Some people play golf. Some people jog. Some play Halo.
Steve Slay? He counts football players.
Specifically college football players from Georgia.
Slay, a Tucker native and Florida resident, sells industrial filtration systems by day. In his spare time he surfs the Internet trying to locate former Georgia high school players who are now playing college football across the country.
It’s a hobby, he says straightfaced.
Slay said his pastime started innocently enough. An avid Georgia high school football fan displaced by his job — at different times he has lived in Birmingham, Ala., Minneapolis, Minn., and currently Jacksonville, Fla. — Slay said several years ago he was simply curious about where some of Tucker’s players ended up going to college. That curiosity led to other curiosities such as “how many guys from Southwest DeKalb?” and how many guys from Valdosta and how many from Region 7-AAAA and so on.
“I’d always read about how well Georgia does on a national level as far as producing college players so I just started looking into it,” Slay said. “Everything I looked at piqued my curiosity even more.”
A self-professed “numbers guy,” Slay began to chart and grid his findings. Nowadays he can display then colorfully on a slick Excel spreadsheet. Eventually he thought he should probably share the information and did so first with Georgia Varsity Sports Vent (gavsv.com) and now with Georgia High School Football Daily newsletter. We ran the GHSF Daily’s story about Slay’s latest findings Wednesday on the high school page. Not surprisingly, more than a few college recruiters have come calling.
I couldn’t resist calling Slay myself, first to find out how and why a person delves into something like this and then to find out more.
From Slay’s research we learn that there are 699 players from Georgia currently playing Division I football somewhere in America. The majority of those players come from schools in the state’s largest classification, Class AAAAA (273) and the fewest from the lowest (43).
Other revelations: The single school that has the most players on college rosters is Stephenson High with 32 (the Jaguars have a good shot of retaining that title next year as they currently boast anywhere from 12 to 16 D-1 prospects alone). Slay said Atlanta’s Westlake led the way last year with about 35.
Other schools with big numbers playing college ball: Tucker (29), Westlake (29), Buford (28) and — somewhat surprisingly — Blessed Trinity (21).
As for where those players end up, the answer is pretty much everywhere. Georgians are literally scattered on football rosters from coast-to-coast — and beyond. Kell graduate Spencer Smith plays defensive back for Hawaii.
According to Slay’s data, there are 224 Georgians playing in the SEC, led by 89 at UGA. You probably wouldn’t guess that the next most Georgians are at Vanderbilt with 22. Auburn (20), Kentucky (17), South Carolina (16), Ole Miss (14) and Tennessee (11) all reach double-figure Peach-Staters.
There are 147 Georgians in the ACC, with Georgia Tech’s 75 leading the way. The next three? Wake Forest (13), Duke (12) and Florida State (11).
You’d think UGA, being the state university and fielding a Division 1 program, would naturally have more in-state players on its roster than any other stateschool. Think again. Little Shorter College topped the list with 128 players from Georgia. Clearly that includes a few walkons.
The Bulldogs are followed by LaGrange (91), Georgia Southern (87), Georgia Tech (75) and Savannah State (70). Georgia State, which hasn’t even started playing football yet, already has 51 Georgians on its roster.
But Slay did not limit his research just to Division 1. He includes every college that fields a football team in every division in America except for junior colleges, which is a LOT of colleges His spreadsheet ends on Georgia Player No. 2,578 — Camden County’s Josh Myers, who plays defensive line at Youngstown State.
Slay complains that his data is incomplete. Rosters for a few obscure schools could not be located, he says. We’re gonna give him a pass.
So what conclusions can we draw from Mr. Slay’s hard work?
“There’s a whole lot of kids from Georgia playing ball,” Slay says with a laugh.
Didn’t we already know that?