Cleveland committed to Georgia Tech on Friday, while Engram chose Mississippi two weeks ago.
Cleveland and Engram are the first two Division I commitments in Hillgrove’s class of 2013, and they join a number of the school’s former players now competing on college football’s highest level.
Cleveland, in fact, will be joining two of those ex-Hawks at Georgia Tech — quarterback Synjyn Days and linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days. Linebacker Brandon Chubb is at Wake Forest, while running back Kenyan Drake is about to enter his freshman year at Alabama.
“We’re really excited for them,” Hillgrove coach Phil Ironside said. “It’s always good to see our kids make it to the next level.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Cleveland, who had four interceptions and around 80 tackles as a junior last year, is excited about his opportunity to play at Georgia Tech.
“It’s a blessing to do this, to go somewhere and get a great education and do something I love,” Cleveland said.
For the 6-3, 210-pound Engram, who caught 18 passes for around 300 yards and four touchdowns in his junior season in 2011, getting an opportunity to play in the Southeastern Conference is a dream come true.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play on the next level,” Engram said. “I just had to get out there and prove myself, and now I get to play on the D-I level, especially at an SEC school. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to play for a good D-I program.”
Cleveland is currently attending Georgia Tech’s football camp, and it was there that he received his offer from Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson.
Though Cleveland also received a scholarship offer from Mississippi State, and he was also considering East Carolina, the chance to stay near home and reunite with his former Hillgrove teammates was too good to pass up.
“I can get a good education there, and they have a good football program,” Cleveland said. “It’s close to home, and Jabari and Synjyn Days are there, and I know some of the other commitments, so I felt comfortable there.”
Ironside said Cleveland will bring a lot to Georgia Tech with his attitude, as well as his skills.
“Tolando is a very smart and conscientious, and he’s very low-maintenance, so he’s a good fit for that program.” Ironside said.
Engram was also being looked at by Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, but Ole Miss proved to be the better fit for him at the end.
“I just felt comfortable in that environment,” Engram said. “I felt comfortable around the coaches and I will have an opportunity to play as a freshman. I liked the family environment there and I felt comfortable with it.”
For Ironside, Engram’s combination of athleticism and physicality will be a winning combination with the Rebels.
“Evan is a very athletic tight end, and he’s also very physical,” Ironside said. “He’ll continue to grow and improve as a player.”
Engram and Cleveland will lead the way for a Hillgrove team that went 11-1 and advanced to the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs in 2011.