Football recruiting: 9 Stephenson HS seniors to sign with major colleges

(RELATED: Ex-UGA recruit hears from Miami Hurricanes, South Florida (Click here for story)

Does every player who wears the Stephenson High football uniform automatically get a college scholarship? No, but it seems like it (AJC photo)

Does every player who wears the Stephenson High football uniform automatically get a college scholarship? No, but it seems like it (AJC photo)

They are going to have to bring in extra tables again for football signing day at Stephenson High.

The Class AAAAA school in DeKalb County is proving to be no one-year wonder with stockpiling college scholarships.

Somewhere between 20 and 32 of Stephenson’s senior class of 34 players will sign letters-of-intent Feb. 2. Last year, the Jaguars had 29 of 32 huddled around tables in the school auditorium, with each standing up to be recognized for their future college destination.

“It’s such a blessing, especially with the economy,” said Patricia Sheppard, whose son, Jeremy, has a pair of small college offers.

“I just sent my daughter off to college last year, and with Jeremy coming right behind her … it’s a huge financial relief for our family. These kids work hard, and the coaches work hard with the kids to make it happen with the colleges. It’s a wonderful thing.”

This year’s class is well-respected among scouts, but doesn’t have the star power of its predecessor. Last year, Stephenson sent eight players to FBS (formerly Division I-A) schools, including five to the SEC. Defensive tackle Mike Thornton got a standing ovation at the signing ceremony when he pulled out a Georgia baseball cap to reveal his long-awaited decision.

Stephenson’s current seniors watched the ceremony from the seats below, filled with pride and great anticipation.

“It was a surreal day, seeing all these guys I grew up playing football with in the neighborhood signing to play in college,” said defensive back Eric Dulin, who is considering offers from Tusculum and Mars Hill. “I couldn’t wait for my chance to [accomplish] the same.”

This year, nine seniors are committed to FBS schools, led by defensive back Kadetrix Marcus (South Carolina), offensive lineman Tarik Cook (Central Florida), and defensive end Preston Smith (Mississippi State).

“A lot of people talked about the 29 from last year and some still do,” Stephenson coach Ron Gartrell said. “I think a lot of people thought it was a one-shot deal — and it’s not. We’re committed to trying to get everybody who gets on the field for us the opportunity to play on the next level.”

Stephenson always has sent a steady flow of prospects to major colleges, including former Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball and NFL rookies Jermaine Cunningham and Perry Riley. Last year, Stephenson boasted one of the largest signing classes (29) in state history after Gartrell made a personnel change within the coaching staff: He assigned Corey Johnson as Stephenson’s recruiting coordinator to serve as the liaison between players and colleges.

“With allowing Corey to do what he does best, our number of kids signing has pretty much doubled,” Gartrell said. “Where Corey has made the biggest difference is getting the smaller colleges involved in recruiting our players.”

It’s a labor of love but a time-consuming task for Johnson, a private businessman who has volunteered to coach at Stephenson for the past eight years. Since last February, Johnson estimates that he and other assistants have clocked in a combined total of 3,000 hours leading to this year’s ceremony.

They met with parents to explain the recruiting process, and they reviewed transcripts to make sure the players took the proper classes and signed up for the SAT and ACT tests. They hauled the kids to a dozen camps, providing scouts the chance to personally meet the kids and work them out. They maintained a website that was routinely updated with video clips of players during the season.

They make sure the kids keep in touch with the colleges on a regular basis. Johnson has the phone numbers and e-mails of more than 800 college coaches, and sometimes contacts them two or three times per week with player updates.

“It’s just a way to give back to the kids,” Johnson said.

There’s still a lot of recruiting drama to unfold over the next three weeks. Johnson said he won’t know until the morning of signing day if Stephenson will break last year’s record of 29. If not this year, then Johnson has high expectations for the future.

When asked how many Stephenson kids could sign in February 2012 or 2013, Johnson said, “My target every year is the entire class.”

39 comments Add your comment

goldwreck

January 18th, 2011
10:45 am

That is strong.

johnny too good

January 18th, 2011
10:58 am

thats really nice to hear. Coach Gartrell and his staff are really doing their part to help out there players

http://www.youtube.com/thatsjohnanderson

Bitter vince dooly in south beach

January 18th, 2011
11:41 am

nice job, now leave me alone im-a–sunn-in yaaw

PTC DAWG

January 18th, 2011
11:58 am

Congrats to all these kids…now go get your degrees and make it count.

tom

January 18th, 2011
1:27 pm

Stay in state if possible – great football here and you will always be a hero! http://www.upglad.com

Vick=Dog killing thug

January 18th, 2011
3:18 pm

JROLL1

January 18th, 2011
3:18 pm

CONTINUE THE GREAT WORK COACH GARTRELL. TO ALL THE PLAYERS…GET THAT DEGREE!

Reggie

January 18th, 2011
5:20 pm

Great Job Coach and Players!!

Snellville Stirl

January 18th, 2011
5:24 pm

All high schools shoud take look at what Stephenson is doing for their young men. Their giving these young men a chance at not only doing something they love for four more years their setting them up for the rest of their lives. Kudo’s to Coach Gartrell, Corey Johnson and the rest of the staff at Stephenson High School.

jus

January 18th, 2011
5:34 pm

westlake got 14 ppl signing this year i think stephenson need to look at westlake we had a bad season but we still putting kids into college

Paddy

January 18th, 2011
5:56 pm

This coach must be the real deal Congrats. Don’t follow HS football, guess they won the state championship the last 2 seasons. Gartrell should be getting some offers to move to the college level if he so desires. Good story and it sounds like a great program!!!!!!

FAN

January 18th, 2011
7:55 pm

SOMEBODY NEED TO TELL MAYS COACH THAT IT’S ABOUT HELPING THESE KIDS WITH OUT FAVORITISM

Jsmith

January 18th, 2011
8:10 pm

Jag News Flash!!!

January 18th, 2011
8:51 pm

Watch out for this 2012 class coming up! this team is loaded again. Just an example, Mike Davis and newly transferred TJ Moon from Union Grove (2 of the top running backs in the state) will be in the same backfield. WOW!!!

KimZ'sPackage

January 18th, 2011
9:26 pm

But how are the KIDS in their classes? So the F What they can play ball, but can the actually do a math problem, write a paper, or wash their own clothes. Are they really read to be a College student? Any PIMP an sell a Piece of meat because people want to buy it, but can that piece of meat deliver a WHOLE meal?

BBBieUgaVIII

January 18th, 2011
9:39 pm

Hey Coach how much is that black LB in the window? If I buy 2 1/2 educated Black D players can a gat a 3rd O player 1/4 educated?

Mr. Tony Geinzer

January 18th, 2011
10:13 pm

I love the fact that a lot of players from 1 High School get to play College Ball, and the real mark is if they stick in the Pros.

Jag count

January 18th, 2011
11:37 pm

Enter your comments here

Jag count

January 18th, 2011
11:50 pm

Everything shine aint gold,Stephenson will soon disappoint us because you cant cheat and get away with it for long.I hope that these kids continue to get what they deserve but just know God dont like UGLY.

Paddy

January 19th, 2011
6:38 am

Mr. Tony Geinzer…..”the real mark is if they stick in the Pros” Now that is about the dumbest thing I have hear on any blog. Your measurment for success is why this country is slipping so badly. Less than 1/2% of all HS football players beecome pro football players. So thats how you would guage a young mans future success by giving him an unattainable goal. I sure hope you are not a teacher or parent!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

black n blue blood

January 19th, 2011
9:52 am

As a former player for SHS and Coach Ron Gartrell I am very proud to read this article. I am also shocked to read some of the negative comments posted. How do you turn a GREAT story like that into something negative? Thats beyond me.

Sideline Observer

January 19th, 2011
10:33 am

To “black n blue blood”

Can you imagine how good Lowndes would be with all that talent every year? Or Valdosta, Colquitt, Camden, Grayson, North Gwinnett, Buford, or Brookwood? One would think Stephenson would be in the finals every year judging by how many players they have that signs a scholarship every year. Is it just me or could coaching be an issue?

the real jag count

January 19th, 2011
10:47 am

stop using my blog name saying crazy stuff

the real jag count

January 19th, 2011
10:48 am

sideline observer this is neither the place or time for your comments

ECB

January 19th, 2011
11:26 am

Maybe next year they can make it past the second round of the playoffs? Brookwood does not have near the talent, but they win a state championship? Sounds like the coach might be the problem. HE CAN NOT WIN THE BIG ONE!!!

JAG BLUE/BLACK ONLY

January 19th, 2011
12:14 pm

ECB ask the parents of the brookwood minority which coaches on their staff contact HBCUs or smaller colleges to help players that are not a D1 prospect. Who doesn’t want to win state titles? But you go ask a single parent who is struggling and can’t afford college education for their child. They will tell you quickly that a free education outweighs any state title. to the so called SHS parents that have kids on the team or graduated from SHS, you need to think twice before you ask for the most honest and caring coach in Georgia to be fired. He is truly about the kids.

ECB

January 19th, 2011
12:19 pm

A caring coach is great, and so is Gartrell. However being a caring coach will only get you so far. Stephenson is the UGA of High School football. All the talent in the world but can not win with it!

johnny too good

January 19th, 2011
12:30 pm

sideline observer………. these kids are student athletes……… furthering their education is the number 1 priority. state championships dont compare to a full ride scholarship to further the education of the student athlete

pls do not discredit the works and effort of Coach Gartrell, being employed in the school system he is a teacher first, and a coach second…….. yes winning games is nice, giving a student the opportunity to enhance their future is priceless

http://www.youtube.com/thatsjohnanderson

That Hawk

January 19th, 2011
1:22 pm

Thats a great job by the coaches and players. When they hired Corey Johnson That maybe the smartest thing they ever did, and i think other schools are just mad because its not there school. when you can get kids that don’t even start a scholarship, you’re doing something right. great job guys.

TRUE BLUE

January 19th, 2011
2:14 pm

Do you actually think a recruiter from college ask these players how many STATE TITLE you won in high school. You are always going to have haters and negative people out there. Yes everybody wants to win A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP, but a chance to compete at the next level is a accomplishment. How many coaches in GEORGIA goes the extra yard in trying make sure that every SENIOR on their team get a SCHOLARSHIP to further their education and get a DEGREE. GREAT JOB STEPHENSON keep up the good work in trying to help these young men become STUDENT- ATHLETE at the next level. I as a former parent I THANK YOU very much for what you did for my son while he was at STEPHENSON, BECAUSE he was prepare to play as a true freshman in the SEC

Robert

January 19th, 2011
2:58 pm

I really think all the negative comments miss the point. Yes, everyone wants to win a state title and Stephenson hasn’t gotten it done. But the priority, IMO, should be developing these kids as students first, football players second and winning a state title third. Coach Gartrell and his staff seem to be doing a great job when considering they sent over 90% of their seniors to college. How many schools out there can say that? These guys are sending backup players to college, not just the “star” players. I’m sure the parents of these students aren’t grading Coach Gartrell on not winning a state title but thanking him and his staff for what they have done to give their kids an opportunity to get a college degree for free.

As a Lowndes alum, of course I always pull for a Lowndes state championship (and they knocked Stephenson out several times) but I will not be negative to Stephenson or their coaches for not winning the state title when they are accomplishing so much more for these kids. Bottom line, most of these kids would not be able to go to college without football and I hope they take full advantage of this opportunity. These kids are getting it done in the classroom and on the field. They should be congratulated for their efforts and supported as they take the next step in their careers.

Paddy

January 19th, 2011
6:15 pm

I am shocked that these past 2 teams didn’t win state championships. But no matter. Sounds like they have a great coach who works extremely hard for his kids.

MDR

January 19th, 2011
6:29 pm

who cares! Players are overrated!

Jay

January 19th, 2011
8:16 pm

Congratulation Stephenson! No matter what some of these yahoos say your coaches are going the extra mile for the kids and that’s great. Region 2AAAAA will most likely have more kids signed this year than any in the state. Can’t wait to play you guys in basketball, track and baseball. We coming with it. GO Westlake!!!

One On One With The Great One

January 20th, 2011
9:35 pm

It saddens me to read such a great article but hear the negative comments. There will always be Boston tea partiers in the crowd. Something interesting to me though that many of you all like to mention is State titles. I see see it in three folds Yes it makes your community feel good to win the BIG ONE. Agree.. It gives you bragging rights for the Year.. Agree But after the last game is played where do all the college scouts stop to see players.. Stephenson. Agree. Well I will say this is when Nick Saban, Steve Spurrie, Mike Gundy, Joker phillips, Mark Ritch,Les Miles and other coaches come to see these players and talk to coaches They all say the samething.. Coach your kids are sure fundmentally sound and good football players as well as good students and people. So i say all that to say yes every athlete that sign with these colleges are qualified, educated, pass all core classes and some enroll early to their schools. So for the Tea Party people on this blog keep up the good work on hating because Stephenson must be doing something right in order to keep you blogging more and more and more and more

Dr. Taylor

January 24th, 2011
5:39 pm

I have followed the metro programs for twenty years or more and yes it is my opinion that these kids are tremendous players and deserve the chance to attend college. But with all this talent Stephenson,SWDekalb should have several state titles. Give South Georgia,Gwinnett County these players and watch the state titles roll up.These teams never get better as the season progresses and therefore continue to fail in the playoffs by exiting quickly.

Dr. Taylor

January 24th, 2011
5:46 pm

The Great “VINCE LOMBARDI” WINNING AINT EVERYTHING ITS THE ONLY THING!NOBODY REMEMBERS SECOND PLACE!

SOUTHwest Atl

January 24th, 2011
10:13 pm

Thats funny!! Normally, in football conversation Gwinnett Football never want to be compare to SGA football. All you HATERS don’t you’ve a TEA PARTY to go to.

They rather see a MONKEY with diamond ring, than see BLACK MAN do anything.

SOUTHwest Atl

January 24th, 2011
10:14 pm

North Gwinnett is garbage…. can’t win the big GAME!