Sunni Moorehead watched as teammate after teammate, friend after friend, brother after brother signed to play college football.
It took nearly two months after Cartersville High's Class of 2019 had graduated, but Moorehead joined the group earlier this week, holding a signing ceremony Monday inside the CHS media center.
As excited as Moorehead was to see his fellow Canes take their talents to the next level, it just served to remind the all-county linebacker that he hadn't achieved that goal.
"It kind of drug me down for a couple weeks," Moorehead said of seeing his teammates sign. "I was like, 'I know I need to get on top of my game.' The main part was getting my test scores up. That was the main problem. I got my test scores up, and God blessed me with an opportunity."
That opportunity is to join the football team at Concordia University — an NAIA school in Seward, Nebraska. Moorehead noted that he will be getting a sizable scholarship from the university and loves to travel. He said he also had a cousin who attended school there.
Even still, Moorehead will likely need to adjust somewhat to living in the Midwest, especially since he hasn't been able to visit Concordia's campus.
"I've been talking to the coach a lot, so it kind of made me feel like I was at home," Moorehead said. "It made me feel comfortable."
If Moorehead is able to make the kind of impact he did in his senior season with Cartersville, then Concordia will be getting quite the steal. As a first-year starter at outside linebacker, he racked up 93 tackles, including 21 1/2 for loss, and three fumble recoveries.
"The thing about Sunni that makes him so special is that he just has a love for the game of football and a great passion for our football program, in particular," Canes head coach Conor Foster said. "He just has a great joy in his heart. It's fun to work with him every day. Every day, he comes to work; every day, he comes with a great motor. He's got a great smile on his face. Every day, he's so consistent with his passion and his work. It makes him fun to be around."
Foster spent plenty of time with Moorehead last season, when he was serving solely as the defensive coordinator under then-head coach Joey King. It became pretty evident early in the 2018 season that a lot of the young players, particularly in the linebacking corps, looked up to Moorehead.
"I think Sunni's left a tremendous legacy in our program," Foster said. "Going back to how he prepared for every game, his enthusiasm for every practice, his love for our football program, the way he took the younger guys under his wing. Just really great leadership. His legacy will be felt for years to come. Not just because he was a great football player, but because he was a great leader and really embraced that role in the program."
Moorehead acknowledged that he stepped into a major hole on Cartersville's defense, which allowed 8.86 points per game. However, he declined to take any credit for the team's success.
"It was a big role to take from the past years on defense," Moorehead said. "But it's not about me. It's about everybody coming in as a team and playing as a team. We're brothers. It's what we do. We've been doing it all summer, so everybody just had to step up — ninth grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, seniors."
He looks forward to seeing what his former teammates are able to accomplish over the next few seasons. After gaining valuable experience in last year's state championship game, the group is expected to be among the chief contenders for the 2019 title.
"I'm ready for them to get a championship and get them a ring," Moorehead said. "We got two, so they're going to add like two more, too."
While those returning players will likely miss Moorehead, Foster certainly seems like he will miss seeing the 5-foot-10, 155-pound ball of energy.
"He's a guy who's undersized, but he's a guy who's worked for everything he's been given," Foster said. "Just proud to see him stick with it and not give up. I love him; I'm proud of him. As far as I'm concerned, he's as good as they come. He's a great part of our program and very close to me and my family. My wife was one of his teachers. We both love him, my children love him.
"Again, just proud of his perseverance, proud that he stuck with it, proud that he didn't give up and looking forward to big things from him."
Moorehead is looking forward to attending college and playing football, but he admitted it will be tough to leave behind Cartersville.
"I'm going to remember the brotherhood and the relationships I've formed," he said. "Mister Dan [Shabo] has meant a lot in my life and all the coaches. It's just a community. I've never seen a community like this. It brings light, fun and enjoyment."
But now that he's signed to play collegiately, he knows there's more for him to see and experience beyond the city limits.
"It's a big excitement, actually," Moorehead said. "I think I'm the last one [to sign]. I know there's a lot of people who want me to do great things. It's the next step."