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.”
Colzie achieves dream by signing with Notre Dame - Oconee Enterprise
Deion Colzie’s longtime dream came true last week.
Athens Academy’s star wide receiver officially signed to join the football team at Notre Dame on a scholarship. He was so excited to officially become part of the Fighting Irish that he faxed in his forms at 7 a.m. last Wednesday, Dec. 16, the first day that high school football players could sign scholarship offers.
Later that morning, Colzie was honored in a formal ceremony held inside Athens Academy’s Sinkwich Spartan Center.
“It felt amazing,” Colzie said on the big day. “Ever since I was young, I've always dreamed about signing to my dream college to pursue my dreams in football and academically as well. I just feel like it's a dream come true.”
Notre Dame, located near South Bend, Indiana, was Colzie’s dream school despite the fact it’s located far away from the Athens area.
That’s because, for Colzie, Notre Dame offers the complete package.
“The academics could speak for itself,” Colzie said. “It's a great, prestigious university. My parents have been Notre Dame fans their whole lives so I kind of grew up on Notre Dame. The football team is, of course, good. Not only the football team but the school itself and the brand and the type of education I can get and what a degree would mean from there, all of that ties in together to make that my dream school. To get the offer from them was pretty special.”
As a consensus four-star wide receiver, Colzie had his pick of numerous scholarship offers.
He committed to Notre Dame a while ago but de-committed for a brief period. During that time, Notre Dame maintained communication with Colzie.
The program’s level of dedication to Colzie is ultimately was swung him back to a commitment there and, last week, the official acceptance of Notre Dame’s scholarship offer.
“They've been communicating with me since my freshman year,” Colzie said. “Even when I de-committed once, they still were willing to restart communicating and so I really appreciated that.
It didn’t hurt that Notre Dame can offer Colzie a chance at regular marquee games to put himself on a national stage.
“They've got the contract with NBC, so they're on TV every Saturday and my family and friends can watch me play every Saturday,” Colzie said. “I'm really excited about that and just going out there and competing in front of the world and showing everyone what I've got.”
During the ceremony last week, Athens Academy athletic director Kevin Petroski told the crowd that Colzie will nearly live out a dream of his own. Petroski wished to play basketball at Notre Dame before, as he put it, “genetics eventually took over and that didn’t happen.”
“We're very honored to have him representing the University of Notre Dame and Athens Academy,” Petroski said. “This is something that many people dream of and he's going to get to fulfill that dream.”
Colzie’s head coach at Athens Academy, Josh Alexander, said he himself had dreamed of playing football for the Fighting Irish.
“It's been a great honor to coach Deion and watch him grow the last four years,” Alexander said. “Some of the cool things about Deion is he's not just him being a great football player but watching him mentor young players.”
Colzie said he is in the process of deciding what to study. He will likely pick either business management or marketing.
When he gets started working with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and his staff, though, Colzie knows exactly what he wants to accomplish on the field.
“I want to improve my speed and my agility,” Colzie said. “Me being a bigger guy, that's kind of a weakness for a lot of guys. I just feel like I need to work on my speed a little bit more and my ability to change directions. I feel like that will be very key when I get to college.”
Athens Academy is a perennial state playoff team that is no stranger to the Class A-Private state championship game.
Colzie said he was proud to be a piece of that winning tradition.
“I came here my freshman year and I saw plenty of people in front of me do the same thing,” he said. “I just feel like I made my statement here. It's definitely been a great four years.”
UGA football lands local star as preferred walk-on - ABH
Athens Academy senior offensive linemanJohn Fergusonwas all set for National Signing Day earlier this month. He intended to sign with Furman.
But he won’t be playing college football in Greenville, South Carolina. Instead, Ferguson will remain close to home after he announced a commitment to UGA Monday via his Twitter account.
There are a few things in life too good to pass up. Three days before he planned to make his commitment to Furman official, Ferguson received a preferred walk on offer from UGA.
He quickly pulled his name from the list of Athens Academy players signing on Dec. 16. He needed to wrestle with what was being offered.
UGA was his dream school. He wanted to play in Sanford Stadium. His father, uncles and multiple cousins have attended the university just a few minutes’ drive from his house.
In the end, the dream won out over the prospect of free school and immediate playing time.
“There’s no town I’ve found that I like more than Athens,” Ferguson said. “Being from Athens and being a Georgia fan my whole life, nothing is purer than being able to say I walked out on Sanford Stadium’s field in red and black.”
Watching his players get to follow their dreams motivates Ferguson’s high school coach Josh Alexander. Ferguson is the third player from this year’s team to sign with a Power Five school.
“That’s what you want to see your players do,” Alexander said. “It's not all about the school and playing college football. When it's their dream and it's what they want to do, that’s what you want them to do. John had multiple opportunities and he chose to do that. I think it’s a great decision and he’s going to do well. He’s a big kid that I think can stand a chance of playing one day.”
Ferguson had resources in making the decision from more than his fellow Division I signee teammatesDeion ColzieandHugh Laughlin.
Ferguson’s Athens Academy teammate,Kurt Knisely, spent the 2020 season as a preferred walk-on with the Bulldogs.
He also talked with his cousin, Ed Ferguson, when trying to decide which college path he wanted to follow.
Ed was a preferred walk-on at UGA after a solid career at Athens Academy. He spent the 2018 season with the Bulldogs.
“He just said you’ve got to go in there with a chip on your shoulder and try and be the best you can be and you don’t let anyone tell you different,” Ferguson said.
The experience isn’t the only expectation Ferguson has in joining the Bulldogs. He feels at some point he could help on the field.
He stands 6-foot-5 and weighs around 275 pounds. Ferguson wants to add size and aims for an opportunity to turn heads with one of the elite programs in college football. “I think it could be a really good change for me,” Ferguson said of the college weight room program. “If I can put on 30 more pounds of muscle, I’ll be able to compete with the best of the best on the team.”
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.