DALTON, Ga. — Jordon McKinney had almost given up his dream of playing college football.
Not that the Dalton High School defensive back didn't have offers. But the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder, who led the state of Georgia in combined interceptions his sophomore and junior seasons, had always dreamed of playing big-time college football.
McKinney was tempted by an opportunity to become a preferred walk-on at Alabama, but the out-of-state tuition made that offer difficult to accept.
However, there was another option, though it didn't involve football. The 4.0 student, who scored a 31 on his ACT, had decided to attend Georgia and concentrate on academics.
He will indeed be in Athens this fall, but his Saturdays won't be spent in the library. McKinney this week accepted an offer to be a preferred walk-on for new Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, meaning he will be a part of the 105-player roster and could earn a spot on the 85-player roster for game day.
"I'm really excited," McKinney said. "I was talking with (Football Championship Series and Southern Conference member) Mercer, and I was pretty much going to go there. But I've always wanted to play at a major school, even if it's just as a walk-on. Alabama had offered the same thing, but I didn't really want to go there. When the opportunity arose at Georgia, though, I couldn't pass it up."
The opportunity came when Dalton coach Matt Land was discussing possible Catamount recruits for the 2017 class with Georgia. Land mentioned that McKinney, the son of Dalton athletic director Jeff McKinney, had already been accepted into UGA. Land sent highlight video of McKinney to Athens, and the offer soon followed.
"It's awesome," McKinney said. "I can dress for home games, and my goal is to try and make the 85-man traveling team. I plan to work as hard as I can to make that team. I'm just really blessed to get the opportunity."
Setting big for Ramsey
Noah Ramsey makes no secret about his love for the outdoors.
In the end, it's what helped the Southeast Whitfield offensive lineman choose his next path in life.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound center, rated a three-star recruit by 247Sports.com, committed this week to play at Louisiana-Monroe. Going with his second choice, Georgia State, would have meant living in the big city of Atlanta.
"Noah's a big outdoorsman," Southeast coach Sean Gray said. "He went out there (to Louisiana) and loved the area. Georgia State came here five or six times to see him. He just didn't want to live in the city."
Ramsey's connection with ULM is former Georgia assistant coach Rob Sale, who recruited Ramsey before leaving when Mark Richt was let go as head coach after this past season. Soon after being hired at ULM, Sale renewed his efforts and reeled Ramsey in after the visit.
Gray said the Warhawks' plans for Ramsey, who also had offers from New Mexico and Austin Peay, are big.
"They already have him as a projected starter next year on their website," Gray said. "It's been a whirlwind for Noah, and there were some people still trying last night to get in the mix with him."
Calhoun signees 55-4
When asked to name some of the things that stand out about the eight seniors his program is sending to the next level, Calhoun coach Hal Lamb stated the obvious first.
"They obviously didn't lose many games," said Lamb, whose senior class went 55-4 with a state championship and two runner-up finishes. "It's a special group, and in addition to their talent, they are good people as well."
Headlining the group is a pair of Southeastern Conference signees — offensive lineman Jack DeFoor (Ole Miss) and tight end Landon Rice, who has already enrolled at Auburn. Yellow Jackets quarterback Kaelan Riley signed with Mercer and joins linebacker Jireh Wilson (Wofford) and offensive lineman Drew McEntyre (The Citadel) as SoCon signees.
Another offensive lineman, Austin Stout, is headed to Division II and Gulf South Conference program West Georgia, with defensive back Kolby Reynolds signing on with Mississippi College, which is in transition to become a full member of Division II and the GSC.
"I expect all of these kids to have a great chance to play and have great careers," Lamb said.
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.