By Gabriel Stovall
TYRONE, Ga. — National Signing Day is just about one week away.
And while most of us are well acquainted with the whereabouts of Southern Crescent blue chippers like Zerrick Cooper, Chandler Reeves, Javon Jackson and Korey Banks, there are more than a handful of quality, capable athletes in the four-county area who can make an impact to the right school.
Sandy Creek’s D.J. Forte is one of them.
The senior nabbed multiple all-area and all-state honors after registering 40-plus solo stops, 7.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries for the Patriots who finished 2015 with a 9-3 record.
We had a chance to chat with the 6-foot-2, 260-pound senior as he looked back on his last year in high school.
SCBuzz: You came into the season hoping to challenge for another state championship and you and your team came up a little short. Had tough was it to end your career without getting a second title?
FORTE: “I would say it was very tough. I mean being that it was a big game, that was the type of environment you’d want to play in. Hard as we fought, hard as we played and as much as we wanted to win go to next round, someone had to win and someone had to lose didn’t do what we had to do to win.”
SCBuzz: What has your high school career given you that can help you wherever you may go on the next level?
FORTE: “I’d have to say character. I’ve been taught there to always have good character, even though you may lose, you still have to show good sportsmanship. You’ve got to always play the next play, play the next game and come back after adversity and never take a play off. That’s how you make sure you can make a big play.”
SCBuzz: Give us your most memorable play or highlight last season?
FORTE: “Oh man, it was at Woodward. Even though we lost that game, there was a play when they were on the goal line on the 1-yard line, and I made a big play on the QB sneak. There were some other plays before and after that one, but I still feel that’s one of my biggest plays.”
SCBuzz: Where do you think you’ll find yourself playing college ball next year?
FORTE: “Right now Ball State, Alabama A&M And U.T. Martin are my offers. Hopefully some college coaches will come back around after speaking with them. Hopefully I’ll pick up a few bigger offers before it’s all said and done. If I had a dream, it would be to stay in state and go to a place like Georgia Tech.”
SCBuzz: What is it about Georgia Tech that you like so much?
FORTE: “Well, like I said, I really like that it’s not that far away from home because I’d like to stay close to home. It’s a good program. A great program, really. I love everything about Georgia Tech. I’ve visited the campus and coaches, up lifting. Went to a camp and asked Coach Walker to reach out. So the hope was it would go past communication and get to the possibility of getting an offer, but we’ll see.”
SCBuzz: Earlier you talked about highlight of your season. Now give us the highlight of your high school career.
FORTE: “I would say, ninth grade when we won the state championship back in 2012. That’s the highlight. I was able to be a part of a championship team. That helped me to know what it takes and to see first hand the kind of effort and work you gotta put in to make something like that happen. I feel like it helped me to better know how to lead. I’ve seen leaders from that team and fellow teammates playing at the next level. That motivates me.
SCBuzz: Signing Day is just going to be another reminder that your high school playing days are done. How much are you going to miss playing with these guys at Sandy Creek?
FORTE: “It’s really, really hard. I’m still in shock. Javon Jackson, he’s my cousin, and I talk him almost every day about it. It’s still shocking that that last game was actually our last time playing against each other. But that’s just something that comes with it. I mean I tell my teammates every day, as well as my other brothers, just because we’re done playing here doesn’t mean we’re not close. Even after high school, and we go to different states I think we’ll always keep in contact.”
SCBuzz: Have you and Javon always played together?
FORTE: “Actually me and Javon been playing with each other since middle school, and of course high school but we used to play against each other when we were 7 or 8. Back then he played with a team called the Packers and I played with the Falcons. His team beat my team pretty good sometimes, so that started a little rivalry with us.”
SCBuzz: We know you’re going to play football at the next level, but what do you see yourself doing after your playing days are done?
FORTE: “Well, I’m going to major in business wherever I go. I’m really thinking about that, because I want to own my own businesses one day. Maybe something in sports management.”
SCBuzz: Finally, what are you most thankful for as this high school chapter of your football career comes to a close?
FORTE: “Honestly, I’m thankful for my family. My mom, my grandma. I lost my granddad to cancer back around Christmas of 2012, and he’s really my heart, even after losing him. And my sisters. Really just my family is what motivates me to do what I do.”
Take a look at Forte’s hudl.com highlight reel: