Forsyth Malik Herring couldn’t help it.
Sure, he knew long before his public commitment that he was heading to Georgia, and he has spent plenty of time working on getting other top-flight players to head to Athens since that announcement.
So National Signing Day shouldn’t have been quite the big deal, right?
“I didn’t sleep at all,” the standout defensive lineman from Mary Persons said Wednesday after joining four teammates in a signing ceremony. “I went to sleep at like 6 o’clock. I really just tried to hang it out.
“It’s a dream come true, actually. Not just dreaming about signing with Georgia, just signing, period.”
Signing day was big for teammates Caleb Etheridge, Zach Harvey, Roger Akins, Tre Howard and Tay Jarrell, all of whom helped Mary Persons to the GHSA Class 4A semifinals in 2016 and into the second round in 2015.
Tre Howard, the Region 2-4A co-defensive player of the year, is headed to Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College but was ill and unable to attend. Receiver Roger Akin also signed with Hutchinson.
Offensive lineman Caleb Etheridge is the second Mary Persons lineman in three years to sign with Western Kentucky. He’ll join former teammate Tyler Camp, a redshirt freshman.
Etheridge took official or unofficial visits to Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee and Marshall, but he never wavered in his choice, even after a coaching staff change at Western Kentucky. He admitted surprised that the new staff so quickly decided it wanted him, too.
“Yes sir, it did,” Etheridge said. “I think the coaching change, (they’d be) looking for something different, but they wanted me.”
That made him quite happy.
“I’m 100 percent committed,” he said. “Nobody made an impression like Western Kentucky did.”
Jarrell, the leading tackler on Mary Persons’ strong defense, took a visit to Fort Valley State last weekend, and that did it.
“I liked the environment,” he said. “The coaches were pretty cool. It’s close to home. I’ve got to be close to my family.
“Fort Valley State, man, I want to be a part of it. I hope we get some championships, and I want to further my education.”
Harvey, who had a monster year running the ball, is going to Wingate, a Division II program in North Carolina, where he’ll be reunited with former Mary Persons teammates Malik Bledsoe and J.T. Stokes, sophomore wideouts.
Howard will see familiar faces at Hutchinson, which signed several Middle Georgia players.
Seniors Jatori Sims, Dalon Edge, Dan O’Neal and Tyricus Danielly are expected to sign soon.
Herring was excited for signing day, despite the foregone conclusion —Herring committed to Georgia on Dec. 1 by way of a video produced by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which did the same with Vidalia linebacker and Georgia signee Nate McBride later that month — for a variety of reasons and more than just making his decision official.
“I remember watching my brother sign 7 years ago,” he said of former Mary Persons standout Tevin Davis. “(Wednesday) makes seven years ago. My brother signed with Valdosta State. I was like, ‘That’s got to be me one day.’ I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Davis was Herring’s inspiration.
“I look up to my brother,” Herring said. “Around that time, me and my brother, you know how brothers are. You grow up in the same room, you don’t really like each other. I really didn’t kinda like my brother at the time, but i liked him.
“So, I always looked up to him. ... I tried to do everything he did. ‘I’m going to do everything you do, but better.’ He’s why I got no. 5 in high school.”
He also remembers the skeptics.
“People told me I wasn’t going to make it,” he said. “’You ain’t this, you ain’t that, you’re not smart enough, you’re not intelligent enough.’ Just working in the classroom and on the field hard, so to me, it’s like a blessing. proving a point, making a statement.”
The inability to play or practice football until the summer has Herring — and no doubt many of his co-signees — anxious and hungry to arrive in Athens.
“I cannot wait,” he said. “I can’t wait. They’re gonna know the freshman are in the building, day one, I can believe that.”