Monday October 23rd, 2017 5:46AM

National Signing Day: Education big part of Wolves' decisions

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
BUFORD -- National Signing Day isn't just about sports. Ask Buford's Mikey Bart.

The senior defensive end was looking for a solid educational experience to go along with his football exploits. He had committed early to South Florida but was willing to hold out a little longer for a school with a little more prestige and clout.

Then came the Wolves thrilling Class AAA state championship victory over St. Pius and with that came more exposure. Soon Georgia Tech and North Carolina dialed up the Buford offices and on Wednesday Bart inked a National Letter of Intent and will head to Chapel Hill on a full scholarship to one of the best schools in the country.

"I was okay with South Florida but education is what I'm really looking for and I was hoping for something better. I would have gone to South Florida but when Tech and UNC called I knew that's what I wanted," he said after signing his LOT at the Buford High football center. "They told me I could compete for a spot as a freshman but I would consider a redshirt to develop some more and learn the system. It just felt like a good fit for me. It's more than I could have expected."

Buford coach Jess Simpson said it was worth the wait.

"He held out maybe longer than I would have but I think it paid off for him," Simpson said. "We helped him, like we do all the athletes, try to realize his dreams and make the most of his potential. I couldn't be happier for him, and the others."

Bart was not the only Buford player to sign on Wednesday. Josh Cardiello has already signed and enrolled at the University of Georgia. Grant Hall signed with Duke; Dontravious Wilson signed with Central Florida; Shawn Reynolds is headed to Eastern Kentucky; Bryson Jordan signed with Western Carolina; and Jaylen Mize inked to play at Davidson.

Hall, who is in the running for Valedictorian at Buford, said he is excited and ready for the next journey. He picked the Blue Devils over Davidson, Harvard, and Yale.

"It's a great school and I will get to play in the ACC," he said. "The Ivy League schools don't give scholarships so this is a better financial situation. But it's like a dream come true."

Hall, who played safety and wide receiver for the Wolves, said he expects to redshirt his first year and would like to play defense for the Blue Devils.

Wilson is a projected running back for the Knights and chose them over Western Kentucky and South Florida.

"Coach (George) O'Leary said I would have a chance to play my freshman year and that's what I was looking for," Wilson said. "I was sold on the official visit. The facilities and the people were great. It was a stressful time but I'm glad it's over. It's like a dream come true."

Wilson missed a little less than half of the Wolves' games in 2012 but managed to go over 1,000 yards on the season and was on pace to break several rushing records held by the legendary Darius Walker before suffering two injuries during the season.

Shawn Reynolds, who is still sporting a boot on his left foot, picked Eastern Kentucky over Lafayette and Chattanooga but said he wasn't sure if this day would arrive for him. The defensive back was injured midway through the season and did not return to the field.

"I had a lot of interest before the injury and then teams kind of backed off," he said. "I doubted that it might happen for me. I was a little discouraged. But Eastern Kentucky recruited me from the start and stayed with me and finally offered so I decided to go there.

"It was stressful but I'm very excited to get a chance. I should be ready to get back on the field in June. I can't wait."

Mize, projected at either defensive back or safety, picked Davidson over Mercer, St. Francis out of Chicago, and Carnegie Melon. The Wildcats are considered one of the top 10 academic schools in the nation by several publications.

"Davidson recruited me from the start and when I found what a great school it is
I never visited anywhere else," he said."They said I would have a chance to compete for a spot as a freshman and I don't have a preference of where I play. I just want to be on the field."

Jordan, projected at outside linebacker, said the opportunity to play from day one was a big selling point in his signing with the Catamounts. He picked them over Maryland, Georgia State, and Eastern Carolina.

"The others were probably going to redshirt me but (Western) said I could compete for a spot as a freshman. It was hard to turn down Maryland but I want to play as soon as I can," he said.

Simpson said few classes have given him as much joy as the Class of 2013.

"These guys were part of a great senior class that showed a lot of character and leadership," he said. "One of the most enjoyable groups I've ever coached. What I hope is that as they get older and they look back on the choices they made today that they realize the importance of the great academic opportunities they have in front of them."
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