Clayton County

BILL RENJE: Reflections on Signing Day show success of resolute Lovejoy squad

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Lovejoy QB John Seter, far left, earned a walk-on invite from UGA after just one season playing for the Wildcats. (Special Photo)

Lovejoy QB John Seter, far left, earned a walk-on invite from UGA after just one season playing for the Wildcats. (Special Photo)

By Bill Renje

LOVEJOY, Ga. — Lovejoy QB and now Georgia signee John Seter did something at 17-years-old that frankly I couldn’t have done at his age.

He moved 1,000 miles away from the comfort of everything he knew in Connecticut, to a completely and totally different cultural environment. There were questions coming in on how he would adapt, to his new surroundings, the Clayton County culture and Georgia high school football.

It’s one thing to say that he thrived on the field, but what I saw off the field was humbling, encouraging and awe inspiring. The love that I witnessed between him and his teammates —  how he accepted them and how they accepted him — was an example to all of us.

To quote his OC, Brandon Byram: “It’s how all of us should be” in how we interact, accept and love one another. I think for me the most heartwarming aspect, was watching the relationship develop between Seter and his star receiver Marquese Taylor, two kids who couldn’t be more opposite on paper, yet who love each other and have a relationship that’s as close as brothers. What a testament to Seter, Taylor, their families, the Lovejoy program, players and coaches.

“We wondered coming in how (Seter) would react to the environment here,” said Byram. “And he ended up excelling not only on the field, but off the field. He overcame some obstacles being so far away from where he grew up. But he came in and really worked hard. He was open-minded and brought a can-do attitude to what we were trying to do.”

Seter and Taylor highlighted an eight-player Signing Day for the Lovejoy football program last Wednesday. Seter (Georgia), Taylor (Cincinnati) joined teammates Tre’mond Shorts (East Tennessee State), Jayden Thomas (West Georgia), Brandon Blake (Lane College), Shahjahan White (Siskiyous Community College in California), Meshael Custis (Arizona Western JUCO) and Justin Fergerson (Troy).

Signing Day 2017 was the culmination of a season that first tested, and then strengthened, the Lovejoy football program.

“We started out the season with a lot of adversity and a 1-3 record,” Carson said. “But we pulled together a pretty good season (finishing 7-5 and in the Round of 16 in state playoffs). The kids stayed together and we keep fighting. A lot of them now have the opportunity to reach their goals to sign a national letter of intent to get a college scholarship. We try to make sure most of our kids are going to go to college, the military or technical school.” 

For his part, the highly sought after Taylor is happy the recruiting process is behind him. Fielding dozens of offers over the last 12 months, Taylor decided that he wanted to be a Cincinnati Bearcat.

“It feels like a relief to get this weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Taylor. “My mindset is good and I’m ready. I feel like I’ve been in college and thinking about college since my junior year. I’m ready to work hard and do whatever it takes to be successful.”

Another Lovejoy signee Tre’mond Shorts is seeing the fruits of his labor. Since not seeing much playing time the end of his junior year, Shorts dedicated himself and ended up being the heart of a dominant offensive line that paved the way for a rushing attack that averaged 170 rushing yards per game, in addition to giving Seter the time to put up 203 passing yards per game and 22 TDs.

“This is just a great feeling knowing that hard work pays off,” Shorts said. “I’m going to a school at East Tennessee State that I really like.”

Byram has noticed the growth with Shorts on and off the field.

“I’m excited to see how far his character takes him,” said Byram. “Anybody that knows Tre’mond knows that he has outstanding character. His people skills are off the charts. Everybody loves Tre’mond and going into college, and beyond, that’s going to go a long, long ways for him.”

Another senior leader for the Lovejoy program, Brandon Blake credits his coaches, his family and his faith. He already knows that he wants to major in architecture.

“This is a true blessing to be a part of signing day and take my talents to the next level,” Blake said. “My coaches pushed me and had me working hard in the offseason to get to this point. I want to thank God because he really blessed me with the talent to play football. And I’m thankful to my parents, family and everybody that helped me along the way.”

Signing Day is always exciting for the athletes and those in and around the program. I think for me, it was exciting to see the joy and excitement for the parents, coaches and the bond among the players that will last a lifetime.

“Six months ago, I thought I’d be playing hockey,” Seter said. “But we started improving throughout the first month. My level of play picked up and this ended up being one of the greatest experiences of my life. These guys are my brothers and they always will be.”

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