By James Butler
JONESBORO Ga. – Reinhardt College’s first-year assistant football coach Greg Blue knows this firsthand the kind of talent that resides on the south side of Atlanta.
The former NFL and Georgia Bulldogs safety played his high school ball at South Fulton County’s Banneker, just mere minutes from Clayton County.
“You definitely have to come to Clayton County and check these kids out,” Blue said. “There are a lot of athletes in this part of Georgia.”
Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III, NAIA, and junior college football coaches all descended on Mount Zion High School Thursday for the 9th Annual Southern Crescent/South Metro Football Recruiting Fair to do just that.
The Southern Crescent and South Metro, just like most of Georgia, are areas where an abundance of athletes can be found.
Blue is working in Georgia for the first time since leaving UGA in 2005. He played professionally in Minnesota and Detroit and has coached the last few years in Kentucky and West Virginia. He is looking to make an impact on Reinhardt — the Cherokee County NAIA school — by starting a pipeline to Metro Atlanta, particularly the South Metro side.
Thursday’s fair provided him the opportunity to get that process started.
“It’s too many good players down here not to have [some] up there, and hopefully we can get a couple of kids this year to help us win a national championship,” Blue said.
Add about 900 miles to the distance Blue traveled from Reinhardt to get to the fair, and that gives you the distance Wagner assistant coach Alvin Smith traveled to get to Jonesboro. That speaks volumes about how high school football talent in the area is viewed regionally and nationwide.
“I’m from Georgia originally which obviously gives me a little bit better idea of what Georgia football is,” Smith said. “Georgia has built a reputation throughout the country as having some of the finest football in the country.”
Smith, an East Point native, is also in his first year on the staff or the FCS Seahawks, who are located in Staten Island, New York. With his ties to the South Metro area, it was a natural conclusion of the Wagner staff to send Smith to the fair and to recruit Georgia.
“Just me having a connection with the area, it allows us to get back here,” Smith said. “It was kind of the idea of everybody within the staff. Like I said, everybody within football knows about the quality of Georgia athletes and the quality of football coaching – just the complete player that you can get from this region.”
Players who do not have high enough grades have the prep school option in addition to the junior college route.
One prep school that was in attendance was the Georgia Sports Academy. Former MLK head coach Michael Carson started the Georgia Sports Academy three years ago.
“Students use our platform and are able to come in and address issues with their core GPA or test scores,” Carson said. “We in turn have them there for one semester and then have them on a college campus the following January, hopefully on scholarship.”
Since it has started, the Academy has placed 104 of 110 student athletes on college campuses and is looking to place a class of 67 in colleges now.