‘This is something I’ve always dreamed about’: LaGrange sees 13 players sign to play at the next level
Published 4:11 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Wednesday was a day of celebration in the Steve Pardue Indoor Facility at LaGrange High. The Grangers saw 13 of their own sign to play college football next season.
“This group continues to push the program forward,” LaGrange coach Matt Napier said. “This is a special group of guys up here.”
The 13 players will be dispersing across the country but a large contingent of players will be heading to Thomas University. In fact, four players from this year’s class — Shurmack Brazil, Magic Johnson, Marcus Jones, and Ni Gunsby.
“It feels good. This is something I’ve always dreamed about,” Gunsby said. “I’m excited to be joining some of my Granger teammates down there.”
Jones and Gunsby were two of the Grangers top defenders this season at cornerback and linebacker. Brazil dominated in the trenches as a defensive tackle while Johnson led the team with 615 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
It was a dream come true for all 13 players that signed on Wednesday. For Jayden White, it did not always seem like a foregone conclusion that he would play college football. He suffered broken ankles in consecutive seasons and was able to battle back this year to play in the Troup game as well as the Grangers playoff game against Burke County. The interior lineman earned his scholarship and showed a lot of character in the process.
“It was tough. The mental battle was even tougher than the physical hurdles,” White said. “I felt useless at times and went through some depression. I didn’t know if anybody would want me because of my injuries. I’m excited to continue playing football and further my education.”
Quarterback Jaylan Brown is getting his shot to play quarterback at the next level despite all the naysayers saying he needed to switch positions. Brown will be attending Iowa Western — the reigning NJCAA national champions. Brown is excited about the chance to join such a high level program.
“I didn’t want to keep switching positions and I want to keep leading as a quarterback,” Brown. “They are a top program and I’m looking forward to getting to work.”
Brown might just find himself staring across the sideline at his former teammate, Jaylon Jordan, in a big game this season. Jordan, a wide receiver for LaGrange, connected with Brown all season long and will be attending Hutchinson Community College in the fall. Hutchinson finished runner-ups in the NJCAA last season as Iow Western came out on top 31-0 in the national championship game. Jordan enjoyed a breakout senior season with 560 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Jordan will be joining former Granger Tristan Smith and will look to pair up at wide receiver once again.
“My brother Tristan Smith went up there and he convinced me it was a good spot,” Jordan said. “Talking with him really convinced me.”
It has been a whirlwind last few days for many of these players but perhaps none more so than kicker Christian Ceja who did not think he would be attending college a week ago and to stay close to home and signed to play at Point University.
“I didn’t even know I was going to college until about a week ago,” Ceja said. “I was sitting in my room and coach texted me and told me that I had a college offer and it’s been crazy since then.”
Ceja isn’t the only Christian on the team that had a meteoric rise as a senior. Christian Ector had a big year as one of the Grangers outside linebackers and booked a spot on the Fort Valley State team next season.
“It was a tough call but once I went to the campus and saw what the culture was like out there it made my final decision a lot easier,” Ector said. “I love how it’s an HBCU and embraces black culture.”
Aj Tucker is taking his bruising style of running back play to the next level as well. Napier talked about how Tucker never shies away from contact which helped get him recruited at the next level. His physicality showed on the field this past season as he led the Grangers with 93 carries and 792 rushing yards while also finishing the year with nine touchdowns.
Defensive lineman Javian Simpson signed to play defensive line at Cornell College. Defensive end Javari Moss signed to play at Capital University. Free safety Jeffrey Sims announced his decision to play football at Sussex Community College.
“This group is 27-10 over the last three years here,” Napier said. “They made the playoffs all three of those years and that hadn’t been done in the 10 years previous to this group right here.”