It was the second-highest number of DeKalb athletes to sign and the fourth consecutive year that the county’s signing class broke 100.
Last year, 132 athletes signed.
The ceremonies at 14 DeKalb high schools left many smiles.
Martin Luther King Jr., Stephenson and Columbia led the county in number of players signing for colleges and universities. Twenty-one players signed at MLK, followed closely by 19 each at Stephenson and Columbia high schools.
At Arabia Mountain High in Lithonia, the auditorium erupted in celebration as seven of the school’s top athletes took the stage to live a moment they had dreamed about since kindergarten.
The varsity football stars assembled behind a long table in front of adoring family and friends to sign commitment letters to six colleges in Georgia and across the Southeast. All got full scholarships.
Rams defensive back Devin Crawford’s mother, Veronica, couldn’t stop beaming. Her son is headed to Jackson State University, her alma mater.
“I am a 1986 graduate of Jackson State University,” she said. “My son, Devin, will be playing football there.”
Across town in Decatur, a similar scene was playing out at Columbia High where 19 players signed for nine colleges and universities.
Eagles head coach David Edwards was humbled.
“I knew if we pushed grades hard, that these boys would set the standard for the future,” said Edwards, who took the coaching job late last year.
Horace Dunson, the school district’s executive director for athletics, called Wednesday a huge day for the county.
“We’re the most highly recruited county in the state and one of the highest in the nation,” he said. “College coaches know they’re going to get a competitive athlete when they come here.”
Georgia Tech and Clark Atlanta University each signed eight recruits – the largest number of DeKalb players. Next were Atlanta Sports Academy and the University of the Cumberlands with six players each; followed by Alabama State and Arkansas Baptist College with five each; Jackson State and Johnson C. Smith universities and the University of Pikeville signed four players each; and Tennessee State and Texas Tech signed three players each.
The remaining 67 players signed with 46 more colleges and universities across the country.
Among the colleges signing two and one player each was Yale University, which took Cedar Grove Saints quarterback Joshua Heard.
Morehouse College signed MLK High Lions’ quarterback Monquavious Johnson, who had the second-highest passing percentage in DeKalb, and Southwest DeKalb Panthers’ offensive lineman Jaylen Fareed.
Arabia Mountain Rams middle linebacker Danny Ezechukwu, who had the county’s third-highest number of quarterback sacks, is headed to Purdue University.
He said everything just really came together for him.
“I’m ready to start anew up there at West Lafayette, Ind., and just become a better man,” he said. “I want to stay true to myself and remember where I came from.”
He plans to get a degree either in mechanical or electrical engineering.
Arabia Mountain’s outside linebacker Kwame Bowens will join Devin at Jackson State.
His mother, Gail Bowens, said it’s such a big relief to be blessed with a full football scholarship.
“They stressed the academics on our official visit and as a former educator that impressed me more than anything else,” she said.
Wednesday was only the first day of the signing season, which extends through March. Coach Christopher Beale says he has four more seniors who are still making campus visits but are expected to sign with schools before signing season ends.
Rodney Swanson, Arabia Mountain’s principal, praised the signees as young men “of good character as well as athletic ability.”
“They will be good ambassadors for their school and DeKalb,” he said.
Columbia Eagles tackle Eric Smith signed with the University of Virginia because of its academic program. He plans to major in either business, mathematics or sports and sports medicine.
“They have the No. 2 highest graduation rate for black students,” he said.
Known as the “emotional crier” among his teammates, he wore his emotions on his sleeve Wednesday as he talked about his college plans.
“It feels good to see how many people are here to support me,” he said.
Eagles recruiting coordinator, coach Chris Hill, said he is proud of the work his team has put in.
“We took trips, went to camps and recruiting expos. For me it was lots of contacting coaches and sending out films.
“It was important that I make an effort so that all of my seniors had some options,” he said.