The auditorium at Brunswick High School was as packed in the stands as the stage was with multiple tables stretched across nearly the entire length for the Pirates’ large signing class. Thirteen BHS players signed their national letters of intent during Wednesday’s National Signing Day ceremony.
It was a day of firsts for head football coach Sean Pender — his first signing class with the Pirates and the largest class he’s ever had on signing day.
“Without a doubt this is a special one,” Pender said. “I’ve never had 13 players sign in one year, especially on signing day. This a huge class. It will definitely be special because its my first-year here. It’s the mark of a turning point for this program. It’s definitely a great start.”
Three Pirate players are heading to NCAA Football Bowl Championship schools. Linebacker Sharrod Frazier inked his name to play at Marshall University in West Virginia while defensive back Aubrey Williams is heading to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Defensive back Jaylen Jackson signed with Georgia Tech during the early signing period but joined his teammates on the stage for the ceremony.
“It’s really a big stress reliever,” Frazier said. “You don’t have to worry about the recruiting process anymore. I just get to finish high school and get ready for the next level.”
Four Brunswick players are going to remain teammates at the next level. Offensive lineman Ty Hinson will join defensive end George Mincey, wide receiver DJ Whitfield and linebacker Tevin Small at in-state Division II power Valdosta State.
“I get to go with my brothers to the next level,” Hinson said.
Other players signing Wednesday included linebacker Kam Futch (West Georgia), wide receiver Alonzo Brown (University of Virginia-Wise), quarterback Jamarius Stevens (Hocking College in Ohio), linebacker Rudy Nixon (ASA College Miami), offensive lineman John Cano (Reinhardt University) and tight end Maliek Alston (Highlands Community College).
Pender said two things immediately jump out about this year’s class — resiliency and talent.
“I’m the third coach they’ve had in four years,” Pender said. “They stuck with the program even after all the turnover and changes happened. Talent is another thing. They are an extremely talented group of young men.”
For players like Futch, signing day was a long time coming.
“It’s overwhelming,” Futch said. “It’s all I’ve been waiting for.”
The linebacker was impressed with what he saw at West Georgia when he made his visit, which led to him committing to the Wolves.
“What stood out to me the most was the campus — the coaches, the players, the whole environment,” Futch said.
Williams was happy not only to see his dreams come true, but to also see so many of his teammates signing with him.
“It’s something you dream about, but you’re never really sure you’re going to actually make it,” Williams said. “Not just myself but seeing all of my fellow brothers make it as well. We’re going to be able to achieve our goals in our education and football careers.”
Williams had more in mind than just football when he pledged to Navy. Along with service and football, Williams wants what the Navy can do for him as a person and for his future.
“It’s a really tough place, but it builds you into a better person down the road,” Williams said. “How much it is going to open up my future is really important to me. It’s a great football environment as well.”
Signing day was a surprise for Brown. Part of Brunswick High’s talented group of pass catchers that included Whitfield, Jackson and Alston, Brown wasn’t expecting to sign Wednesday.
“It’s really kind of unbelievable,” Brown said.
He’s looking forward to moving on to something different at UVA-Wise.
“I’m looking forward to getting out of Georgia to experience something new,” Brown said.
For Frazier, the recruiting process was a tough one. The multi-faceted player had offers from several Division I programs, but he chose Marshall in the end in part because of the school’s atmosphere.
“The town, Huntington, it’s like a big family,” Frazier said. “Everything is surrounding Marshall and I really like that.”
Hinson was also glad to put an end to his recruitment. Having his future set was a big burden lifted off the lineman.
“It’s more of a relief,” Hinson said. “I know where I’m going to go and where I’m going to play. There’s no more wondering what’s going to happen.”
Going to Valdosta, Hinson has found a city that is enough like Brunswick to feel like home.
“It’s not as much like Brunswick, but it’s enough to where you feel like home,” Hinson said. “It’s just a football town — it’s Titletown.”
What became evident at the ceremony is how much the guys on stage enjoyed playing with each other. Brown said the players became brothers, a sentiment that was echoed by his teammates.
“We’ve had an up-and-down journey,” Williams said. “All these boys sticking together and bonding, we’ve made the best of it.”
With a new coach at the helm this season, the Pirates were able to win a share of the region title and return to the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
“I think we left it better than we found it,” Hinson said. “We started a culture and it’s going to get better.”
Through all the turnover in recent years, the Pirate players who signed say Brunswick has arrived at the light at the end of the tunnel.
“We were the class that helped build the foundation,” Frazier said. “Now it’s up to the young boys to keep the legacy going.”