Ferguson to walk on at Georgia - Oconee Enterprise
For John Ferguson, it was an easy decision.
The Athens Academy senior was committed to play football at Furman, located in Greenville, South Carolina. Then, Ferguson received an offer that changed everything.
Ferguson was offered a preferred walk-on spot at Georgia. He would not be on a scholarship, like he would have been at Furman, but he would have an opportunity to potentially work his way onto the field and earn one.
That was enough to alter Ferguson’s plans.
“Being from Athens, I think it's hard to turn down an offer from Georgia, no matter how big or small,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson accepted the preferred walk-on offer from Georgia. In the process, he turned down the scholarship offer from Furman and offers from more than a dozen other programs.
It was a risky decision, and Ferguson said there was some hesitancy, but he also believes his upcoming tenure at Georgia will be valuable.
“I knew when I decided to go to Georgia that playing time and all of that was probably not very likely until my senior year,” Ferguson said. “But I think the experience and the people I'm gonna be around is gonna make it all worth it.”
Ferguson announced his decision to join the Bulldogs earlier this school year. However, last Wednesday marked the formal celebration of his signing.
He was honored during a signing ceremony held at Athens Academy last Wednesday morning. The occasion brought Ferguson together in celebration with family, friends and coaches.
The signing gave Ferguson a chance to breathe a sigh of relief after a lengthy recruiting process.
“It felt great,” Ferguson said. “It was a day where I felt like all the stress was gone. I knew where I'm going to college. It just felt really good.”
Ferguson always liked football but he did not always hope to continue playing once his days as a Spartan ended.
When he was a sophomore, Ferguson received advice from coaches that convinced him he had a future in the game.
“I didn't want to play (in college) until about sophomore year,” Ferguson said. “I had some coaches talk to me and say I'm good enough, I just need to work. From sophomore year, I started working pretty hard and, since then, I knew I wanted to play college football.”
All of Ferguson’s hard work culminated in the ceremony last week.
Ferguson said he was excited to sign all the necessary documents and solidify his future plans.
“I felt really relieved right then, just knowing I can focus on one school, I'm done with the recruitment process and I'm just happy to be able to say I'm going to Georgia,” Ferguson said.
As for his academic future, Ferguson said he wants to study either business or physical therapy or some other medical area.
When it comes to working with the Bulldogs, Ferguson said he wants to keep a proper perspective as he works to earn a chance to make his mark on the storied program.
“I can just never get down,” Ferguson said. “I know you're gonna go against five-stars, four-stars every day, so you've just got to keep going no matter what happens. Hopefully, I'll be able to play snaps sometime in my career.”
With the Spartans, Ferguson enjoyed high levels of success the last four years.
Led by head coach Joshua Alexander, the team was regularly among the best in the state and went on playoff runs every season.
Ferguson said that winning tradition, plus the fact the program has produced other talented players such as Deion Colzie and Hugh Laughlin, makes him feel good about the career he will soon leave behind and about the Athens Academy football program in general.
“Over four years, I only lost five games. I don't think many people can say that,” Ferguson said. “Deion is going to Notre Dame, Hugh is going to Virginia. The year before me, we had four or five players go play D-I, so I'd say Coach Alexander has done a great job of producing players and getting people to love the game of football.”
Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens.com 2020 All-Area Football Team
An abnormal football season proceeded as normal, as much as possible, and Athens-area football teams reached the finish line with a state champion (Prince Avenue Christian) and a pair of runners-up (Jefferson and Oconee County).
Some of the country's top talent resides in the area, including UGA football early enrollee Brock Vandagriff, five-star 2022 recruit Malaki Starks and many more that will likely play college football.
All-state awards pour in for area football players - Oconee Enterprise
The 2020 football season was an historic one throughout Oconee County, and it resulted in numerous area players hauling in state and nationwide postseason awards.
Brock Vandagriff was the headliner of the group.
The now-former Prince Avenue Christian School quarterback was named “Mr. Georgia” by the Touchdown Club of Atlanta.
Vandagriff was later recognized as the national high school quarterback of the year by the National Quarterback Club. That honor previously went to players such as Tim Couch, Vince Young and Tim Tebow, among other notable names.
In addition to those awards, Vandagriff was named to the first team all-state offense by MaxPreps.com and he received the offensive player of the year award from Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Vandagriff was designated the all-classification player of the year by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Georgia High School Football Daily – meaning he was considered the best player in all of Georgia high school football.
MaxPreps also recognized Oconee County’s Jake Johnson on its first team offense. Athens Academy’s Deion Colzie was named to the second team offense.
Colzie also received a spot on GPB’s all-state team.
The AJC/GHSF Daily awards rolled out the red carpet for players in the area.
North Oconee’s Bubba Chandler and Eli Warrington had spots on the Class AAAA honorable mentions list.
Oconee County’s Carsen Stocklinski, West Weeks and Jake Johnson were named to the Class AAA all-state team, while fellow Warriors Justin Coleman and Whit Weeks received honorable mentions.
Athens Academy players John Ferguson and Hugh Laughlin made the Class A-Private all-state team while Colzie earned an honorable mention.
From Prince Avenue, Brock Vandagriff was named the Class A-Private offensive player of the year and Davis Ridings won the defensive player of the year award. Wolverines head coach Greg Vandagriff won the coach of the year.
Logan Johnson made the all-state team and Landon Owens, Zac Dyer, B.J. Green and Chas Scoggins were all listed as honorable mentions.
Family of Notre Dame football signee Deion Colzie launches website with eyes on likely NCAA rule change - ABH
For Yolanda and Frank Jackson and their son, Athens Academy senior and Notre Dame football signee Deion Colzie, proactive and protective thinking has often prevailed.
The family announced Wednesday the launch of Colzie’s website. For seven months Yolanda has worked with a brand building company to create a logo, which is still pending trademark approval, and the website.
The Jacksons have followed the changing climate of college athletics and kept their mindset geared for the future.
A potential tweak to NCAA rules to allow student-athletes to be paid for their image and likeness, long discussed and introduced in 2020, is expected to pass sooner than later.
That announcement, coupled with the growing following of Colzie due to his recruitment, began the website's process.
“There are so many people out there that like to take advantage of kids by using their names and their likeness and the kids aren’t aware of it,” Yolanda said. “We thought that we should do what we needed to do to protect his name and his brand. Even if it were possible to be able to profit for their name and likeness, we have always thought about making sure that his name and brand were protected.”
The Jacksons discovered that Colzie’s domain name had already been purchased. Researching further, Yolanda found there were other young athlete’s domain purchased, too.
“These people will do that and when you try and go set up a website, they will come back and try to sell you the domain name for ridiculous prices, which of course is against the law, according to our attorney,” Yolanda said.
“If you don’t do your due diligence and find out things, just think about if we didn’t know that up front and we would have tried to figure out how to get the domain name from there,” Yolanda said. “Who knows what would have happened? You could end up being out of thousands of dollars just because you don’t know. Fortunately, for us, we found out that the dot-com was gone, but there are others we can use.”
Colzie entrusted the site to his family. Yolanda found it important that the family keep creative control so that Colzie can decide later where to take his brand.
They also decided to showcase Colzie’s lineage and the family's notable athletic background. Colzie is a relative of Neal Colzie, a former NFL and Ohio State star.
“Whatever direction he wants to move in with that, the platform is already there,” Yolanda said. “As opposed to waiting until he knows if he’s going to the NFL or not, why not do it now? As he moves and progresses throughout his career, all he has to do is just add those elements as opposed to having to start from scratch.”
While they initially had their son in mind, Yolanda and Frank aim to be a source of information for anyone with prospective future college and NFL athletes.
“We want to get the information out to parents, because in today’s world this is the type, unfortunately, the kind of thing you have to do to protect your children,” Yolanda said. “There are so many people out here that have bad intentions and all they want to do is profit off your kids… This was a lot about protecting Deion (Colzie) but it was also about maybe us using this to start that conversation.”
Hugh Laughlin had plenty of college football offers to choose from but, in the end, one program stole his attention.
The Athens Academy senior chose to join the Virginia football team. Laughlin made that decision official when he formally signed with the Cavaliers, informally known as the Wahoos/’Hoos, during a signing ceremony held Dec. 16 at Athens Academy.
“It's nice to get out here and make it official,” Laughlin said after signing the required forms to accept the scholarship offer months after originally committing to Virginia.
Laughlin was recognized by Athens Academy as part of a large ceremony that also honored a handful of other college athletic signees.
His head coach, Josh Alexander, momentarily addressed the crowd just before Laughlin put pen to paper. Alexander told those gathered in the Sinkwich Spartan Center that what impresses him about Laughlin is his on-field abilities and off-field demeanor.
“It's just been a real honor to coach him for four years and watch him grow,” Alexander said. “Not only is he a great football player but he's growing into a great man. Congratulations, this is well deserved.”
For Laughlin, the signing ceremony was a major milestone. He said he’s dreamt of being a college football player for many years.
By joining Virginia, Laughlin gets the chance to achieve that dream.
“I've always wanted to do it,” Laughlin said. “I guess it's always sort of been a goal of mine ever since I was a little kid playing youth football.”
Laughlin’s college football aspirations began taking shape when he entered the high school ranks.
Looking back on his time with the Spartans, Laughlin said there were days where he would not have expected to get a scholarship offer.
“It just feels really good,” Laughlin said. “It's crazy. If I could go back four years, I wouldn't expect myself to be here, but I am. I'm just thankful for it.”
As a talented and versatile player who can contribute on either side of the field, Laughlin drew attention from some of the top programs in the country.
Laughlin received nearly 30 scholarship offers. Virginia seemed to offer him the total package, which is what convinced Laughlin to pick Virginia.
“Their coaching staff and the way they carry themselves (separated Virginia from the others),” Laughlin said. “It just seemed like it would be the best fit for me, along with the academic side of it.”
Laughlin said he will likely study business when he begins classes.
As for his on-field goals, Laughlin said he wants to help Virginia take down Clemson, which has owned the ACC since 2015.
“I want to win an ACC championship,” Laughlin said. “I want to knock off Clemson because Clemson's the big dog in the ACC. I've been talking with the recruits in my class and that's what we want to do.”
Laughlin and the other Spartan seniors saw their careers at Athens Academy come to a close this year.
Together, they helped the program achieve high levels of success and win a lot of games.
That makes Laughlin proud about the legacy he and the other seniors are leaving behind.
“I feel really good about it,” he said. “It's just good memories now but we were a very strong team. I'm very thankful for my memories with those guys.”
Athens Academy annually fields a competitive football team which typically advances to the state playoffs. The program focuses on individual skill development within a team environment. An emphasis is placed on team building through cooperation, discipline, and personal growth. A knowledgeable coaching staff provides athletes with a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental and schematic components of football.