GAINESVILLE — All over the nation, high school athletes are waking up to the reality of a dream realized.
National Signing Day is one of several big dates on the calendar for high school seniors, and while the landscape changed in 2017-18 with the addition of the early signing period for college football, the majority still waited for the first Wednesday in February to ink National Letters of Intent.
That includes plenty of standouts here in northeast Georgia. (NOTE: For a list of signees on Wednesday, simply scroll down.)
Each will celebrate in his own way -- galas, signing day events, photo oppprtunities, crowds of friends and well-wishers. For Chestatee's Nick Lyles, the enjoyment will come from the simple whir of a fax machine and maybe a hug or two from family and coaches.
"I get too nervous to be up in front of a bunch of people," Lyles chuckled. "I just want to keep it simple."
The War Eagles standout certainly brought plenty of joy to Chestatee crowds the last few seasons, rushing for almost 2,500 yards the last two campiagns. And on Wednesday Lyles will sign with Georgia Military College, clinching a future that he -- like so many others -- have dreamed about since strapping on a pee-wee football helmet a decade ago.
"It means a lot, to be able to play again. (Chestatee) coach (Shaun Conley) always says to play every play like it's your last. I always tried to do that, but to know I have a chance to keep doing that is big," said Lyles, who will join fellow northeast Georgia standouts (quarterback) Austin Parker and (receiver) Sedrion Morse -- record-setting stars for East Hall at the Milledgeville school.
It's also a big moment for the Chestate program and head coach Shaun Conley, who will see his first War Eagle sign on Signing Day (Chestatee has inked players post Signing Day and had players walk on to programs).
"That's why you coach is to see kids succeed and to have the possibility to change their lives," said Conley, who took over Chestatee prior to the 2016 campaign. "And the exposure something like this -- any kid signing -- brings to a program is big. It links that program to a college and adds exposure. It also shows kids in the program that Nick worked hard and is being rewarded; you can do that too.
"I don't know that words can say what Nick has meant to us. He's done an incredible job on the field and is such a good kid. He's had a big impact on Chestatee, not just football."
Lyles hopes Georgia Military is just the start of his collegiate career.
"I want to go to a smaller school, focus on my grades and keep getting better and see where that takes me, hopefully catch an offer from a bigger school when I'm done at Georgia Military," Lyles said. "I spent a whole lot of time thinking about this, and it just makes the most sense for me and my family."
It is an agonizing process that only a select few players endure, and one that is both eased and complicated by social media, the ready availability of online highlight films and various recruiting services and all-star camps and games.
"It's been an adjusment for coaches everywhere," Conley said. "It helps sometimes because college coaches walk in already knowing a lot about your players. But you still have to work to get the information out there and get kids seen. My son was at Georgia Southern and spent a lot of time watching highlight videos, and so he knows what coaches are looking for and helps our kids build their videos."
"It's been tough; we spent a lot of time on it," Lyles said. "I'm just excited to know what I'm going to be doing. I can't wait."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Below is a list of area football standouts expected to sign on Wednesday. Please let us know if you sign and are not on this list. Be sure to include your high school and college choice. There will be plenty more area standouts who sign Letters of Intent after Wednesday as smaller colleges and programs determine their scholarship availabilities. If you sign a Letter of Intent any time this spring, please let us know by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a picture.
AREA PLAYERS EXPECTED TO SIGN ON OR AFTER 2018 NATIONAL SIGNING DAY
Players listed by high school
Signees for football unless noted
Christian Turner - Michigan
Isaiah Isaac - Wake Forest
Brock Mattison - Appalachian State
Austin Blake - Campbell
Bryson Richardson - North Carolina
Anthony Grant - Florida State
Mick Reese - Dartmouth
Logan Kesler - Savannah State
Mikey McMorris - Naval Academy (Annapolis)
Demontre Bennett - West Georgia
Matt Walton - LaGrange
Kellen Neal - Reinhardt
Nick Lyles - Georgia Military College
Reggie James - TBD
Coey Watson - Shorter College
Austin Parker - Georgia Military College
Sedrion Morse - Georgia Military College
Austin Brock - Shorter University
Tripp Rider - LaGrange University
Dakota Little - Eastern Kentucky
Bailey Ottaway - Charleston Southern
Canon Underwood - Kentucky Christian
AJ Curry - Western Carolina
Schaefer Almoyan -Tennessee Tech
Garrett Kinsey - Berry College
Jim Barnett - New Mexico Military Institute
Carson Moore - Carson Newman
Noah Breakspear - Webber International
Noah Venable - Huntingdon
Noah Mulvey - Dordt College
Hunter Griffith - Reinhardt
Logan Garner - Reinhardt
Bryce Moore - Tusculum
Colby Wood - Wofford (early signee)
Alec Bornhorst - Miami of Ohio
Collin Foster - Mercer
Malik Johnson - Wagner
Erick Turner - Georgia Tech (Walk On)
Josh Chastain - Reinhardt
Wesley Wells - Georgia Tech
John Harris - Virginia Tech
Jonathon Gipson - South Carolina
Shaka Heyward - Duke University
Matt Campbell - The Citadel
Alan Andrzejewski - Tusculum College
Brenden Montgomery - Kennesaw State
Adrian Jackson - Kennesaw State
RJ Brown - Mercer
Jontavious Shotwell - Western Carolina
Cameron Johnson - Franklin Pierce University
Chidi Duruebube - TBD
Zion Barjolo - TBD
Trey Turner - TBD
Uriah Leverette - TBD
Clayton Bardall - Western Carolina
Will Chavarria - Malone University
Cade Jensen - Lindsey Wilson College
Warren Ericson - Georgia (signed in December)
Cade Fortin - North Carolina
Jayden McDonald - Iowa
Jake Stewart - Mars Hill
Jimmy Urzua - Mars Hill
Payne Walker - Georgia (prefered walk-on)
D'armani Ridley - Savannah State
Bailey Fisher - Tennessee Tech (signed in December)
Charles Dimnawobi - Air Force
Ebubechukwudimma Igbokwe - Colorado School of the Mines
Brooke Barrett (soccer) - Georgia Southern
Logan Cowart - Tusculum College
Andy Chambers - TBD
Cole Wright - Army (West Point)
Brett Bardenwerper - Shorter
Josh Taylor - Shorter University
Dayton Colbert - Kentucky Christian University