High School Sports

‘It’s all joy.’ East Central players make it official on National Signing Day

Tony Brown stood off to the side after signing Wednesday with South Alabama. Now that he was no longer in front of family and fans, the star running back began to show a little emotion.

“I started getting glassy eyed, but I held them in,” Brown said. “It’s all joy and it’s just a great feeling to sign that paper, knowing I’m going to South Alabama next year.”

Brown was one of five East Central High School football players who signed letters of intent following a Class 4A South State championship season. Offensive lineman Wyatt Green also signed with South Alabama and Brad Cumbest made it official with Mississippi State back in December.

Safety Andrew Seward and quarterback Rylee Brown both inked with Pearl River Community College.

Seth Smith managed to keep his emotions in check, but there was no denying that Wednesday was a big day for him and the entire high school.

“I’m a crier obviously, just joyful,” Smith said. “You’re watching kids come into this program four years ago when it was still really, really low. To see them get a chance to enhance their playing career and enhance their education is extremely rewarding.”

Brown became one of the biggest high school football stars to come out of South Mississippi in recent years after putting up gaudy numbers over his junior and senior campaigns. The 5-foot-9, 187-pounder was named the 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year for Mississippi and the Sun Herald Player of the Year. He finished the year with 2,748 yards and 47 rushing touchdowns.

Brown didn’t pick up a USA offer until Sunday, when new South Alabama head coach Steve Campbell gave him the good news on an official visit to the Mobile campus. Just six days prior to that, Green received his USA offer.

Both players committed to USA on the spot.

“There will be no bigger (South Alabama) fan base than Hurley right now,” Smith said. “Hopefully, with Coach Campbell and Coach (Chad) Huff we can start feeding them kids.”

With his future already determined, Cumbest was part of the cheering section for Green and Brown.

“It was a relief,” the 6-foot-6 tight end said. “I was trying to get Tony and Wyatt offers. I just wanted them to go somewhere, man. I’ve been cheering them on since the start.”

Brown also expects a large contingent of folks from Hurley to make the trip to Mobile for games.

“I’m expecting season tickets and everything,” he said.

Green had long hoped for a South Alabama offer and Wednesday’s occasion was a big moment for the 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman.

“It means everything,” Green said. “It’s close to home and I’ve been to 15 Division I schools and South Alabama was my favorite. The campus was nice, everything.”