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Future looks bright for Eagles


March 02, 2018

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Spring is in the air finally, though in the Ted Smith Family Football Center it is already sizzling. Last month I gave some insights to how I thought National Signing Day would go for the Eagles, but Coach Chad Lunsford and staff really blew me away! It was weird for me, as it was the first time in four years I haven’t been in Statesboro around all the excitement. I used to sit in my 8 a.m. class in the back on my laptop and watch the updates roll in as the fax machine worked its magic, and then would celebrate the great work with some friends at the signing day events. Unfortunately, Mickey Mouse isn’t as huge of a National Signing Day fan, and didn’t allow me a random Wednesday off to drive home to the Boro, but I still felt like I was there, thanks to the outstanding coverage on ESPN 3. Danny Reed, Collin Lacy, and all the behind the scenes staff did a superb job, one that truly made Georgia Southern seem big time. I scrolled through schools such as Alabama, LSU, and Georgia Tech to find the Eagles’ feed online, which is something people around the nation most likely noticed.

As for the actual signing class, it was almost perfect. Besides JaQuon Griffin committing to Georgia Tech within a week before NSD, Coach Lunsford pulled off pretty much everyone they were targeting, including Justin Birdsong, Quin Williams, Andrew Cunningham, Brandon Cross, Jaden Moreland, and a group of others that all factored into the Eagles landing the top class in the Sun Belt, jumping Arkansas State, Georgia State, and Troy all on signing day. Talking to my friends who attended the signing day celebration, I confirmed what I had already been thinking: Georgia Southern is back! Spring practice is coming up soon and that will be our first true look at the new era of Georgia Southern football.

Another big time move by Coach Lunsford was hiring the G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time for those of you who aren’t up with millennial lingo) in Adrian Peterson as the Director of Student-Athlete Development. I think this is the perfect hire, as this position essentially is a mentor for the players, who tracks their grades, makes sure they are on track with personal development, and instills leadership qualities in the student-athletes. There is no one who embodies a leader, a hard worker, and a mentor more than AP. For those that haven’t heard his story, I really encourage you to check out his book “Don’t Dis My Abilities.” It is definitely worth the read, and also reinforces how great he was. This is yet another example of how Coach Lunsford is truly embracing the culture.

In some logistical updates, the Eagles have dropped the Presbyterian Blue Hose and added the South Carolina State Bulldogs as a result of the Blue Hose beginning their transition to non-scholarship football in 2020. The Sun Belt dated schedule should be released this month, though we already know our opponents. Coming to Paulson will be South Carolina State, UMass, App State, Arkansas State, South Alabama, and Troy. The Eagles will be traveling to Clemson, New Mexico State (no longer a Sun Belt team), Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Louisiana, and Texas State. I see no reason why Paulson Stadium should not be packed full at each home game, as the big conference games minus Georgia State are all in Statesboro, which can truly help lead us to the conference championship, hopefully which will be held in Statesboro. A reminder for those who don’t know, the conference championship game will be held between the winners of the two divisions (A new aspect this year), and will be hosted by the division winner with the highest ranking. With that in mind, it should be every Eagle fan’s mission to #ShowUpShowOut to all six of our home games, so that we can create home field advantage and earn ourselves a seventh home game!

Off the field there was some sad news to report, and most of you know by now, was the tragic death of former Eagle great Edwin Jackson. Lots of folks knew Edwin by No. 40 and have heard his story, but for me it was closer to home, as Edwin was one of the first people I met when I moved to Statesboro. On the day I moved into Centennial Place Residence Hall freshman year, I pulled my truck up and he was there to help me unload my belongings. I walked with him to my dorm room as he introduced himself, and was truly humbled by the fact I even knew who he was.

That first semester, Edwin became the big man on campus, leading the defense all season and winning national awards. But though his play and stature was elevated, his attitude was not. He was the same person that helped me move in to start my college career, and he remembered me too. If we would pass on campus he would call me by name, he would always find me on the front row of Paulson after a win, and even over two years after he graduated, we bumped into each other in the Stagecoach in Buckhead (the Georgia Southern bar in Atlanta) he knew who I was.

I say all of that because Edwin touched a lot of lives that people don’t know about. It wasn’t just me. It was every person he interacted with in Atlanta, Statesboro, Arizona, and Indianapolis. That is a lot of people all affected by one moronic decision to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated. Think about that the next time you consider driving, regardless if it is a 1- or 10-mile drive. One decision could affect millions. I truly hate being on a soap box on matters other than sports, but if I have learned anything it is that life is much bigger than any game, season, or sport in general. Just remember to heed Erik’s wisdom by “doing right.”


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