Valdosta Daily Times

February 6, 2014

Busy morning

Lowndes has seven players sign letters-of-intent

Derrick Davis
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — National Signing Day has become a holiday around the country, perhaps nowhere as much as south Georgia, as alumni, family, friends, and fans celebrate their local gridiron favorites' transition to the next stage of their careers.

Wednesday, at perennial Region 1-AAAAAA contender Lowndes High, seven players — Arvin Berry with Brevard College, Zack Copeland with Georgia Southern, Jerome Daniels with Valdosta State, Eric Hart with Shorter, Dante Robinson with VSU, Brandon Roberts with Purdue and Dyshon Sims with Georgia — signed their national letters-of-intent and their college destinations.

Berry, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound fullback signed to play at the North Carolina school after rushing for 348 yards and four touchdowns while splitting carries in Lowndes' backfield rotation. A run by Berry was almost never a bad call as the fullback only lost one yard all season.

Berry decided to continue his football career at the small liberal arts college because of the nurturing environment he felt.

 "It felt more like home to me," said Berry. "I really felt comfortable with the coaches and teammates."

While Berry was excited about the next page in his journey, he was also understandably melancholy about the end of his chapter at Lowndes.

"Oh, I'm going to miss it, I'm going to miss it here," said Berry. "These boys I've been playing with, everybody I signed with today, I've been playing with since about the age of six so they're like brothers to me.

"I'm just going to miss that and the family atmosphere here at Lowndes."

Copeland, a 6-2, 250-pound defensive lineman, decided to team up with another defensive tackle from Valdosta when he signed with the Eagles.

A monster season from Copeland culminated in a team-leading 22 tackles for a loss and 58 total tackles, second on the team only to Tre Jackson, who is already enrolled at Georgia Tech.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Valdosta High’s Darius Sapp signed with Georgia Southern as well. Copeland's breakthrough game came against Sapp's Wildcats in the Winnersville Classic on Oct. 11. Nine tackles, four for a loss, earned Copeland the game's MVP honors.

Daniels took over the responsibility as the Vikings primary ballcarrier and the 5-10, 195-pound halfback took the opportunity and ran with it to the tune of 541 yards, 10 touchdowns, and now to VSU.

With six former Vikings on the Blazers' roster and the addition of current teammate Robinson, Daniels is happy to have familiar faces in place to ease his transition into the college game.

"It's good to come back and play with some of my former teammates and have that friendship there still," said Daniels. "It makes it a lot easier transition."

A lot of words can be used to describe the 5-10, 160-pound defensive back Hart in his final season at Lowndes. Playmaker, ballhawk, motivator, all words that would describe Hart's five interceptions and six pass breakups, made even more impressive considering Hart returned those five interceptions a total of 131 yards and three scores.

Shorter University liked what they saw from the undersized corner and Hart is ready to keep going on his journey up in Rome.

"It seems like it went by fast," said Hart. "Started with ninth grade, I got moved over to varsity, but didn't really get any PT and then tenth grade year I started starting, now I'm here.

"I'm ready to take it on; whatever it takes to reach the top."

The 6-foot, 195-pound Robinson displayed nice versatility in his final season at Lowndes, playing linebacker and defensive end in the Vikings' front. Now he will take that ability to VSU’s “Black Swarm.”

"I stayed because it'll be easier for my family, less money they have to spend on me,” Robinson said. “Then, I can stay at home, I don't have to stay on campus, that's good money-wise.

"I'm kind of in shock and awe (about college football) so having a teammate coming with me is gonna help ease me."

Roberts meanwhile found what he was looking for in a college 827 miles away from home as the 6-1, 187-pound defensive back is headed to the Boilermakers.

Playing both sides of the ball as a senior, Roberts finished with 245 yards on the ground, 218 yards through the air at 43.6 yards per catch and five total touchdowns to go along with his four interceptions.

Roberts is confident in his ability and chose a school that would allow him the chance to compete for playing time sooner rather than later.

"It's a pretty big deal, they've got big time tradition here and I feel I can play early," said Roberts.

Despite a lack of offers from the perceived giants — Florida State showed interest but never extended an offer — at least one scout thinks Roberts has big time potential.

"I'm surprised (Roberts) didn't get as many looks, especially in the talent-rich southeast," said FoxSports writer Chris Emma from

"I love the kid's mindset; you could say he has a little Richard Sherman in him. I talked to him last night and he said, 'I'm going to be on the field day one and I'm going to be a shutdown corner.' I love that he has that mentality and the game to match it."

Emma's Sherman comparison extends to both corners' academic pursuits as well.

Sherman graduated from Stanford  with a communications degree; according to Roberts, Purdue's 14th-ranked veterinary school was one of the university's biggest selling points.

"I feel like I have a chance to get my education there," said Roberts. "I want to be a vet, and they have a great veterinarian program there so I think it'll be good."

Sims is no stranger to the spotlight, especially for a 6-5, 280-pound offensive tackle, after switching sides of one of the biggest rivalries in the nation.

Sims left VHS before this past season to anchor down the left side of Lowndes' offensive line. At the time, already a verbal commit to UGA, the move sparked some animosity.

Sims was back in the spotlight as the top-ranked offensive tackle in the state of Georgia headlined Lowndes' busy day.

"It means a lot, we had to put in a lot of hard work to get to this point," said Sims. "It's just a real big deal for me and my family. I'm very grateful and I just want to thank God for the opportunity."

Sims committed to UGA in July of 2013 at the Bulldogs' annual 'Dawg Night' training camp and the big man never wavered after spending hands on time with the coaching staff.

"Definitely just being able to bond with all the coaches as quickly as I did. When I went to camp down there I got a chance to experience some coaching from them," said Sims.

"I went down there and did a couple drills and I definitely know it's the place I want to play for the next four years."