Liberty County High School Panthers Trier Bennett and Roderick Jones, and Long County Tide wide receiver Ricky Rivera penned their names to scholarships to play college football during Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
Defensive player Trier Bennett will take his tackling skills to Tuskegee University, joining the Golden Tigers of Alabama. They are a part of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"I’m a proud father," Aaron Bennett said. "My wife and I and the coaches put in a lot of work to make sure he is a successful young man for the institution as well as a successful young man in life."
The Panther senior defensive tackle had 64 tackles for the 2008-09 season. Fifty-two were solo tackles. Bennett was ranked among the top 100 defensive tackle leaders on MaxPreps.com.
"It felt so good," Bennett said about signing. "Words just can’t explain it."
In addition to football Bennett said he looks to continue his shot put career on the Golden Tigers track squad. Bennett said his goal was to do everything in his power to avoid being benched his redshirt season.
Running back Roderick Jones signed to play football at Shorter College in Rome. The Hawks football program is a part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
"It’s like a dream come true," Robert Jones, Roderick’s father, said. "You put a lot into trying to raise a teenage kid. This makes it all worth it."
"It feels great," Jones said. "We had a rough season, but I’m glad Shorter picked me up."
Jones rushed for 547 yards and 11 touchdowns and was ranked No. 29 in MaxPreps.com list of rushing leaders. Jones, known for his speed, will also run for the Hawks track team.
Jones will face former Panther full back Byron Calahan, who will start his sophomore year at Bethel College during the 2009-10 football season.
"One of the ultimate goals as a head coach is to try and get them through high school and get them into higher education," Panther football coach Kirk Warner said. "Aside from the physical side of football we try and keep up their mental side in the classroom. Football may come and go but the main thing is to get a college degree."
Long County High School athletic standout Ricky Rivera became the school’s first football player to receive a full scholarship for his grid iron accomplishments.
"It feels good to be the first Long County football player to get a full-ride scholarship," Rivera said.
Flanked by coaches, principals, and family, Rivera signed to play for Savannah State University in the fall. Rivera’s mother, Patricia Childress was also happy, especially about him signing with SSU.
"Oh God, you have no idea how proud I am; it’s such a blessing with him being close by where I can still check on him and participate with him," she said.
Rivera also had coaches Kyle Wilson and Deshon Brock on hand and both praised the senior. Brock, who coached Rivera at basketball, football and track said, "As an athlete he is a competitor. He always wants to win. He works hard, gives you his best effort and he is just an all-round great athlete. He’s almost like a son to me, he’ll do anything I ask, very respectful, great mom, great grandparents; I think the world of him."
Wilson, head football coach, said he expects great things for Rivera at SSU. "He’s a quality player, and I think he will do a great job in their program.
"Their offense is very similar to ours. The transition for Rick, regarding football, will be easy. He’ll have to adjust to the new level of football at the college level. But once he gets into their weight training, he could have a good shot at starting in his position."
As a senior, the 6’1’’ wide receiver had 71 catches for 1,134 yards. He had 21 touchdowns and clearly was the leader on the Blue Tide in 2008. He also made the 2-AA All Region Team as a junior and a senior.
Another athlete with local ties has also been recruited to play at a college.
Former Panther baseball standout Aaron Hoffer, currently in his senior year at South Effingham High School, Friday signed for a scholarship at Middle Georgia College.
Last year Hoffer was among the top 144 players in the nation selected for the Tournament of the Stars team and managed by USA Baseball.
At his signing Hoffer told reporters, "I’ve worked hard. My parents have worked. I feel I’ve made a really good choice."
Defensively Hoffer catches, but has played other positions and is best known for his bat.