Gwinnett has 67 players ink on national signing day

Photo by Christine Troyke

Photo by Christine Troyke

For the last three years Joseph Champaign has been known to make big plays. The Grayson defensive lineman made his latest move right before National Signing Day.

Champaign decommitted from Navy and signed with Air Force on Wednesday, the first day football players can sign letter of intent to a college.

"I wasn't going to take a visit to Colorado Springs, but I talked to my coaches," Champaign said. "So, I just wanted to see what they had to offer. There are endless possibilities at any of the Academies. So, I went out and took a trip out there with my family and I clicked with the coaches. The facilities were awesome. I loved the campus. The coaches there were incredible -- down to earth, classy guys. First class acts."

Champaign was one of 67 Gwinnett County players to sign on Wednesday. The county had 22 players sign with Division I programs, including 15 to BCS schools.

The total number of signees in the second most ever for the county, which eclipsed last year's mark of 64. Gwinnett had a record-setting 76 players sign in 2008.

Norcross had two players sign with ACC and SEC schools. Adrian Hubbard chose Alabama and Max Garcia signed with Maryland.

"It's exciting, (my friends and family) have been with me the whole time," Hubbard said. "It's like the final part of my high school career and now I'm going off to the next chapter in college."

Of the 21 football playing schools in Gwinnett County, 18 had at least one player sign on Wednesday. Peachtree Ridge led way with 12 players signing, followed by Buford and North Gwinnett with nine each. Even first-year program Mountain View had a player sign.

"It's an unbelievable feeling. It's one of those things that doesn't hit you until you're up there on that stage and everybody's out there supporting you," Garcia said. "It was real emotional. I'm just so happy God gave me that opportunity."

This year's signing class from Gwinnett is spread across different levels of football. From SEC and ACC programs to in-state schools to private schools and junior colleges.

Three players chose the service academy route. In addition to Champaign signing with Air Force, so did Shiloh's Eugene Glenn and Peachtree Ridge's Willie Udofia.

"The after life (is what appealed to me about Air Force), and I just liked the program and the academics," Udofia said.

Gwinnett County has been generous to the Falcons over the years. Since 2002, 16 players have signed with Air Force, including the three on Wednesday. The value of an Air Force education has been estimated at $400,000 and the Falcons have played in the Armed Forces Bowl the last three seasons.

"When people say (the dollar value) of it, it's cool to think about," Udofia said. It's pretty overwhelming really."

While Air Force came in and swooped Champaign from Navy, the opposite almost happened to Glenn. The Shiloh running back was committed to Air Force, but took a visit to Navy two weeks ago. The Midshipmen made several visits to Georgia to see Glenn, but he confirmed his commitment to Air Force when he visited Colorado Springs the following weekend.

Glenn originally planned to be a dentist, but now has decided to major in aviation.

"I want to fly that new F-35," Glenn said. "I'm gonna do a fly over one day before the (Shiloh) game. "

-- Will Hammock and David Friedlander contributed to this story.