Six seniors sign on the dotted line
Nick Johnston, Hartselle Enquirer
Six Hartselle High School seniors made it official last Thursday.
Juwan Ward, Hodge Patterson, Jeremy Orr, Brett Byford and Ben Atchison all signed letters of intent to play college football next year.
One of the most notables for the Tigers is Byford, who signed with Nebraska. Byford was one of the most sought after offensive lineman in the southeast, but has decided to move west to play for the Cornhuskers.
"I just want to thank God for this opportunity," Byford said. "I want to thank my parents, teammates and the basketball team. And thanks to everybody who prayed for me."
The University of Alabama-Birmingham found out just what respect meant to Ward, who made an 11th hour decision to attend the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
"It came down to respect," the linebacker said. "I had already made plans to go to UAB, but I wanted to visit UTC. I called my recruiter, and told him I was having second thoughts. I told him I still wanted to go to UAB, but I wanted to visit UTC. He didn't like that too much. We kept talking and I was like 'what is this guy's problem.' So, it came down to respect."
It also may have come down to playing time. Ward said he is projected to start next year for the NCAA Division I Moccasins.
"I'm very excited," he said. "I've been blessed."
Hodge Patterson signed with Huntingdon College. The school will be in its first year of college football at the NCAA Division III level.
"I just thank God for four more years of football," Patterson said. "I'm going to miss everybody, though."
Jeremy Orr will be heading west, like Byford, accept he will land at Ranger Community College in Texas.
Ranger is just outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but Orr promises a return home.
"This was the best decision for me," the 1500-yard rusher said. "I want to go there, get my speed up and my skills up. Be looking for me in two years, I promise. I want to try to come back to the SEC."
The University of North Alabama and Samford also recruited Orr, but Ranger CC was "the best place for me to be."
Orr pulled no punches talking about Ranger CC's location.
"I'm going to be real," he said. "The only thing to do there is lift weights and play football. I'm all about the football."
Ben Atchison signed with Jacksonville State. He, along with Ward and Patterson, made up perhaps one of the best linebacker trio's in the state.