DEXTER -- Johnny ONeal told his new team in the spring where he wanted to play, and he made it official Wednesday.
And while he wont be on campus and in uniform for months, ONeal has been a Bulldog in spirit for a long, long time.
Just growing up watching them, ONeal said. Ive always loved Georgia, like since second grade. They were my first love.
ONeal wore a brand new red tie to go with a black dress shirt and was surrounded by family in the West Laurens media center has he ended months of no speculation and signed with Georgia.
Teammate Travosier Mitchell got the festivities started by signing with Georgia Southern. West Laurens head coach Stacy Nobles said he expects a few more Raiders to sign in the next week or so.
The calendar was a simple one for ONeal, from commitment to signing.
March 24, to be exact, ONeal said of when he gave Georgia his word. I was up at campus, for Junior Day. I thought about it and prayed about it.
It was perfect timing. Thats where my heart was.
That allowed ONeal to focus on his senior season at West Laurens.
Just take care of Friday night, he said.
He earned first-team All-Middle Georgia honors after racking up 119 tackles, with 26 for loss and three sacks. He participated in the All-American Bowl and rates 3.75 stars on average across the major recruiting sites and among the top players in the state.
ONeal said his relationships with head coach Mark Richt, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and linebackers coach Kirk Olivadatti sealed the deal.
As for the possibility that Grantham might leave for the NFL, ONeal said its not an issue.
No sir, not at all, ONeal said about any possibilities that hed have changed his mind. Id still be a Bulldog no matter what. I bleed that red and black.
He said he has always looked up to Ray Lewis as a player, and Nobles said ONeal plays with a similar intensity, but also with great humility.
Hes had offers on the table since basically his freshman year, said Nobles, adding its never gone to ONeals head. Hes worked hard, worked hard in the weight room. Believe it or not, as strong and talented as he is, I think hes still got a lot of talent to unleash.
I think itll be scary to see how good he can be.
Mitchell has only two seasons of varsity football under his belt and proved to be a quick study as well as versatile player. He lined up at a half-dozen positions for the Raiders, but will go to Statesboro as a safety.
He was a gifted offensive player, Nobles said. But hes got an eye for the football, runs to the football really well. With the lack of experience he had, he did a lot of really good things for us defensively.
Mitchell also considered Marshall, but Georgia Southerns pull was just too strong.
I just jumped at the chance when they gave it to me, Mitchell said. I love their defense, their style of play. I just wanted to be part of it.
Speculation about Georgia Southerns future and potential move to the FBS level wasnt on Mitchells mind.
If they move up to (FBS), I think we have the talent to compete with other teams on that level, he said. I (dont) care. As long as I get to play football for a great team that I love, its fine with me.