Since Georgia State began its football program in 2010, the Panthers have had a footprint in Gwinnett, with 14 players on their 2012 roster having played high school football at county school.
GSU's impending move to the Sun Belt Conference next year could further increase the program's profile here, and one local rising senior has already taken notice after Dacula's B.J. Clay gave a verbal commitment to play for the Panthers during their transition season to an FBS-level conference in 2013.
GSU was the first program to offer the 6-foot, 175-pound defensive back/wide receiver a scholarship, though he had interest from strong FCS programs like Delaware and Tennessee-Chattanooga, and was on the radar of other FBS programs like Vanderbilt and Cincinnati.
The offer, along with the chance to play at the FBS level, were among the biggest lures for Clay to quickly make a commitment.
"They're playing with the big boys," Clay said. "That was my dream as a child. Plus, (GSU) is a great school."
Clay said a visit to the school's downtown Atlanta campus Monday only cemented his interest in joining the Panthers.
"It was a great environment," Clay said. "It's in downtown Atlanta, so it's not far from home. The coaching staff was very receptive.
"They explained a lot of things about what I'll be doing. I also met a couple of the players, and they were great."
Clay's focus now turns to his senior season at Dacula, which will include playing on both sides of the line of scrimmage this year after spending most of his junior season in the Falcons' secondary.
Clay finished last season with 32 combined tackles and assists, including two sacks, as the Falcons advanced to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals, and will also see time at receiver this fall.