Years of 6 a.m. workouts, hours of back-breaking lifting sessions, years of games from touch football all the way to the high school state championship.
All of it leads to the stroke of a pen; a motion that takes just seconds to complete, but will change the lives of these athletes forever.
Welcome to the beginning of the Early Signing Period for college football, where football players all across our viewing area made their college choices official.
BENEDICTINE: QB HOLDEN GERINER (Auburn)
Less than a week after leading the Cadets to their first state title since 2016, quarterback Holden Geriner made his commitment to the Auburn Tigers surrounded by friends and family.
Even though Geriner knew his college destination since last February, it didn’t make the day any less special.
“I mean, it’s really special; it’s kind of surreal,” Geriner said. “I grew up watching these guys sign on TV and everything like that so being able to have my name in there myself is really cool. I can’t do it without my teammates. They make my job so much easier, but more importantly we all have fun together so I wouldn’t want to trade the past four years for anything.”
Geriner especially would not trade his performance in the Class 4A championship game for anything; he threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns in Benedictine’s 35-28 win over Carver Columbus.
He finished the season with a school-record 3,377 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
Geriner will graduate Benedictine in December and report to Auburn on Jan. 9.
“I really fell in love with Auburn,” Geriner said. “Not only just the coaches, but I really fell in love with the place and the university as a whole. That’s really why I stuck with Auburn. I really trust Coach Harsin and the entire staff and what they’re doing so that’s why I stuck with Auburn. I’m really excited about our future there.”
COUNTRY DAY: QB BARRY KLEINPETER (New Hampshire), WR KENNY ODOM (Austin Peay)
Committing to college is a special moment for any high school football player, but it’s made just a little more meaningful when you can do it with your best friend.
That’s what both Barry Kleinpeter and Kenny Odom got to do on Wednesday afternoon. The quarterback-wide receiver duo that gave opposing defenses nightmares signed their letters side-by-side.
“We’re very close,” Odom said. “Playing with each other for five years and building that relationship on and off the field is just a great thing.”
“It means everything,” Kleinpeter said. “Me and Kenny have been talking about playing college football since we started, probably eighth grade, so to be able to share this moment with him means a lot.”
For Odom, the day was a silver lining after an injury-marred senior season. Odom played just two games before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery right before the Hornets’ home game against Metter.
The shoulder is healing well, per Odom, and he’s thankful that he gets the chance to prove it at the next level.
“It’s just a dream come true really, as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to play football at the next level so it’s just a special moment for me and my family today.”
ISLANDS: WR/CB LANGSTON LEWIS (Central Michigan)
Langston Lewis was a two-way terror for the Islands Sharks, racking up 41 career receptions for 461 yards and seven touchdowns while also hauling in six career interceptions.
He’ll be playing just one way for the Central Michigan Chippewas, though. The future MAC wide receiver took the time to thank both his older brother and the players he competed against for helping him grow.
“It’s a good feeling being in this position right now, having my brother sign last year gave me motivation to push even harder,” Lewis said. “We’ve got dogs everywhere at every school in Savannah. So it’s a good feeling being one of those top dogs and getting recognized.”
JENKINS: DT JACQUEZ WILLIAMS (South Florida)
Jenkins’ Jacquez Williams is no stranger to success.
After all, he played alongside Division I talent on two Jenkins Warriors teams that made it to at least the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs.
Williams credits former Jenkins players like Hawaii wide receiver Calvin Turner for showing him the path forward as he made his commitment to South Florida official.
“It helped me a lot; it showed me the ins and outs and to be the player that he is right now in Division I, it showed me the ropes. I feel a lot of happiness; just real fired up to get down there and pursue my dreams.”
When he arrives in Tampa Bay, Williams will play under the supervision of defensive line coach Da’Quan Bowers, a former NFL player and Clemson graduate.
HILTON HEAD: LB JAYLEN SNEED (Notre Dame)
From the start, the Class of 2022 in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry had one alpha dog. Only one player made Rivals’ list of the top 50 players in the nation. Only one player made the Under Armor All-American Game.
That man is Hilton Head linebacker Jaylen Sneed.
Sneed made his verbal commitment to Notre Dame from July official in a ceremony at Hilton Head Island High School.
“It’s really shocking, it gives you chills down your back,” said Sneed of the in-person experience at Notre Dame. “If you’ve never been in person, you have to go see it some day. I’ve been out there about four times.”
Sneed will graduate Hilton Head early and report to Notre Dame on Jan. 8.
Although its been a long journey for the star linebacker, Sneed said that he knew early on that he was destined for great things.
“One of my coaches told me I would be special one day. (Head coach) B.J. Payne told me maybe on the fifth week of practice, he called me into a meeting in his office freshman year and told me you’re going to be special one day.”
SOUTHEAST BULLOCH: WR TYLER GRIFFIN (Central Florida)
Tyler Griffin of Southeast Bulloch dominated as a wide receiver and running back for the Yellow Jackets, accumulating 1,191 yards from scrimmage his senior year to go with 14 touchdowns.
He helped guide Southeast Bulloch to a 10-2 overall record and their first playoff win since 1973.
BULLOCH ACADEMY: RB RODNEY HILL (Florida State)
Rodney Hill, a three-star running back out of Bulloch Academy, signed his letter of intent to Florida State.
Hill suffered an injury that caused him to miss a significant chunk of his senior season, but is excited to suit up for the Seminoles.
BRUNSWICK: OL KANAYA CHARLTON (Florida State)
Joining Hill at Florida State is offensive lineman Kanaya Charlton from the Brunswick Pirates.
Charlton was a key presence up front for the Pirates, who went undefeated in the regular season en route to a region championship.
Charlton held offers from 14 other schools, per Rivals, including Alabama, Miami, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.
JEFF DAVIS: DE MIYON CONWAY (Liberty), CB C.J. PARKER (Kennesaw State), OL NATE LEWIS (Georgia Southern)
Jeff Davis had the most football players of any local school sign to college on the opening day of the early signing period.
Nate Lewis became one of the 20 players that comprised head coach Clay Helton’s inaugural recruiting class at Georgia Southern. He’s also the only one from the Coastal Empire among that group.