FORSYTH — The video always kept saying the same thing.
Akebren Ralls can do almost anything on the football field.
Big programs like Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Ball State and Cincinnati loved watching Ralls on the screen, because all he did was make plays on offense, defense and special teams.
They had one problem: a couple of inches. Ralls is 5-foot-9.
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That’s why Kennesaw State got a steal Wednesday when the versatile Mary Persons senior followed through on his commitment and signed with the young program.
Some older ones might regret overlooking Ralls’ ability.
“My height came into play,” said Ralls, who will be a cornerback at Kennesaw State. “They didn’t want to take a shot with it.”Mary Persons head coach Brian Nelson could only shake his head while recalling the recruiting process and how Ralls drew raves from some major-college programs.
“It was the same thing every time,” Nelson said. “You turn his tape, ‘Yeah, we love him.’ Then they come and actually see him, (and) ‘He’s not big enough.’
“They said, ‘Coach, we’re not going to lie to you. He’s just not going to be big enough for us.’ ”
That is fine with Kennesaw State.
“He’s a football player,” Nelson said of his multi-talented former player. “If he was 5-11 instead of 5-9, they probably wouldn’t have had a shot at him. Regardless, I’ve been saying, if you can play football, you can play football. He definitely can do that.”
Nelson said Ralls was only one of the steals for the Owls.
“I’m telling you,” Nelson said. “When you see the list come out, they’re going to have an impressive signing class.”
The Bulldogs held a signing ceremony Tuesday morning in the school’s cafeteria, and Ralls signed in front of a few dozen former teammates as well as friends, family and staff.
Ralls said he also visited Charleston Southern — as well as Furman and Presbyterian — but the trip to Kennesaw State with his parents sealed the deal.
“It was a nice place,” Ralls said of Charleston Southern. “But Kennesaw was, I think, it was a better fit for me.”
Ralls was the GHSA Region 2-AAAA all-purpose player of the year while making first team at returner
Mary Persons went 29-8 the past three seasons, winning four playoff games.
Kennesaw State won out over first-year program (in 2013) Charlotte as well as established programs like Ball State, Charleston Southern and Georgia Southern.
The Owls have options with Ralls, who has about a 3.2 GPA.
He scored seven touchdowns on offense and three on kicks in 2013, while racking up 36 tackles and four interceptions. A remarkable eight touchdowns were called back because of penalties.
Ralls is a two-time selection to The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia team, as a first-team defensive back.
So Ralls’ highlight reel covered a broad spectrum. Nelson said coaches who liked Ralls as a junior still held out to see his senior tape.
“It looks just the same as the one you saw before,” Nelson said. “When you turn on his tape, it’s catches. It’s runs. It’s kick returns. It’s punt returns. It’s interceptions. it’s tackles. It’s blocked field goals.
“I mean, it’s whatever you’ve got to do.”
The Owls begin play in the Big South Conference in 2015, and Nelson expects an immediate impact from Ralls.
“The kid can play football,” Nelson said. “I think he’s going to prove a lot over the next four or five years.”
Ralls is ready.
“Got a lot of great players coming in,” he said. “We just got to practice, get our timing down, learn the offense and the defense. I think we’re going to have a great team.”