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Collins among four Franklin Co. signees

MEADVILLE – For a moment Jamie Collins thought about changinghis mind but he just couldn’t do it. Nationally-ranked Tennesseecalled him Monday afternoon offering a scholarship but Collinsturned the Volunteers and the familiar voice on the other end downbecause he wanted to be a Southern Miss Golden Eagle.

Wednesday morning’s national signing day ended months ofsuspense for Franklin County’s most storied football player. The6-foot-4, 215-pound Collins, a dual threat quarterback/safety,verbally committed to Auburn back in July before changing his mindin December to Southern Miss.

“I’m a Golden Eagle,” said Collins smiling. “Tennessee offeredtoo late. I’m going to Southern Miss.”

New Tennessee assistant coach Ed Orgeron, the former Ole Missboss who watched Collins play as a sophomore and junior at FCHS,couldn’t sway him away from Southern Miss, even with a last minuteoffer from a SEC football powerhouse.

Collins, who Southern Miss signed as a safety, also heard fromOle Miss, LSU, Mississippi State, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Michigan,and Kentucky over the last six months, but only USM stayed incontact with him after he committed to Auburn.

“I really like USM and when I took my visit there last month Ireally enjoyed myself,” added Collins. “They stayed on me the wholetime, even after I committed to Auburn. And I liked that.”

Auburn’s stock sharply dropped in the eyes of Collins when TommyTuberville stepped down as head coach in November. New Auburn coachGene Chizik did not make a good impression on Collins and theEagles swooped in.

“I like the campus and the chance of playing early,” saidCollins. “USM has a good program.”

Coach Larry Fedora’s Golden Eagles won the New Orleans Bowl inDecember, beating Troy State in the Louisiana Superdome.

Collins was a 2-time selection as Mr. Football on The DAILYLEADER’S All-Area Football Team. He led the Bulldogs to arunners-up finish to Louisville in the 2007 Class 3A stateplayoffs. They were second to Tylertown in the 2008 South State 3Achampionship.

Franklin County teammate Alex Smith will join Collins as afuture Golden Eagle. Smith, a 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback, signedwith USM despite receiving offers from La-Monroe, Memphis, andJackson State. Smith verbally committed to USM last April.

“I’m happy with my decision,” said Smith, who had fiveinterceptions his senior season with the Bulldogs. “I’m ready toget started at Southern Miss.”

Both Collins and Smith were two-way starters when the Bulldogswon the Class 3A State Championship in 2006. Each was namedAll-State by 3A coaches the last two seasons.

“It’s pretty cool that we’re going to be playing together on thenext level,” said Collins. “We’ve both worked hard for this.”

Both Collins and Smith have been playing together since theywere 12-years old. The two players live 5 miles apart, Collins inQuentin and Smith in McCall Creek.

Two other Bulldogs also signed football scholarships Wednesday.Linebacker/fullback Jordan Hunt and cat-quick runningback/cornerback Damien Burnett both joined the Co-Lin Wolfpack.

“I’m looking forward to playing at Co-Lin,” said Burnett, duringthe signing day festivities. “It’s a good school with a lot of goodplayers coming back and coming in.”

Hunt, a 3-sport star at FC, signed with the Wolves despitehearing from several Division II schools. A fleet-footed outfielderin baseball, Hunt could hear his name called in the 2009 MajorLeague Baseball Draft this spring.