MUSCLE SHOALS — Jordyn Peters remembers picking orange and blue as a child and telling others he would like to play for Auburn someday.
But a lot of kids see a big-time football program featured on TV and would like to be part of it, and for any of several reasons it doesn’t pan out for most.
The Muscle Shoals High senior picked orange and blue again Wednesday, not as a child but as a young man and not just in support but as his next home.
“It feels amazing. I’ve been waiting on it since I committed,” Peters said. “I’ve just been waiting on it. It’s been like butterflies in my stomach ever since the day I committed. … I’m just glad it finally came and I got to sign those papers.”
Several local high school football players participated in National Signing Day ceremonies.
Peters is a defensive back who Auburn plans to utilize as a cornerback, though Peters understands that's subject to change.
“I catch chills when I think about it, just thinking when I was little I used to say that I was going to play ball, I was going to play for Auburn,” Peters said. “In the back of your mind that’s just something you said, but now that I see that I am doing it, I signed it and I can go do that, it’s mind blowing to me.”
Peters described good relationships with Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and incoming secondary coach Greg Brown.
Peters said he probably would have stuck with his commitment to Auburn regardless of how much success the Tigers had in 2016, but he was encouraged to see good defensive play during Auburn’s eight-win season.
Asked how friends, classmates and others in the area have reacted to his choice of Auburn, he said people have been supportive.
“Around here it’s mostly Alabama fans, but most of them say they’ll cheer for me. They might not cheer for Auburn but they’ll cheer for me,” he said with a smile. “I just tell them I’ll end up flipping them. They’ll end up cheering for Auburn and me.”
Peters isn’t the only local player bound for the Southeastern Conference, as Brooks linebacker Colin Anderson will attend Vanderbilt in Nashville.
“It was the combination of a lot of things – how amazing the coaches are, the academics and the city,” Anderson said. “It’s just a total package and the place really resonated with me.
Anderson said being part of the SEC “means everything.”
“I’ll be playing against the teams everyone grew up watching. You watch Alabama, Ole Miss and Tennessee,” Anderson said. “You watch those games and you want to be like those players, so to actually have the opportunity to be one of those players is just insane.
"I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity to be on that stage and be on that level.”
Sheffield’s Malik Smith signed Wednesday with Memphis and Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College. Smith has to wait approval from the NCAA Clearinghouse to be eligible at Memphis. If not, he'll head to Coffeyville, a junior college power.
“It’s a small pond down here, but I’m fixing to go to a big pond with bigger fish,” Smith said. “But I’m going to live up to the expectations. I’m going to do what I have to do.”
Smith excelled as a quarterback and defensive back for Sheffield and projects as a DB in Memphis.
It was a proud moment, too, for Smith’s parents, Charles Smith and Mollie Hughes.
“I told him, ‘Malik, if you work hard on that field and work hard on that court and in the classroom, you can achieve anything you want. Keep God first and nobody can take from you what God has given you.’ This is a great opportunity,” Hughes said.
At Florence High, Dyjonn “Poppie” Turner put on a white UAB hat in front of hundreds of classmates. UAB football is back after a two-year hiatus, and the 5-11, 200-pound Turner will play defensive back.
“It’s exciting!” Turner said with a smile. “It’s a new beginning. Coming back from the offseason, it’s a new start.”
Turner said he began to take the idea of college football seriously when he became a starter for Florence as a sophomore.
“I dreamed about this for a long time (but) I never thought I’d play college football,” he said. “These coaches got in my mind, they helped me, they worked with me, and I ended up where I am today.”
Russellville senior offensive tackle Austin Stidham picked Troy over Purdue, Western Kentucky and several other Sun Belt and Conference USA schools that offered him, citing good interactions with the Trojan coaching staff.
“They just related to me,” he said. “They felt less like coaches and more like relatives or somebody that I would look up to, somebody that I’m comfortable around every day of my life.”
Stidham wants to major in exercise science and eventually go to physical therapy school. Russellville coach Mark Heaton said Stidham is one of the top students in his class and has pursued academic success aggressively.
“He’s just a competitive guy, and I think that seeing him compete in that area is a sign of a kid that’s going to be great in all,” Heaton said. “Because there’s a lot of guys that love football and the weight room and things like that, but a guy that takes it seriously in the classroom and the community like he does, they’re destined for success.”
At Rogers, kicker Bryant Wallace signed with FCS powerhouse Jacksonville State during a ceremony at the high school’s library. Wallace said signing to play at a Division I school would not have been possible without his parents.
“It means a lot to me because it shows me that all the hard work I’ve put in has paid off,” Wallace said. “My parents told me if I had a dream they were going to help me out as much as they could, so they’ve taken me to camps all over the place. My dream was to play Division I football and now I’m getting that opportunity, thanks to them.”
Wallace said he was especially impressed with Jacksonville State coach John Grass.
“I love the way Coach Grass runs the program – you don’t see that often in a public university. What stood out to me is after every workout, every meeting and every practice they close with a prayer and he also said a prayer after my recruiting visit,” Wallace said. “That really meant a lot to me and I really felt at home at Jacksonville State.”
At Lexington, Collin and Cade Sanchez made their signings with Eastern Kentucky official in an afternoon ceremoney.
"It's awesome to be able to celebrate all the hard work we have put in throughout the years," Collin Sanchez, a tight end, said. "To finally get to sign that paper that makes it official."
Both said they were happy signing day arrived.
"We have been talking to coaches every day for the past six or seven months, ," Collin Sanchez said. "It's just been crazy."
Other schools kept trying to flip them from their commitment up until last week.
"It's kind of awkward," Cade Sanchez said. "You have to tell them that you made a decision and that you are sticking with it. You have to be confident in what you chose."
TimesDaily reporters Gregg Dewalt and Jeff McIntyre contributed to this report.