By James Butler
ATLANTA Ga. – The 10 Jonesboro football players signing Letters of Intent on National Signing Day got a chance to experience the bright lights.
Jonesboro joined a plethora of other Metro Atlanta schools for the signing day event hosted by the College Football Hall of Fame. Television station Fox 5 and Sports Radio 680 The Fan were also on hand to talk to the signees.
Among the 10 Cardinals to sign were Zerrick Cooper (left), a longtime Clemson commit who was finally able to ink with the national runner-up Tigers, Cardinal defensive force Kali James (center) who signed with Tuskegee, and shutdown cornerback Jordan Griffin (right) who signed with Kentucky despite a litany of overtures from upper echelon SEC schools.
Cooper was happy to officially be a Clemson Tiger.
“It means a lot,” Cooper said. “I can just come back to school and relax and finish my senior year.”
The 6-foot-4, 207-pound signal caller will be entering a quarterback grouping that is home of the odds on favorite to win the 2016 Heisman Trophy, Deshaun Watson.
“I just look at it as my next step in my journey,” Cooper said. “Being that Deshaun Watson is a Heisman candidate, I just look forward to going in and learning from him and do what he’s doing, and hopefully we can get a national championship.”
James signed with Tuskegee after originally being committed to Campbell.
“It’s just a better fit for me at Tuskegee University,” James said. “I like the d-line coach, coach [Kevin] Powell, he was very consistent in the whole recruiting process. I still like Campbell a lot, but you can’t beat Tuskegee. It’s an hour and thirty minutes away and I’m just blessed that I have the opportunity to go to Tuskegee.”
The 5-foot-11, 275-pound defensive tackle help lead the Southern Crescent’s best defense from a season ago, as he accounted for 13 sacks.
“I was surrounded by a bunch of playmakers,” James said. “They just made a lot of plays. We always [forced] a lot of three-and-outs. We had a lot of seniors, so it was a lot of veterans on the defense. Everybody was just hungry and ready to get to the football. That’s what defense is all about.”
Jonesboro head coach Tim Floyd spoke highly of James.
“He was a tremendous help to the team,” Floyd said. “He anchored the middle of a pretty good defense.”
Griffin echoed a theme of many from the Class of 2016. He was very appreciative of his opportunity.
“Only one word can explain it — a blessing,” Griffin said. “It’s definitely a blessing to be here. You never take it for granted.”
Like James, he credited the entire Jonesboro defense for his success.
“I give all the credit to the guys around me,” Griffin said. “The defensive line they were incredible. My secondary was incredible, my linebackers were incredible, the coaching staff – without those guys I couldn’t see how I [would] have had a successful career.”
Griffin also was a leading receiver for the Cardinals’ offense.
“He was pretty much Mr. Everything,” Floyd said.
Now Griffin cannot wait to play in the SEC.
“Just being at the top level and seeing how I can make an impact,” Griffin said when asked what he’s looking forward to about playing in the best conference in America.
Another member of Jonesboro’s offense, Jeffrey Taylor, officially signed with Colorado State.
“I was considering Georgia Southern for a long time and then I made a hard decision [to go to] Colorado State,” the 6-foot-2, 293-pound center/guard said. “Later on in January East Carolina offered me. I sat down with the coaches, […] I knew in my heart Colorado State was where I wanted to be.”
Rams head coach Mike Bobo was actually recruiting Taylor while the former Georgia offensive coordinator was still employed with the Bulldogs.
“I was actually the first offer he sent out from Colorado State,” Taylor said.
Montralius Mosley (Reinhardt), William Wise (Point University), Terico Balkcom (Point University), Kendall Hillman (Point University), Kannon Banks (Middle Georgia State), and Justin Jackson (Middle Georgia State) also signed Wednesday.
Floyd said Mosley helped the Jonesboro offense stay balanced as he ran behind a line that featured Taylor and was a part of an offense that highlighted by Cooper’s arm. They, along with the defense, helped Jonesboro go 11-2 and make the Class AAAA State Quarterfinals.
Overall, Floyd is happy with what Jonesboro football has shown in 2015-16.
“I think it says we have the program going in the right direction,” he said. “It was a historic year on the field and it is a historic day signing.”