MUSCLE SHOALS — Carlos Davis had fun Wednesday morning.
The senior running back smiled at the presence of his classmates and a few cameras inside the Muscle Shoals High library, embracing the moment he earned through his work over the past few years.
Soon enough it will be time to return to the grind, but Wednesday was about celebrating his college choice — the University of South Alabama.
“It feels real good. I finally got all the weight off my shoulders,” he said. “Ready to start the next chapter.”
Davis was one of several local high school football players who have signed a scholarship to play in college. Brooks senior lineman Kameron Stutts had his ceremony in December after signing early with Auburn, and 11 more participated in ceremonies Wednesday as part of the traditional National Signing Day. A few more are expected to sign in the coming days.
Davis, a second-team all-state selection after rushing for 1,693 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Trojans, also had interest from UNA, Troy, Jacksonville State, UT Martin, Tennessee Tech, Samford and Central Arkansas. He will play for new coach Steve Campbell.
“What I like about South Alabama (is) the coaching staff. They’ve got a brand new coaching staff. They mean business. They’re all winners,” Davis said.
“They tell me I’ve got to hit the ground running. No redshirt, I’m looking to play and show off my talents.”
Davis is considering studying business management.
Six players from Florence High were part of a signing ceremony in which they posed for photos with their coaches, including recently departed head coach J.B. Wallace.
Two Falcons, safety Nate Reed and offensive lineman Jacob Gentle, will play for UNA, joining Wilson’s Avery Moates. Gentle was a TimesDaily first-team all-area selection and Reed made second team.
“They’ve talked about me playing guard,” Gentle said. “But I can play anywhere, wherever they need me, where I can get the earliest playing time.
“I really like left guard. I played left guard my senior season and I really enjoyed that a lot.”
Reed acknowledged it will feel good knowing a few of his teammates already, as a handful of Falcons have stayed in town in recent years.
“Me and Jacob have always been good friends,” Reed said. “(Current freshman) Jakobi Byrd, we’re pretty close, so that’s good too.”
Joe Maxwell signed as an offensive lineman for Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference, choosing the Falcons over six other schools. Charlie Maxwell will go to Alabama State and chose the Hornets over five other schools. Joe Maxwell made the all-area second team and Charlie Maxwell was honorable mention.
Zarrian Billings will attend Delta State and play outside linebacker and Nathan Cobb will compete for the kicker and punter jobs at West Alabama. Cobb was a first-team all-area player and Billings made the second team.
Rogers linebacker Caleb Storie signed to attend Faulkner, where he committed just over a week ago. Storie led a stellar Rogers defense in tackles this year and was one of three candidates for 4A Lineman of the Year in Alabama. Storie said he has thought seriously about playing in college since sophomore year.
“They needed us to play as ninth graders. That’s kind of the spot our team was in,” he said. “We were all good players and some people started talking to me, and I realized this is what I wanted to do.”
Storie helped Rogers go 23-2 over the last two seasons.
“Means a tremendous amount,” Rogers coach Randall Martin said. “These guys have worked really hard over the past few years. Caleb has been to a lot of camps over the years trying to improve. It means a lot to the school and the community when we have one go on and further his career in college.”
Chance Bates had a similarly large impact on the team at Colbert County as a linebacker and fullback, making second-team all-state, and he’ll play at Kennesaw State.
“I’ve been waiting on this day since I was a little kid playing youth league,” Bates said. “It has been a long process, but my hard work has paid off. It is truly a blessing for me.”
Coach Brett Mask said Bates has been a classroom and community leader.
“If you ever had to point to a kid as a blueprint for how you do it, then that is Chance,” Mask said. “That’s why we are going to miss him so much, because he has been such a good example for the other kids. We are going to miss him tremendously.”
Cherokee had a landmark 2017 football season, reaching the third round of the Class 1A playoffs, and a big reason was two-way player Arian Strong.
Strong signed to play quarterback at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College and the Cherokee staff believe he could play at a prominent four-year school before long.
“When I heard it was 12 hours I was kind of, like, shocked,” Strong said. “But I’m going to have to grow up at some point in time, so I felt like this would be the perfect chance for me to just learn how to live on my own and not have to call on Mom or Grandma for everything.”
Strong made the TimesDaily’s all-area first team as an athlete, passing for 1,500 yards and 14 TDs in addition to his work on defense.
“They just told me to go there and work,” Strong said of advice from head coach Lymos McDonald and other coaches. “Don’t be lazy. They said that’s a habit I’ve got to get out of and I feel just the same, so I just feel like I have to go out there and be ready to work every day. No days off.”