OAKWOOD -- A long night of hope broke into a morning of fulfillment for West Hall's Hunter Atkinson on Wednesday.
After weeks of hoping for a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia, the tight end discovered late Tuesday that one was indeed available on the eve of National Signing Day.
And he snatched it up without a second thought.
"I've been praying every night that that this would happen; it's a dream come true," Atkinson said on Wednesday morning after making the announcement that he would be the second Spartans tight end to make the trek to Athens, joining former West Hall star Martrez Milner as West Hall players to sign with Georgia on National Signing Day.
"It's where my heart has always been."
Atkinson was set to sign an offer with the University of Cincinnati, but West Hall coach Tony Lotti received a phone call from Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo on Tuesday afternoon that drastically altered Atkinson's travel plans.
"They had been wanting to offer him but just were waiting to see if the numbers would work out," Lotti said. "It's been a long night. We've been up all night talking and getting everything set, but this is so exciting for Hunter and for West Hall. It's a big day."
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Atkinson caught 51 passes for 704 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and hopes to make a quick impact at Georgia, which graduated senior standout Arthur Lynch, and returns just one experienced player at the position in Jay Rome. The Bulldogs also inked Charlotte, N.C., tight end Jeb Blazevich (6-5, 240 pounds) to its 2014 signing class.
"There's no guarantees, but I'm just going to go in there work hard and do my best," Atkinson said. "I hope I can do just like Martez did and play at Georgia and go on to the NFL -- and maybe help coach Lotti out by paying for a new field house some day."
Milner led all Georgia receivers as a senior in 2006 with 425 yards and three touchdowns before being selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL draft.
Those kinds of performances and honors are certainly goals for Atkinson -- but on Wednesday the West Hall senior was happy just to fulfill one dream after a long recruiting process that was worth it after landing the offer from the team he grew up supporting.
"I didn't want to get my hopes up too much in case it didn't happen," Atkinson said. "I was just praying every night, but it finally came in. ... When it did happen it was tough because I wanted to call everyone and tell them what was going on, but we waited until today to make the announcement, and everyone was happy for me."