John Milledge Academy held a Senior Signing Day for five student-athletes Wednesday at the Trojan Center.
Three Trojans have a college football opportunity at both Reinhardt University and Valdosta State University, while the other two are trailblazers in clay target shooting and bowling heading to Emmanuel College.
David Robinson, Emmanuel College Bowling
Robinson joins the Emmanuel Lion Men's Bowling team coached by Mark Lansing, who enters his second season with a new program. The school is located in Franklin Springs, Ga.
“I actually met (Lansing) at a bowling tournament,” he said. “I thought it sounded like a good thing.”
The 17-year-old JMA bowler started at age 3 and didn't look back.
Robinson has competed in a bowling league for 14 years. He's been the president of the Baldwin Youth Bowling League for the past three years.
“He's bowled in every state bowling tournament since he was 6 years old,” JMA Athletics Director Dwight Danuser said.
The senior's high game is a 248 and carries a personal best three-game series of 580.
He received a $500 scholarship last summer and hopes to earn another from the Georgia USBC Youth Bowling Association this summer.
Wil Goette, Emmanuel College Clay Target Shooting
Goette has ascended quickly in the sport-shooting world.
Since the summer prior to his freshman year, he joined a Lake Oconee Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) shooting skeet, trap and sporting clays.
“I started really enjoying it and got better and better,” Goette said. “One thing led to another, and I started winning.”
He went from an NSCA E Class to a Master Class shooter in one year. This takes most shooters three to five years to work their way through these seven classes.
The senior was a key part of the inaugural JMA clay shooting team that won a GISA state championship.
He credits his parents for the opportunity.
“My mom and dad have paid for everything. They and my sister, who has started shooting also, have been a big help,” Goette said.
The shotgun man looks forward to competing in more events without worrying about shell or travel expenses.
Goette eyes the SCTP Nationals with the Brookline Top Shots team coached by his father Rick.
“I'm going to try and win the national sporting clays division again,” he said. “It would be nice to win skeet and trap as well.”
An Olympic International Skeet future is a stated and apparently realistic goal.
Hunter Harding, Valdosta State Football
JMA head football coach J.T. Wall said Harding always eyed the Valdosta Blazers. The defensive lineman and fullback for the Trojans will be a preferred walk-on.
“He understands it's going to be a couple of years long process of growing and developing into the type of player they want him to be size wise,” Wall said. “I think he is quick enough and definitely strong enough.”
Harding could gain weight and play down or possible lose a little and play fullback.
“Hunter has the talent to play at the next level no doubt,” Wall said.
Harding has keen blocking ability and tallied 87 total tackles, 19 for loss and five sacks in 2013.
The 2013 Union-Recorder All-County Defensive Player of the Year said his cousin played football at Valdosta, so it was always the place to go.
“I've gone to camps there ever since middle school and have a good relationship with all of the coaches. I loved it from the first time I went down there,” Harding said.
He wants to get bigger this summer before checking in down south. The bruising player said Wall was the “best thing to ever happen to him when it comes to football.”
“He got me ready for this day,” Harding said.
Tommy Pittman, Reinhardt University
Pittman literally played every defensive position during four Trojan years.
He rushed for more than 1,200 yards and recorded 120 total tackles this past fall earning All-State honors. Pittman was also Region 1-AA Player of the Year.
“I think Tommy is going to flourish,” Wall said. “In the system that Coach Cronic runs up there at Reinhardt, he could definitely fill one of those back roles. If he doesn't get redshirted early, I think Tommy can come in and play some special teams.”
Pittman looked at Berry College and then some out of state schools before choosing to stay closer to home.
He plans on gaining some mass and improving fundamentals this summer. All three players will train at JMA to get ready.
Pittman doesn't mind being a scout team running back in year one.
“They'll probably move me to cornerback or free safety on defense also,” he said.
Trae Simmons, Reinhardt University
Simmons and Pittman will continue their football journey together in Waleska, Ga.
“When you know somebody, it is a lot easier to make it through,” Wall said.
Simmons was a “great leader” at JMA.
“He got our defense lined up and in the right position to play as a free safety,” the Trojan coach said.
He will likely play that position or maybe receiver at the next level. The Trojan defender tallied 56 total tackles and led the team with five interceptions.
The senior safety sent recruiting materials out to several schools and the Reinhardt Eagles bit.
“They called and said they wanted me,” Simmons said. “That's all I needed to hear.”
He said the JMA program prepared him for a college football chance.