FCS contingent making the most from their opportunities
by Michael Foster
MDJ Sports Correspondent
February 06, 2014 04:06 AM | 2964 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Not to be outdone by their counterparts headed to the FBS, Cobb County’s Football Championship Subdivision players will also be continuing their football careers on the next level.
<BR>Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
Not to be outdone by their counterparts headed to the FBS, Cobb County’s Football Championship Subdivision players will also be continuing their football careers on the next level.
Staff photo by Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — Television crews, stages and national attention can turn signing day into a circus for high school football recruits.

But for those who will take the route of the Football Championship Subdivision for their college football experience, the aura of signing day is more of a personal and humble experience.

Nearly 20 Cobb County seniors signed at the FCS level Wednesday, and many of them didn’t have the distraction of the lights and cameras.

“Some people like the flash and stuff,” Hillgrove’s Richardre Bagley said after signing with Chattanooga. “For me, I just like to play the game of football. Every college player’s dream is to get to the NFL, and no matter where I am, that is still my goal — to do what I can in school and get scouted and to that next level.”

Joining Bagley in the Southern Conference this fall will be Hillgrove teammates Lemarkus Bailey (Mercer) and Jaylen Reid (Furman), while Harrison’s Jalen Penn will also head to Macon to play for the Bears, Walton’s Ridge Gibson will head to Furman, McEachern cornerback Michael Williams signed with Virginia Military and Marietta’s Jordan Mathis signed with Western Carolina.

For Mathis, who will also be playing baseball for the Catamounts, the continuation of community was a blessing in disguise.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said about the opportunity to continue competing against old foes. “We grew up together and competed at McEachern, Kell, Hillgrove and so on, and I know, for a lot of people, to play at the next level is a dream come true. A family is a family no matter what, even if we are on different teams, and I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us.”

That sense of community is only more relevant for Kell defensive back Taylor Henkle and McEachern defensive end McKenzie Billingslea. The two local stars decided to not only stay close, but stay in their home county, when they were two of the first 29 to sign with Kennesaw State’s football program, which will kick off in the fall of 2015.

Henkle stayed in his own backyard when Brian Bohannon, who had recruited the Kell standout Henkle while at Georgia Tech, took the head coaching job with the Owls.

KSU’s incoming freshmen will redshirt and practice against one another this fall. Both Billingslea and Henkle see that waiting period as a positive.

“We have that extra time to get ready,” said Billingslea, who also had offers from Troy and Ball State.

Henkle echoed Billingslea’s message.

“We’re going to have a whole year to get faster, stronger, and have a whole year of school underneath us,” Henkle said. “Yeah, there’s going to be some days where we get down or anxious, or maybe bored, but with the big picture, we will have four years playing college football in a great community at a great school with great players.”

Campbell’s Marlon Horne might have had the best story to tell Wednesday. The 6-foot, 160-pound receiver had not committed to any school before Northwestern State offered him a full-ride Tuesday night.

Horne was caught off guard, but he said that, after a few minutes of research, the Demons’ offer was too good to pass up.

“They had the exact program I wanted, academically,” Horne said. “I had been getting offers from Division II schools, and (Northwestern State) finally called me (Tuesday) night and offered me a full ride. I knew it was a good fit.”

Williams also highlighted academics as a major factor in his commitment to VMI.

“It’s all about the opportunity you get after VMI,” Williams said. “Just the connections with academics, and they have a lot of people around who can help you out once you’re out of there.”
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