Stephenson Head Coach Ron Gartrell (right) has helped over 200 athletes move on to the next level. Stephenson is second in the state in former players on current college football rosters. (Photo by Mark Brock)

Since 2003 1,514 DeKalb County football players have signed scholarships to move from the high school classroom to a college to continue their educations and football careers.

On average that equates to almost 101 DCSD football players moving on to programs at the junior college, NAIA, Division III, Division II, FCS (formerly Division 1-AA) and FBS (formerly Division 1A) levels over each of the last 15 years.

This is a show of the hard work by DeKalb football coaches, teachers, parents and the athletes themselves as they improve their playing skills and reach their academic goals that allow them to sign the dotted line with the school of their choice.

In this time of big productions by promotional groups and at the schools where the athletes put in their time many forget how much hard work in the classroom and on the practice field is needed to get players to their favorite college team.

Figures provided by the Georgia High School Football Historians Association to an article written by the Georgia High School Football Daily/AJC showed over 4,000 former Georgia high school football players were on rosters in the six levels of college participation.

Of that 4,000, DeKalb was shown to have 294 former students extending their educations at a higher level. All 19 DCSD football programs had at least one player on a college roster during the fall of 2017. The Top 5 current college football player producing schools in the county were led by Stephenson (52) followed by Tucker (35), Cedar Grove (31), Arabia Mountain (27) and Columbia (20).

Stephenson had been the state leader in players participating in college for several years and is currently second behind McEachern (56) while Tucker is ninth. Cedar Grove (tied for 15th) and Arabia Mountain (tied for 20th) gives the district four Top 20 teams in the state of Georgia. Columbia (tied for 48th), M.L. King (tied for 60th), Lithonia (tied for 70th), Lakeside (tied for 70th), Southwest DeKalb (tied for 77th) and Miller Grove (tied for 87th) are all in the top 100 schools in representatives on college campuses.

Total DCSD football signees by school since 2003.

The 2003 DeKalb signing class had just 60 athletes sign, but since that time the county has gone over 100 six times including a high of 147 in 2012. The lowest number of signees since 2003 was 84 in 2005.

The 15-year span of 2003 to 2017 also included 330 DeKalb athletes signing at the highest level of college competition in the FBS. Stephenson again led the way in this category with 77 (5/year) followed by Tucker (52), Martin Luther King Jr. (33) and Cedar Grove (30).

The FBS schools represented hail from 36 different states and represent 78 colleges and universities across the United States. Some players have gone as far away as Washington, Oregon and California as well as the Northeast including New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

The Midwest is represented by Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some of the Southern states include Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.

DCSD Military Academy signees by school since 2003.

Ten of the DCSD football programs have combined to send 21 players to the armed services academies of Air Force (8), Army (7) and Navy (6). Each of these players had to show a strong academic record along with the character it takes to be accepted to the fast track towards being an officer in one of the branches of the service.

Chamblee tops the list with five former players being accepted to one of these great institutions with three going to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and two joined the Cadets of Army at West Point. Arabia Mountain and Tucker sent three each to the service academies while Cedar Grove, Columbia and Martin Luther King Jr. had two each. Dunwoody, Lakeside, Lithonia and Southwest DeKalb had one representative each accepted to a service academy.

DCSD Ivy League signees by school since 2003.

Seven former DeKalb athletes signed with Ivy League schools during this 15-year run. Harvard (4), Dartmouth (1), Princeton (1) and Yale (1) are the schools represented. Tucker sent a pair to Harvard (2011, 2016) with Chamblee and Dunwoody each sending one to play for the Crimson. Avondale (Princeton, 2004), Cedar Grove (Yale, 2013) and Clarkston (Dartmouth, 2006) round out the Ivy Leaguers.

One key component is a free Football Video Recruiting Forum put on by the DCSD Athletics office each December as college coaches make the rounds. The 2017 forum had 71 coaches representing 45 colleges in 16 different states attend. The high school coaches sit with the college coaches to show highlights of the players and discuss their academic eligibility which is key to their recruitment.

Other athletes have attended such high academically recognized schools such as Bucknell, Colgate, Cornell, Georgia Tech, Hofstra, Holy Cross, Penn, Stanford and Vanderbilt.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the traditional National Signing Day for football and 15 DeKalb schools are holding signing day ceremonies. As many as 90 athletes are expected to make their final decisions with three electing to go to one of the service academies. Seven made their decisions back in December in the early signing period.

Tucker (17) and Stephenson (12) lead the way in expected signees.

1. Stephenson 52
2. Tucker 35
3. Cedar Grove 31
4. Arabia Mountain 27
5. Columbia 20
6. M.L. King Jr. 18
T7. Lakeside, Lithonia 16
9. SW DeKalb 15
10. Miller Grove 14
T11. Chamblee, Dunwoody 11
12. Druid Hills 8
T13. Stone Mountain, Towers 5
T15. McNair, Redan 4
T17. Clarkston, Cross Keys 1

Total: 294
Division II
Division III