Signing day around the Midlands
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - National Signing Day is a day to celebrate tremendous student-athletes who shine in the classroom and the gridiron. Around the Midlands, many exceptional stars lived out a dream to sign to play on the next level.
Our first stop takes us to Hammond School, where running back Capers “CJ” Stokes provided insight on his drive to succeed on and off the field.
“The thousands of hours of hard work,” Stokes said. “I put in that 98% of people aren’t willing to do. I take it very seriously. Lots of people ask why you don’t smile more. Why do you always look mad? To tell you the truth, I am always mad. I’m always trying to look for a way to be better and get better. That comes with a lot of bad days because I hold myself accountable.”
Stokes shined throughout his career at Hammond. He finished his senior campaign with 1,439 yards rushing for 21 TDs, adding two more receiving touchdowns.
In front of family and friends, the Michigan signee became overwhelmed with emotion fulfilling a lifelong goal on Wednesday. It was a wonderful, emotional moment for Stokes, who cannot wait to play for the Wolverines under head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“I never got to sit down and take it all in,” explained Stokes. “I got emotional because I know how hard I’ve worked to make it to this position. There’s a lot of people that are gifted with size, gifted with natural ability. I have some of that, too. I feel it was my hard work that set me apart and got me to where I am at it today.”
Our next stop takes us to Gray Collegiate, where two War Eagles put pen to paper to transform into Georgia State Panthers. On Wednesday, running back KZ Adams and offensive lineman Alec Johnson signed with Georgia State.
“They believed in me first when nobody else believed in me,” said Adams. “My first offer. I go down there, and they love me. It feels really good.”
Both players love coach Shawn Elliott.
“He’s got that passion,” Adams said. “That’s what I like about him.”
This fall, Adams and Johnson guided the War Eagles to their first state football championship in program history. Johnson paved the way in the trenches, while Adams rushed for more than 3300 yards! Adams finished his career with the second-most rushing yards in South Carolina history.
Georgia State caught notice of Johnson at one of its summer camps. He left with an offer and never thought twice of signing elsewhere.
“They didn’t know me all that well,” said Johnson when he arrived at the camp back in June. “I balled out there and got on their radar. It’s been a family since then.”
The Gamecocks picked up help on both sides of the ball from Midlands standouts.
Irmo linebacker Nick Emmanwori was an early commitment to Carolina. He says the Gamecock coaching staff likes his versatility. He believes he could play safety, linebacker, or be used as a nickel back.
“When Nick came to our camp this past summer, he was so impressive,” Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer said. “The way he ran, tested, and everything. We offered him thinking he can be a lot of different things.”
Ultimately, playing close to home is a dream opportunity for Emmanwori.
“The home part was real,” said Emmanwori. “I did not want to go far away from my family. Staying home was my number one biggest thing.”
While Emmanwori was an early commit to the Gamecocks, Carolina recently flipped Chapin’s Zavier Short from Appalachian State. The Eagles wide receiver certainly had many supporters convincing Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer to deliver an offer.
“Every single Friday, around 11 pm, I would get a text message from the head coach of the team that just played Chapin,” Beamer said on Wednesday. “Telling me what an idiot I am that we have not offered Short.”
Beamer eventually came around after he opted to stop worrying about what position suits Short best on the next level. He knew Short had the skills to thrive in the Garnet and Black.
“This guy can help us win,” Beamer said. “He’s a competitor and a really good football player. He’s the kind of guy we want in this program. Four years from now, you’re going to look up and be glad we signed him.”
“When I committed to App State in the summer, I didn’t have the option to play for South Carolina,” Short said. “Once it came around, it was a dream come true.”
Dutch Fork wide receiver Antonio Williams fielded offers from multiple elite national programs, including two from the Palmetto State. Clemson won the recruiting battle for the ninth-best wideout listed nationally on ESPN’s recruiting rankings.
“It’s a blessing to be in this position to have all these options,” Williams said. “It was a hard decision. I think I made the right decision. The development of their receivers and how they always have receivers going to the league. They have those guys that get there.”
Silver Foxes head coach Tom Knotts called Williams the most dynamic player he’s ever coached. Williams finished his high school career with 137 catches for over 2,400 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns. He helped Dutch Fork capture three state championships, with the only loss of his high school career coming in the 2021 5A state title game.
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