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North's Alabi changes commitment to Air Force

Last-minute changes of heart and/or mind are not uncommon in college football recruiting, and that includes some of Gwinnett County's top seniors.

For the third time in recent weeks and with National Signing Day just three days away, a Gwinnett senior has done so.

After initially given a verbal commitment to Tennessee-Chattanooga in December, North Gwinnett's Justin Alabi has rethought the matter and says he will now sign to play at the United States Air Force Academy on Wednesday.

The decision makes the 6-foot-1, 215-pound defensive end the second Gwinnett senior to commit to playing for Air Force, joining Brookwood offensive lineman Jackson Buonamia.

Alabi made his decision after a recent recruiting trip to the Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and joined Brookwood's Zach Jackson (Illinois to Texas Christian) and Grayson's Sebastian Rice (Georgia State to Furman) in changing a verbal commitment in the days leading up to signing day.

"I just went up there and liked it," Alabi said of the Air Force Academy. "I wasn't too sure, but I liked the school and I like the benefits at the school. And it's Division I, (Football Bowl Subdivision) football."

True, the level of football at the Air Force, which competes in the FBS Mountain West Conference, is higher than UTC, which competes in the FCS Southern Conference.

However, Alabi -- who had a strong senior season with 53 combined tackles and assists and 12 sacks, second in the county to Daily Post Defensive Player of the Year Robert Nkemdiche of Grayson -- said his decision was as much based on off-the-field factors as it was on football.

And he is not deterred by the five-year military commitment after his time at the academy, nor the challenging atmosphere of life there.

"I figure there's a 1 percent chance of going to the NFL, so I'm not putting all my chips on that," Alabi said. "I've never been big on the military, ... but anything worth having is worth working hard for."

In addition to Alabi, another North senior also secured his college football future recently when Tyler Nemec accepted an opportunity to attend Georgia State as a preferred walk-on.

The 6-1, 187-pound tight end missed his senior season with a knee injury, but was the Bulldogs' leading receiver as a junior in 2010, according to a text message sent Saturday by North coach Bob Sphire.