Big day for Callaway football family

Published 10:40 pm Thursday, February 8, 2018

By Kevin Eckleberry

At most signing days, one table is usually enough.

They needed a lot more than at Callaway High on Wednesday morning, though.

There were 17 seniors on the 2017 Callaway football team, and 15 of them are going to play college football.

Those 15 players, along with a former Cavalier who is making the transition from a junior college to a four-year school, were a part of a signing-day ceremony on Wednesday in the school’s gymnasium.

The bleachers were full of students and family members who were there to celebrate the moment with the 16 players who have worked so hard to get here.

“What a special group of young men,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “They’ve put a great deal of time in getting to this point.”

The seniors were a part of a program that enjoyed tremendous success over the past four years.

During the past two seasons when the seniors were either starting or playing a lot, the Cavaliers went 24-3 and reached the state semifinals in 2016, and they made it to the quarterfinals last year.

“There’s a lot that goes into this, and these men have worked extremely hard,” Wiggins said. “They come to work every day, and they got better both in the class room, and on the field. And I have great respect for these guys that have paid that price to get where they’re at.”

One of the participants in the signing-day ceremony was JT Wortham, a 2016 Callaway graduate who played at Georgia Military College the past two seasons.

Wortham has signed with Western Carolina where he’ll play for the next two seasons.

“When I went on my official visit, it felt like home,” Wortham said. “They were already treating me like family. I just loved all of it.”

Wortham was grateful to be involved in Wednesday’s celebration.

“Callaway will also be special,” Wortham said. “I’ll always be a Cavalier.”

Wortham will be joined at Western Carolina by current Callaway senior DJ Atkins, a running back who ran for nearly 4,000 yards in two seasons.

Courtney Williams, a standout defensive back for Callaway, has signed with Georgia State.

Williams joins a program that started in 2013 and is coming off its first winning season and first bowl victory.

“It’s really exciting,” Williams said. “They haven’t accomplished much, so you can be a part of history. We can do something they’ve never done.”

Three Callaway players have signed with Reinhardt University.

That group includes linebacker Jonathan Leonard, the team’s leading tackler last season, as well as kicker Noah Stephens and tight end Travis Traylor.

Stephens is glad that he’ll have some familiar faces at Reinhart.

“It helped my decision, because I know a couple of people that’ll be on the team,” he said. “It’ll be easier.”

Stephens said “it’s very special” to be a part of a 15-person signing class.

“We’ll be a class that won’t be forgotten,” he said.

Leonard had back-to-back 100-tackle seasons, and he finished with more than 140 tackles during his phenomenal senior year.

Traylor was a versatile player for Callaway who played multiple positions, and he was also the winner of the team’s ironman competition in 2016.

Two Cavaliers, defensive back Eric Hines and defensive lineman Marquavious Colton, have signed with colleges in Minnesota.

Hines will play for Ridgewater College, and Colton signed with Northland Community and Technical College.

“It fit me best of all the colleges I got an offer from,” Hines said.

Colton said “it means a lot” to get this opportunity.

“To be honest, I didn’t even think I’d go play football in college,” Colton said. “Coach (Matt) Neighbors gave me the opportunity.”

Wide receiver Wes Brooks and defensive lineman Jamie Sellers are staying in Troup County to play for the LaGrange College Panthers.

“I wanted to stay fairly close (to home),” Brooks said. “The offer was good. Everything lined up. I couldn’t pass it up.”

Sellers, who was one of Callaway’s top defensive players, is also pleased to be staying at home.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “My parents can come and see me, my family. That was a big part of my decision.”

Jalen Moss, a member of Callaway’s imposing offensive line, has signed with Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala.

“Going on the official visit, I fell in love with them because it felt like home,” Moss said. “That’s really what it was about.”

Gabe Moultrie, a standout as a safety and fullback, has signed with Florida Tech.

Moultrie’s 2017 season was a bit of a disappointment because he missed significant time with an injury, but fortunately for him he’s not done with the sport.

“It’s amazing,” Moultrie said. “That was always my dream (to play football), but it was also my dream to further my education. I get to play the sport I love for four more years, and only the Lord knows what’s promised after that.”

Moultrie was thrilled to share his signing-day experience with his friends and teammates.

“We remember in June and July in the gym working hard, and then to have the season we had, go to 11-2, and then do this with people I’m been grinding with so hard, it makes you happy,” Moultrie said.

Kobe Jackson, a big-play defensive back, has signed with Tuskegee, and quarterback Kedrick Ramsey is heading to Morehouse.

“It’s a special day. We’re brothers,” Jackson said. “We grinded together, and we got to sign together.”

Jackson said Tuskegee “wasn’t my top choice,” but that soon changed.

“We visited, and I liked the campus, liked the coaches, and liked the players,” Jackson said. “I think I’ll fit in there.”

Ramsey excelled in his one season as Callaway’s starting quarterback, and he was also a standout linebacker before his senior year.

Defensive lineman Lichon Terrell (Western Kentucky) and defensive back DQ Wilkerson (Mercer) both took advantage of the early signing period in December, as did DJ Atkins.

“I want to say thank you to the families that have allowed our coaching staff to work with these young men,” Wiggins said. “And I want to say congratulations to the families of these young men. It’s a great honor to have the opportunity to do what these guys are going to be able to do for the next several years.”

Wiggins also expressed his appreciation for the work done by Matt Neighbors, the running-backs coach who serves as the recruiting coordinator.

“Coach Neighbors gets up every morning on a mission to help our kids find a place to play at the next level,” Wiggins said.

The two Callaway seniors who aren’t going to play college football could have if they’d chosen to.

Lawrence Thompson and John Curtis were both outstanding offensive linemen for the Cavaliers.

Curtis, an outstanding all-around student, is heading to the University of Georgia, and Thompson is exploring his different post high-school options.