, Georgia State, Harvard and Western Kentucky. He maintained a 4.0 grade-point average.

Even though he didn’t receive many offers from FBS schools, his national profile grew after he was named one of the national finalists for the ESPN RISE Elite 11.

“It was a family decision,” Collier said this past summer on why he picked Ohio State. “And my family really loved Ohio State and how they were treated during our visit — and we felt this was a top-tier program and an offer we didn’t want to wait around to think about.”

Just a few weeks before Collier announced he was going to Ohio State, another local standout committed to Miami. Young had grown close to Miami and its coaches during the recruiting process. During the middle of June, Young made his decision, then didn’t waver from it.

“I had to make sure this was actually happening,” Young told The Herald this summer. “It felt like it was a dream. But it feels great to be a ‘Cane.”

The linebacker will enroll early, reporting to the school on Jan. 8 and beginning classes nearly a week later on Jan. 14.

“I really wanted to get ahead of the game academic-wise in college,” Young said. “I would rather leave (here) when I’m done, starting a new chapter. I want to start early so I can finish early.”

This past season, he was a key player on defense, registering 110 tackles, five sacks and three pass break-ups.

He also played running back, rushing for more than 600 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns.

Young had offers from several schools around the country — including North Carolina, Western Kentucky, South Alabama and Marshall — but the possibility of him playing immediately for the Hurricanes kept Miami at the top of the list.

Academics also played a big part in Young’s decision. He maintains a 3.2 grade-point average.

“I would not have wanted to go to a school that had a great football program with no academics,” he said. “I chose Miami because of the academics. Without that piece of paper (degree), you don’t have anything. I’d rather have that degree after football.”

While Young and Collier were two of the area’s best this season, major colleges will still be in the area to scout Westover defensive lineman Trenton Thompson, the nation’s top defensive lineman for the Class of 2015.

The Albany-area is always blessed with top-notch football talent. However, it isn’t often that two football standouts sign scholarships with national football powers like Ohio State and Miami (Fla.), which is what makes this The Herald’s No. 5 sports story of 2013.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Herald’s sports staff has chosen Southwest Georgia’s Top 10 sports stories from 2013. Today marks the sixth of the 10 we’ve picked as having a significant impact as we count down to No. 1, which will appear in the Jan. 1 edition. Look for No. 4 in Sunday’s Herald.