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Hundreds of football signees gather for celebration

Staff Photo: John Bohn North Gwinnett High School head football coach Bob Sphire, center, discusses the strengths of his players as the Touchdown Club of Atlanta hosts a National Signing Day Celebration at Stars and Strikes in Dacula on Wednesday. From left to right are Andy Kwon, Georgia Southern, Devondre Seymour, University of Georgia, Josh Manners, St. Augustine University and Jonathan Lewis, Berry College.

Staff Photo: John Bohn North Gwinnett High School head football coach Bob Sphire, center, discusses the strengths of his players as the Touchdown Club of Atlanta hosts a National Signing Day Celebration at Stars and Strikes in Dacula on Wednesday. From left to right are Andy Kwon, Georgia Southern, Devondre Seymour, University of Georgia, Josh Manners, St. Augustine University and Jonathan Lewis, Berry College.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Collins Hill High School football players Brett Sheehan, South Alabama, Justin Wyatt, Ohio University, Chris Palmer, Navy and Raymere Thomas, Charleston Southern University, are interviewed as the Touchdown Club of Atlanta hosts a National Signing Day Celebration at Stars and Strikes in Dacula on Wednesday.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Brookwood High School football coach Mark Crews, center is interviewed with players Afolabi Laguda, left, and Ky Priester, right, as the Touchdown Club of Atlanta hosts a National Signing Day Celebration at Stars and Strikes in Dacula on Wednesday. Laguda will play football for Tennessee State and Priester will play for Clemson University.

DACULA -- Given Trey Johnson's recruitment, Wednesday was a day to celebrate and put rumors to rest.

The Central Gwinnett linebacker, who signed to play at Ohio State after he was a one-time verbal commit to Auburn and his name was tied to rumors of going to Tennessee, said he's glad recruiting is over. The signature to play at Ohio State stopped his phone from "blowing up" as rival recruiters tried to change his mind.

"I don't have to talk to all these different coaches and tell them I'm not coming to their school," Johnson said.

Johnson was one of about 200 players from around the state who gathered at Stars and Strikes in Dacula for a Signing Day Spectacular put on by The Touchdown Club of Atlanta, Fox 5 and 680 The Fan. The event started about 10 years ago, but this was the first time it has been in Gwinnett. The Touchdown Club and Fox 5 combined their event with 680 three or four years ago, said Lee Baker, executive director of The Touchdown Club.

"This is great football country," said North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire, who referred to Gwinnett claiming the last three state titles in the largest classification. "It's kind of football heaven right now in Gwinnett County."

Players who signed to play college football were paraded on a stage where they were interviewed during a live stream on high5sports.com mostly wearing hats of their new schools.

"We do it as a celebration of the kids signing, for the kids and their parents, and celebrating football and all that it does for the community," Baker said.

The players were also given food and a wristband to play video games and bowl at Stars and Strikes,

"Everybody's going to be happy if there's food," Johnson said.

Bombarded by cameras, microphones and cellphone pictures from media, family and friends, the event was one of many throughout the day for the players, who typically started their day by faxing a National Letter of Intent to their future school. North Gwinnett also had a community event Wednesday night.

"It's an all-day buzz for these guys," Sphire said. "It's a celebration of four years, and a body of work. They just kind of soak it in all day."

On stage, Sphire said the success of former Gwinnett high school players, like North Gwinnett's Ja'wuan James at Tennessee, has helped current players in recruiters' eyes. In other counties or states, top players usually have to perform well at summer camps or all-star games. But in Gwinnett, each week delivers top competition.

"This county is chock full of good football players," Sphire said. "They're prepared to go on to college and Gwinnett has a great academic reputation. Colleges are coming in here that are not only ready to play football, but they're academically prepared. They know how to work, they know how to compete."

Baker said The Touchdown Club invited players who signed with schools at all levels. One of those was North quarterback Michael Haynes, who signed with first-year program Mercer.

"It's nice to represent North Gwinnett, the history and direction of the program, to be a part of that," Haynes said. "It really shows the talent level, how much talent there is, and where everyone is going."