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Ole Brook sends 3 to college on football scholarships

Brookhaven’s big three college football commits made it official Wednesday, signing scholarship offers to two regional Division 1 schools in a big ceremony at the high school.

Trace Clopton, Jeffery Johnson and Jemaurian Jones took advantage of the early signing period and signed their names to the University of Southern Mississippi and Tulane University, with Clopton and Jones heading to Hattiesburg and Johnson committing to the Green Wave. All three had verbally committed to the schools previously.

“Southern Miss wants to be hard-nosed, blue collar. That’s the kind of football they’re bringing back, and that’s what I want to be a part of,” Clopton said.

Clopton, a center, led Ole Brook’s offensive line during the 11-win season in 2017, paving the way for an offense that rushed for almost 3,500 yards. He led the team in pancake blocks with 52 and was voted permanent team captain by his teammates.

College football website Rivals.com ranked Clopton, a 3-star recruit, the state’s 23rd best player.

Clopton wants a career coaching football and believes studying under Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson will prepare him.

Hopson called his new lineman a “complete student-athlete.”

“Trace is a young man we feel like is a great football player,” he said. “He is physical and a fighter, but he also possesses an outstanding character and has excelled in the classroom.”

Clopton is a legacy player for Southern Miss — his mother, April, and his father, Brookhaven coach Tommy Clopton, are alumni.

“To watch him grow up and mature into the young man he’s become, his mother and I couldn’t be more proud,” Tommy Clopton said. “We’ve seen him put in the extra work, the extra hours nobody else knows about.”

Southern Miss is also getting Ole Brook’s leading corner, Jemaurian Jones. Rivals ranked Jones, a 3-star, the No. 9 recruit in the state. He tallied 39 tackles in 2017, as well as two interceptions, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal.

Several traditional college football powerhouses offered Jones before he chose the Golden Eagles. He said he signed with Southern Miss because the team offered him the best chance to earn playing time as a true freshman.

“I’m not a second option kind of guy,” Jones said. “I’m ready to attack the program and earn my time on the field.”

Hopson told reporters Wednesday Southern Miss signed several defensive backs and would open competition in the spring.

“There won’t be a lot of guys who are penciled in starters,” he said. “I think J.J. is an outstanding football player. To me, he’s one of those guys who is physically ready to walk in and compete for a starting job.”

Jones plans to major in kinesiology and pursue a career as a physical therapist.

Jeffery Johnson wants the same career, but he’s going to get his lessons from Tulane University.

“Education comes first, and you can’t beat a degree from Tulane,” he said.

Education comes first, but the Green Wave are taking on Johnson because of his accomplishments as a defensive lineman. Rivals ranked him, a 3-star recruit, the state’s sixth-best player. He recorded 67 tackles in 2017, including seven sacks, three forced fumbles and a pass breakup.

Like Jones, Johnson is also looking at some early playing time.

“I love it down there,” he said of Tulane. “I connected with their players and coaches. The way it’s looking, they don’t have anybody else to start nose guard besides me.”

Tulane coach Willie Fritz seemed to agree.

“We did have a really big need for interior defensive lineman,” he told reporters. “I think this guy is going to be able to play right away.”

Johnson’s mother, Wanda Johnson, said she was proud of her son for choosing such a prestigious school. She’s not worried about her baby being two hours away — she’s moving to New Orleans.

“Where the son goes, momma goes,” she said. “Change is good. I am just super excited. It’s such an honor and a blessing.”