A high school program does not accumulate as many wins without some talented players.
Three of those players were rewarded for their talents Wednesday on National Signing Day as T.L. Ford and Mark Quattlebaum signed to attend UNC-Charlotte and Jesse House signed to play at Kennesaw State.
“It’s very special for our program. It’s a great reflection on our team and our kids and a huge reflection on their hard work,” Cartersville head coach Frank Barden said. “These individual boys have put in four years of high school. Their training, their academics in the classroom, there’s a lot of aspects to being able to go to college and they did them. They did everything they need to do, so it’s just a big reward for all the work they put in. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. I’ve been with them since they were real little and now they are getting an opportunity to go on to the next level and play football.”
UNC-Charlotte just completed its first season after a 64-year absence of the football program. Meanwhile, Kennesaw State will begin its first football season in 2015.
“It’s pretty neat. I’m telling you now, Kennesaw State had a great recruiting class,” Barden said. “I’ve watched them over the past few weeks and I’m good friends with a lot of those coaches down there. They’re going to do really well in their conference. They’re going to practice next year and then play the next.”
Barden feels similarly confident about the UNC-Charlotte program.
“Charlotte had a really good class this year and they had a really good year playing. They had a great year in independent and then they start in Conference USA this year,” Barden said. “Both schools are similar in this way, once you step on the campus and see the campuses at UNC-Charlotte and Kennesaw State, you see how nice it is, you see the facilities and you see, not only the money they’re putting behind it, but the backing they’re putting behind it. That’s a big selling point for these kids.”
No matter what school the players chose, signing day is always a memorable event for the signees and their families.
“[Signing day] is something that I’ve always looked forward to watching it on TV, but when you actually get to do it, it’s always better. It’s just to experience the feeling that you get to go on and play at the next level,” Quattlebaum said. “It turned out to be a pretty big one and more people came than I thought would come.”
“I dreamed about sitting in front of everyone and having the picture for the rest of my life to show friends and family and kids one day. It was definitely an amazing experience,” House said of signing. “Everyone who plays the game usually watches TV and wants to make it to the next level. It’s a small percentage and I’m just thankful to make it and have a place on a first-year team.”
Jesse House stays close to home
House played just one year with the Purple Hurricanes but made his impact felt in a multitude of ways.
House was one of the team’s leading tacklers as a linebacker, but also contributed on the defensive line and as a running back on occasion.
“Jesse was just a great kid. He came in before his senior year and was one of the hardest workers in practice and he was one who competed and would play any position we needed him to play,” Barden said. “He was just a very hungry, hungry guy in the weight room and on the practice field and playing on game day. That’s his biggest strength is his love for the game and his motor and he will do very well at Kennesaw State.
“They got a really good one. He’ll fit in and do well down there.”
House was a Daily Tribune News All-County selection a year ago and an all-region second-team member this year.
According to House, Kennesaw State began contact with him seven months ago and offered him a spot on the team in December.
“They were the first people to talk to me last year,” House said of Kennesaw State. “Ever since I was young, my dad was like, ‘I wish Kennesaw State would get a football team,’ and sure enough, by the time I got to my junior year, they started up a football team and that gave me an opportunity to become part of their team.”
House also received interest from Davidson, Valdosta State, West Georgia, Reinhardt and Shorter.
“Kennesaw State showed me the most interest. I’ve visited the campus and I’ve been there a couple times this past year and I love everything about it,” House said. “I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
Ford and Quattlebaum to continue careers together
Ford and Quattlebaum made up a dynamic trio of receivers for the Canes along with fellow senior Gordon Gray. Ford and Quattlebaum combined for nearly 1,200 yards receiving this season and 18 touchdown receptions. They will join their quarterback, Brooks Barden, who already signed and is on campus at UNC-Charlotte.
Quattlebaum was a two-way player for the Canes and was an all-region first team selection as a defensive back. He recorded 64 total tackles this season to go along with five interceptions and eight pass breakups.
Ford also was a first team all-region selection as a receiver. He originally committed to Kansas State in July and then switched last month to play for the 49ers.
The 6-foot-4 wide receiver is glad the process has come to an end and he can turn his focus back to football.
“This is really exciting just to have it finally done and I’m just looking forward to playing with my teammates and being able to start. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders,” Ford said. “I can just relax and focus on school and working out. I’m just ready to get there and get the feel for everything and the competition.”
UNC-Charlotte finished 5-6 in its first season since 1948. The 49ers averaged over 33 points per game this year and their passy-heavy, spread offense is similar to the one Cartersville ran.
“It’s a good school and they have a good program,” Quattlebaum said of UNC-Charlotte. “They really like to work with the players, so I feel like it was a good decision for me, T.L. and Brooks to go to the next level, to keep our chemistry going and see how far our talents can take us.”