Former Starkville High School and East Mississippi Community College football players D.J. Jordan, from left, Billy Shed, Jarrod Atterberry, Quez Johnson and Martavius Foster signed with four-year schools on Wednesday. (Photo submitted by EMCC)
Three of them made Colorado, Florida and Tennessee their destinations.
The other two are staying in Mississippi.
Five former members of the Starkville High School football team that signed with East Mississippi Community College two years ago now take the next step in their careers at four-year schools.
Quez Johnson, Billy Shed, D.J. Jordan, Jarrod Atterberry and Martavius Foster took part in a ceremony at SHS on Wednesday afternoon to make their commitment official.
Johnson inked with Florida Atlantic, while Foster joined Colorado State, Jordan signed with the University of Tennessee-Martin, Shed will attend Alcorn State and Atterberry is set to play at Mississippi Valley State.
"I'm very proud of them and the most important thing for them is to continue their education," SHS football coach Jamie Mitchell said. "It's more important than anything else. This sport gives them a chance to continue on. You get to go to school and do something you love on top of that."
Foster will be making the longest trip with Colorado State being located in Fort Collins, Colorado, but that's not an issue with him.
"I don't really mind traveling," Foster said. "I was a little skeptical at first, but once I got up there, saw everything and the direction the program was going with the new coaches, I liked the fit. They are building all new facilities and a new stadium is on deck."
He said the Rams want him to return to tight end and that's what he "looks forward to doing."
Foster joined EMCC after redshirting the 2011 season at Tennessee State University.
After his experience with the Lions season this year, Foster believes it has prepared him for what's next.
"I got to play against a lot of good players in JUCO and I'm sure I will see players like that again at the next level when I get to Colorado," Foster said. "Playing against good competition in junior college and having to push myself will help me in the future."
Johnson sat out the 2011 season at EMCC, while playing behind NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year and current Ole Miss starting signal caller Bo Wallace.
Even though Johnson played quarterback for the Lions for only one season, it was enough to give Florida Atlantic a look at what it wanted as a signal caller.
"They want me to come in and start three years so that's a plus," Johnson said. "I learned a lot from the previous year when I redshirted behind Bo. (This year) I wished we could have won the national championship, but I accomplished a lot. I worked a lot on my game and worked on being consistent. That's something I need to continue to work on."
Johnson finished the season for EMCC by completing 227-of-383 pass attempts for 2,846 yards and 27 touchdowns. He added 540 yards rushing on 121 carries and 12 more scores.
Among the list of accomplishments for Johnson last season were NJCAA All-America honorable mention, NJCAA All-Region 23, NJCAA Region 23 Offensive Back Most Valuable Player, MACJC All-North Division first team, MACJC North Division Offensive Back MVP and two-time NJCAA Offensive Player of the Week recipient.
Even though Jordan will be headed to Martin, Tenn., the surroundings when he took a visit made it seem like home.
"I have bonded with the coaches very well, especially my linebacker coach," Jordan said. "I've been talking to him a lot. That played a big part in my decision. As far as academics, they have what I'm looking for in biological science."
During last season for the Lions, Jordan was tied for second defensively with 52 total tackles. He had one tackle for loss, one sack, two quarterback hurries, and three passes broken up.
"I've worked hard to get to this point and I will continue to work hard," Jordan said. "I learned who I am while I was (at EMCC). I'm going to miss the coaches yelling at me. It was a great experience and I met a lot of friends down there that I bonded with. We had two great years. I'm ready to get on the Division I level."
Shed chose Alcorn State because of the type of offense it runs and the environment.
Being an in-state school was also a factor.
"Why not play close to home and get the education that you want," Shed said. "That will help you in the long run too."
Shed was a running back during his freshman season with the Lions, then moved to wide receiver this past season. He had 39 catches for 477 yards with five touchdowns and was chosen as a participant for the MACJC All-Star Football Classic.
Atterberry, who also played in the MACJC All-Star Classic, picked a school in the Southwestern Athletic Conference as well in Mississippi Valley State.
He was excited to be attending a school that's only an hour and 20 minutes away from Starkville.
"I like the school and there are nice surroundings," Atterberry said. "My family can come see me on Saturdays. I always wanted to play in the SWAC a little bit if I wasn't going to a big school."
The Delta Devil coaches have already indicated to Atterberry that he has an opportunity to start at center.
Since they are both attending SWAC schools, Shed knows he will see Atterberry on the field the next two years.
"We're going to see each other for sure, at least once a year," Shed said. "I'm going to look forward to that."
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