Many Shelby County athletes sign while others weigh options

Eight Shelby County football players announced their decisions to play college football as part of National Signing Day last week, including three commitments to NCAA Division IA schools.

Andrew Burns of Shelby County High started the day off in the county by making history for the Wildcats football program, when he signed with Southern Mississippi, becoming the first player in more than 20 years to sign with a Division I school.

&8220;It feels pretty good to be the first D-I singee in a while. I&8217;m pretty proud of myself and everyone else is proud of me,&8221; Burns said.

Standing at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, Burns was a two-year starter on the offensive and defensive line for Coach Ryan Herring, and is expected to move around with the Golden Eagles.

&8220;I think a couple of the linemen can grow into being tackles. They&8217;ve got good frames…I think Andrew Burns can go a lot of places,&8221; said Southern Miss Coach Jeff Bower.

Later in the day, D.J. Looney of Oak Mountain became the second Shelby County athlete to sign a D-I letter of intent. He became the Eagle&8217;s fifth player to play for a Southeastern Conference school when

he signed with Mississippi State University.

He is rated the No. 11 offensive center prospect in the nation by ESPN.com and No. 19 by Rivals.com. Looney impressed the Bulldogs&8217; coaching staff with his performance at a combine hosted by TuscaloosaScout.com, posting Top 10 numbers for defensive tackles in the shuttle run, three-cone run and broad jump.

Joining Looney in signing on Wednesday from Oak Mountain were running back Nick Anderson, who signed with Division II Carson Newman and quarterback Richie Fordham, who signed with Samford University.

Fordham was one of two from the county to commit to Pat Sullivan&8217;s Bulldogs, as he was joined by Briarwood Christian offensive lineman Wes Nichols.

&8220;We signed nine guys from the local area and that’s exciting,&8221; Sullivan said at a Signing Day press conference. &8220;There are so many good football players in this area. In some ways, I wish it was August 1, so that we could get started, but I know we’ve got an awful lot of work to do.&8221;

Pelham High hosted their National Signing Day party on Thursday, where running back Wes Holland became the first back to commit to the Naval Academy in 2007, choosing the Midshipmen over Army and Air Force.

&8220;I felt like I was at home there,&8221; Holland said of his Feb. 2 visit to the Naval Academy.

&8220;It&8217;s a bunch of guys that work hard together. If one of their teammates does well, they&8217;re all jumping up and down. They&8217;re not just selfish and just focusing on their own records, much like our team at Pelham,&8221; he said.

Also signing from the Panthers was Isaac Bivens to Stillman College and Michael Stephens to Lincoln University in Missouri.

Pelham&8217;s Chris Brice will sign with the Air Force Academy this Thursday.

Chelsea&8217;s Jonathan Jones kicked off the week for Shelby County football players when he became one of 16 to commit to play for Birmingham-Southern College&8217;s inaugural Division III team.

Also looking to join BSC is Kingwood Christian&8217;s Cody Owens, while the Lions&8217; quarterback Andrew Pearce weighs his options between playing for Joey Jones at BSC or Mike Dubose at Milsaps College. Milsaps is currently leads a BSCSports.net poll for who the BSC&8217;s leading in-conference rival will be