In a little more than a year, they’ll be playing those key roles on the same team.
Artis and Albright both made verbal commitments to play football at North Carolina beginning with the 2014 season. The commitments, which took place Saturday, ended a long process for the rising seniors who hope to help lead their teams back to the state playoffs this fall.
“It feels really good to have this taken care,” Artis said. “Now, I can focus on my team and help us get further in playoffs. I think we’ll do a lot better than we did last year. We were in a lot of games and lost a couple of them by a few points. We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities, but I think we have some good things to offer people this year.”
A 6-foot-1, 194-pound safety, Artis started on defense at Wheeler, which went 6-5 in 2012 and made the state playoffs for the first time since 2006. He totaled 140 tackles — 109 solo — ranking him among the county’s best defenders. He was slated to start at Wheeler as a sophomore, but a collarbone injury limited his time on the field.
Artis chose North Carolina because of several factors, including its proximity to family and its reputation as a solid academic institution. His father, Johnny Artis, lettered as a running back for one of the Tar Heels’ Atlantic Coast Conference rivals, Wake Forest, in 1985 and ’87.
“I have family who live in North Carolina, so I go there a lot,” said Artis, who chose North Carolina over Stanford, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt and Clemson. “I liked the staff, and the chance to play early there felt real good. It’s a good school, and it’s in the South, and it’s one I’m familiar with.”
Wheeler coach Mike Collins is excited for Artis, the second Wildcat to commit to a major-conference school in less than a week, with quarterback Elijah Staley bound for Mississippi State.
“Allen’s a self-made kid who’s come a long way through his own determination,” Collins said. “I’m glad he’ll be able to continue his education in this way. It’s a blessing for him and his family.
“UNC’s getting a well-rounded guy who, I think, will develop to become the face of the team. He’ll do well in the classroom and on the field, and he’s a leader who understands different types of people.”
Artis made his visit to North Carolina in March, while Albright took his first visit in April. Albright acknowledged that he had been favoring the Tar Heels since that initial visit, but he went back to Chapel Hill on Saturday “to get a better feel about things.”
“I wanted to get the vibe of the school again before I did anything,” he said. “That let me know (North Carolina) is the place where I wanted to be.”
A 6-1, 205-pound safety, Albright will be entering his third year as a varsity player for North Cobb this fall. He displayed his versatility last year during the Warriors’ run to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals and an 11-3 record, totaling 21 receptions for 295 yards and four touchdowns on offense, along with 43 tackles and four interceptions on defense. Albright also spent time as a returner on special teams.
“It’s a relief to be heading to a place where I feel I’ll be comfortable at,” said Albright, who chose North Carolina over North Carolina State, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. “It felt like family when I was there and it will be a good opportunity for me to further my education. It’s a good football school, and I’ll get a quality education.”
Artis and Albright happened to commit to the same school on the same day by coincidence. According to Albright, they got to know each other while participating in a junior all-star game at the end of last season, and the relationship grew when they both attended a spring practice at Georgia as part of their recruiting process.
“Me and Allen are friends,” Albright said. “We talked to each other during the recruiting process. We’ll play the same position in college, but it will be a friendly competition on the field.”
“I didn’t know (Albright) would commit on the same day I did,” Artis said. “That wasn’t planned at all, but we did talk during our recruiting process. It’s nice that we’ll be going to the same school.”