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Shiloh's Weatherly values academics, then football

Staff Photo: John Bohn Shiloh linebacker Stephen Weatherly, is a Vanderbilt commitment.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Shiloh linebacker Stephen Weatherly, is a Vanderbilt commitment.

When the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal broke last year, Stephen Weatherly's reaction was just like everyone else.

"When I heard it I was shocked," said the Shiloh senior.

The only difference for Weatherly, then a student at APS' North Atlanta High School, is that it affected him personally. He was worried he would be negatively affected by the whole incident when he heard threats that the school system might lose its accreditation, so he wanted no part of it.

With that in mind, the standout linebacker/defensive end, who has committed to Vanderbilt, transferred to Shiloh before the school year ended.

"I didn't want that to happen to us. It was better to be safe than sorry," Weatherly said.

Academics have always played a key role in Weatherly's life. He grew up competing on the chess and math teams. He was also a member of a robotics team that competed in the world championships in St. Louis last year.

Weatherly's elementary school was near Georgia Tech, so he grew up wanting to be an engineer. His mother Carla made sure he put his school work before football.

"You can't get into a school unless you have good grades," Weatherly said. "For our household, you can't play unless you have good grades. I've got to keep those up so I can play."

Weatherly found that out the hard way.

When he was in middle school his history average was a 72, which was a low C. To his mother, that was considered failing. Weatherly wasn't allowed to go to football practice or play in that week's game. The following week he made sure he pulled the grade up to a B and was allowed to play again.

"You've got a kid that is very smart in the class room, which usually means he'll be smart on the football field," Shiloh head coach Brian Montgomery said.

Weatherly never missed another practice or game because of his academics. By the time he entered ninth grade at North Atlanta, he was already 6-feet tall and had a knack for hustling to the football. He was a three-year starter at North Atlanta, helping the Warriors to the best three-year stretch in the school's history. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Weatherly posted 66 tackles, 14 sacks and two interceptions last season.

"Every game is almost a highlight for him," Montgomery said. "I've never seen him have a drought of a game. He's in every game doing what we need to do."

Weatherly's play on the field and his academics caught the attention of college recruiters. He had more than 20 college scholarship offers and committed to Vanderbilt in the spring over Georgia Tech, N.C. State, Stanford and Illinois.

"I really liked the education. Then it's SEC football, so it's the best football," Weatherly said. "I get a top notch education and play in the best conference. It was a win-win."

Now a senior at Shiloh, Weatherly is trying to help turn around the program. The Generals have posted seven straight losing seasons, a streak Weatherly would like to end this year.

"The Shiloh team that I heard of wasn't a really good team, kind of a losing program going 1-9 last year," said Weatherly, who already helped his new team defeat rival South Gwinnett last Friday. "We want to beat that."

While the APS scandal was one of the reasons Weatherly transferred, he's excited about the move to Class AAAAA football. It just so happens defending state champion Brookwood and perennial power Grayson are in the same region as his new team.

"I'm very excited to go up against the best of the best in Georgia," Weatherly said.

"The reigning champions are from our region and I'm looking forward to playing them. I just want to see how my talents stack up to theirs. They are supposed to be the best and I want to see where I am."