VALDOSTA –– The Valdosta Wildcats sent eight players to the next level Wednesday morning.
Seniors Javonte Sherman, Aalah Brown, Jaylin Alderman, Josh Hill, Chris McClain, Maxwell Cherelus, Ja'Quez White and Quavion Williams each signed letters of intent on National Signing Day.
After committing to East Carolina last June, Sherman passed on the Pirates in favor of Middle Tennessee State University on Wednesday.
Sherman was a First Team All-Region 1-6A performer in 2020. After leading the team in catches, yards and touchdowns as a junior, Sherman caught 30 passes for 587 yards and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with six. A tall and lanky receiver, Sherman thrived with his speed as he averaged 19.6 yards per catch this past season.
Sherman spoke about his decommittment from East Carolina and the decision to sign with MTSU, as well as what the 'Cats were able to accomplish this past season.
"That was the biggest decision of my life," Sherman said. "It came down to the last little bit and the last little (details) and I just made my decision and stuck with it. Overall, I just had a better feeling about the situation.
"Me, as a senior leader of the team, I feel like it was a pretty good year for us. With a whole new coaching staff coming in first year and then making it to the semifinal round, we did pretty good. I feel like we could've been better, of course, but I feel like as a leader, me and these other seven seniors that signed today, we did our jobs."
An impact player at receiver for the 'Cats, Brown was also a First Team All-Region 1-6A selection in 2020.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound three-star prospect signed with Jackson State University, a program that's gaining national buzz after the hiring of Pro Football Hall of Famer and Dallas Cowboys great Deion Sanders as head coach.
Brown expressed excitement about the opportunity to play for "Coach Prime" at the next level.
"Deion is the GOAT at football, so being able to play for somebody like that, I know he's going to push me to get me better and give me a lot of opportunities there," Brown said.
After playing his first two years at Valdosta, Brown transferred to Valwood for his junior season before coming back to Valdosta to play his senior season.
As a senior, Brown caught 33 balls for 494 yards and also finished tied for the lead in touchdowns with six.
Brown credits his junior year at Valwood as the team's unquestioned best player as a turning point for his career and the place where he learned to be a leader.
"When I went to Valwood –– not to be cocky, but I was the best player there so I had to step up and be a leader and be vocal and know I have to finish first every time," Brown said of his time at Valwood. "I knew I had to be a good example because I had teammates looking up to me. I think that boosted my game and made me into a leader.
"(This past year) we started two months before the season started, so we needed leaders bad. I had to step up and that's what I did and helped us get to the semifinals."
The quarterback of a dominant 'Cats defense, linebacker Jaylin Alderman honored his commitment by signing with the University of Louisville.
"It means a lot to me," Alderman said. "I've always wanted the opportunity to play in college. I feel like (signing with Louisville) was a big stepping stone for me and something I always wanted to do."
Alderman was one of seven Valdosta defensive players to earn All-Region honors as he made the Second Team in Region 1-6A.
The proverbial head of the snake for a much-improved Valdosta defense as a junior. Alderman and the Valdosta defense held opponents to 19.7 points per game and allowed just nine rushing touchdowns all season. In 2020, Valdosta's defense was even more stingy –– allowing 18.7 points per game and pitched two shutouts on the year.
"It was great being a leader on this team because it's not always about myself," Alderman said. "I always tried to put my teammates before me and put them in the best position to make plays too. I feel like it was a team thing more than anything.
"I'll miss Friday nights. Friday night are always something I've enjoyed. Even when I wasn't in high school, being young, watching games on Friday nights was something I loved."
'Cats strong safety and Second Team All-Region selection Maxwell Cherelus signed with Reinhardt University in Waleska, Ga.
Offensive lineman and First Team All-Region selection Ja'Quez White is taking his talents to South Beach after signing a letter of intent with Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Fla. –– South Florida's only historically black college and university (HBCU).
Joining Alderman as a leader on the defensive side of the ball was defensive end Josh Hill. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound First Team All-Region selection elected to stay in state, signing with Albany State University while senior linebacker Quavion Williams signed with Erskine College in Due West, S.C.
Another standout flanking Alderman at the linebacker position, Second Team All-Region 1-6A selection Chris McClain will have an opportunity to compete against in-town powerhouse Valdosta State University in the Gulf South Conference –– signing with Shorter University.
For Valdosta head football coach Rush Propst, Wednesday's signing class gave him a total of 253 players he has helped earn a college scholarship in his career. In the last eight years, Propst has sent every senior starter to college except two.
The veteran head coach spoke about what Wednesday's signings mean to him and the football program following the ceremony.
"I just think the journey has been long and hard –– the hardest I've ever endured," Propst said. "For players, it's the hardest I've seen a team have to endure –– any team, not just Valdosta, but all schools. There were stoppages, there were cancellations, it was a long season late into the year. Getting here late, not meeting these kids until June 8, it was a whirlwind, but long.
"We did a lot and I'm awfully proud of them. I'm really proud of those eight kids –– really, it's nine because John Brown will sign –– these nine kids that will sign, I'm proud of them because nine of ten starters are all going to further their education and that's the mantra of what I've always believed in. That will continue here. If a player at Valdosta High School starts for us his senior year, he's going to play at some level and that's an assurance for some parents knowing their son can have an avenue and a vehicle to get their education paid for and further their education."