MOULTRIE – There were no surprises, no flipping or flopping. Those who made their commitments stuck to it, and four members of the Colquitt County High senior football class are set and ready to step into the world of Division I college football.
On Wednesday, the first day of the brief early signing period for college letters of intent, the high school held a ceremony for the four Packers, but only two were able to be in attendance. For family reasons, Camari Louis was absent, but head coach Rush Propst said the safety took care of his paperwork early in the morning to be a part of the Kennesaw State Owls. Linebacker Rashard Revels was at home recovering from an operation earlier in the week, but Propst said he too planned to get his name on papers Wednesday to play for the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Also fulfilling a commitment made to UAB, which just completed an 11-win season with Tuesday’s win over Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl, is center Will Rykard. Linebacker Marcus Anderson, one of the more active leaders in any aspect at Colquitt High, is taking his talents and tenacity to Georgia State University.
“I think they all made the right decision,” said Propst. “These two guys in my opinion were the cornerstone of our program.
“Marcus Anderson had the toughest decision. Georgia State is right up the road. It’s a very good university. And you have West Point that’s asking for his services. Marcus has done a remarkable job in the classroom. When you have the ability to go to one of our (military) academies and you’ve done that well in the classroom, it speaks volumes for the person, player and our school system.
“Being the center on our football team is probably the toughest job of any position. All the protection calls, all the run counts, all the identifications, all the things we do in our offense. Not only does (Rykard) have to be physical, but he has to think on his feet. Going to UAB is a good place for him and Revels. I’ve watched that program through its inception, when it was Division III football. I watched it grow. I watched the bitter battle between the University of Alabama and (UAB). I watched it get personal to the point where the president and board of trustees shut (the program) down. Two years later they come back and win a record 11 (and the Conference USA championship). They just broke ground on a $50 million football facility. It doesn’t look the same when I go over there now.”
Propst also goes back with UAB head coach Bill Clark, whose father was Propst’s high school coach. Propst said he and Clark grew up together and was the first assistant he hired in 1989.
Somehow, someway, Rykard battled through injury after injury just in the last two seasons alone to be on the field as the starting center when Colquitt County played for the 2018 state championship. Injuries cost him a handful of games as a junior and senior, but when he’s at any kind of speed to play, the Packers are running the football with great results. The offense had 2,869 yards plus 44 touchdowns on the ground to go with 2,671 passing yards and 26 touchdowns in 15 games.
“It’s part of it, playing offensive line in the middle,” said Rykard, who was Propst’s starter at center as a sophomore in 2016. “You are going to get banged up. You have great coaches and a great training staff to help you get through it. You just have the will to win to get you through it.”
What stands out as the worst problem Rykard had to deal with happened in the Lowndes game in early November. He said he messed one of his ankles up pretty bad. “It just wouldn’t leave me alone.”
But, as Rykard said, he had the will to win and just play the game in the trenches.
“That’s real football,” he said. “Out there running around, that’s not football. Getting hit every time, that’s football.
“I’ve put on close to 60 pounds since being in this program. My technique is all a credit to coach (Joey) Bennett. He gets everybody ready to play. There’s nobody better in the business. He makes sure your mindset’s right. Without him, I don’t know where I’d be. (And) the great weight program, putting on the muscle getting stronger.”
But his touchdown reaction, that’s something he came up with all himself, probably spontaneously. That touchdown total is 70, so fans saw it quite a bit, especially during the playoffs on Tom White Field. He said he actually did it last year also, but it became more prominent this year with all the scoring. He said it was just a product of excitement.
“Whenever you drive it down somebody’s throat and put it in (the end zone), you get excited,” said Rykard. He wants to show it off to the fans of UAB.
“They just have a great thing going, and it felt like home over there,” said Rykard about joining the Blazers. “It felt like Colquitt County on the college level. I’m going to be a true center. I have the potential to come in and get playing time. They might red-shirt me. You never know how that’s going to go.”
In school, Rykard said he’s leaning towards studying business and/or finance. He said his best classes in school are math and science, plus he’s the outdoors type going hunting and fishing.
Now Anderson has a different kind of career goal, one he hopefully won’t help boost the business of himself on the football field. He wishes to one day be a funeral home director.
In seriousness, Anderson took something negative from his home situation and used it to push himself in the other direction. It has led him to not only a stellar high school football career, but the chance to play for the Georgia State Panthers.
“Life is not all about football,” he said. “At some time football is going to come to an end. So you have to be a great leader. That’s the only way you can get people to understand and follow you. I come to school with a smile on my face every day and try to be there for people.”
Anderson is a part of Peer Leadership at Colquitt High that sponsors several activities for the student body.
“It came from when my daddy got locked up a few years ago with a drug charge,” said Anderson. “I just want to be different. It gave me the drive and motivation to change my life.”
As a Packer linebacker, Anderson had 106 tackles, 28 TFL and nine quarterback sacks as a senior. He got into the end zone on a fumble recovery as a junior vs. Valdosta. He will always remember being a part of two teams that made the state championship final.
“It was great being a Packer,” he said. “I’m going to miss it.
“Before coach (Jeff) Kent came, and before I started playing for coach Propst, I wasn’t all that great with my hands. I wasn’t physical. But they changed my game a lot. (Now) knowing the play that’s coming I can react real fast. When I get there, my hands are violent.
“I chose Georgia State because it felt like home. I have a lot of family in Atlanta. I can always come home if I need to. Georgia State stood out because I went to visit and they talked about the academic aspect. It’s the No. 1 school in Georgia for academics. I’m big on academics. I love football, but the NFL’s not for everybody. You have to get a good degree.”
So to open his own funeral home, Anderson will pursue his degree in business management.