Thomas McBride hit the weight room hard between his junior and senior seasons.
The FPD center put on 50 pounds, giving the Vikings a strong anchor on their line of scrimmage.
“I think that really helped him to get a bunch of colleges to look at him,” FPD quarterback Dalton Cox said.
McBride, who now has 280 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame, won’t be going far. After going to a couple of the team’s camps last summer, McBride committed to Mercer. On Wednesday, McBride made it official, signing with the Bears.
The second team All-Middle Georgia selection helped FPD go 7-5 in 2016, with the Vikings reaching the second round of the GHSA Class 1A private school playoffs. He anchored a line that allowed Cox to throw for 2,268 yards and 21 touchdowns.
“I’ve been working out with Shane Hammock and all the guys down at Dirty South Barbell,” McBride said. “It hasn’t been an easy road, but with the proper training that’s something you can do. It was hard, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”
McBride was one of six offensive linemen to sign with the Bears on Wednesday. He’s one of 10 Mercer signees from Georgia, but he’s the only one from Middle Georgia.
Mercer has an opening at the center position, as Kirby Southard, one of the members of the Bears’ modern era inaugural team, graduated. Southard’s backup last fall, Dawson Ellis, was a redshirt freshman and has three years of eligibility remaining.
“It’s always good to get local kids,” Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb said. “We’ve had the Ward brothers (from Tattnall Square), still have Jonathan on the team. But to get Thomas from FPD was big. He was in our camp, came over and really impressed us. To get him on the team certainly just branches out the Mercer brand throughout city. We’d like to get as many local kids as we can.”