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Gwinnett's Brightest Sign to Play for Ivy League
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Gwinnett's Brightest Sign to Play for Ivy League

By Christine Troyke, Gwinnett Daily Post

Kyle Ellis and Ford Roberts already have Nov. 10 on their radar.

The Greater Atlanta Christian seniors, who have been at the Norcross private school together since sixth grade, will meet as opponents that day.

Ellis and Roberts are part of a significant contingent of Gwinnett County player who signed with the toughest academic schools in the nation Wednesday.

Ellis is bound for Yale and Roberts signed with Princeton. Joining them in the Ivy League are Dacula’s Michael Burrell and Grayson’s Solomon Egbe, who both picked Harvard.

The service academies also mined Gwinnett for talent this year.

Dacula quarterback Shayne Buckingham is one of four county players headed to West Point. Army also inked Marquel Broughton (Mountain View), Wilson Catoe (Peachtree Ridge) and Will Van Pamelen (Grayson).

Navy signed Buford’s Mikey McMorris and Collins Hill’s Darius Penton is headed to Air Force.

“What’s great for guys like Kyle and Ford is, whether it’s guys going to the Naval Academy or West Point or the Ivy League, they’ve been able to talk to guys from our program and ask, ‘Hey, what are the differences?’” GAC defensive coordinator Shane Woodward said. “When they go on their trips, they’re talking to GAC guys. Which is a blast for us. I couldn’t be more proud of those guys.

“Ivy League isn’t for everyone, but for those guys, it absolutely is. They’ve positioned themselves — through hard work, through dedication to their craft and academics — to have those opportunities. Those aren’t easy opportunities to have. So we love saying those are our guys, but, man, they’ve earned it for themselves.”

Roberts is a three-year two-way starting lineman for the Spartans and had multiple FBS offers to consider.

“But when Princeton comes calling, that’s hard to turn down,” Spartans head coach Tim Hardy said. “Ford has made such a huge difference on this campus with his leadership and his personality.”

Roberts said it was a little surreal sitting up on the dais at GAC.

“I grew up going to these things,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be up here one day, but I didn’t really know the work I would have to put in to do it. I really wouldn’t be here without Coach Hardy, Coach (Kendall) Knight and the rest of the staff.”

Princeton was among Ellis’ finalists as well, but he ended up deciding on Yale. He talked not just to Roberts about the decision, but also former Spartans Dre Nelson, who went to Princeton, and Chris Williams-Lopez, who played for Yale.

“Kyle is a great guy and I know he had Princeton on his list for a while, but he’s got to do what’s right for him,” Roberts said. “I’m glad he’s at where he’s at and I’m excited to see him out on the field. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Ellis has a chance to play as a freshman with two senior safeties graduating.

“I think it is realistic if I put the work in,” he said. “(The Yale coaching staff is) sending me a workout plan and a nutrition plan in like two days so I can get on that right away.”

The same is true for Burrell. Harvard had a pair of senior safeties this season, opening an opportunity for him out of the gate. And he’s also gotten info from the Crimson staff on how to prepare. Once the offer came in, on the day Burrell was headed home from a summer camp there, Harvard jumped to the top of the list.

Burrell, Ellis and Roberts all said time management is going to be crucial to their success in the Ivy League.

“I would say I’m comfortable, but I’m comfortable with the challenge as well,” Roberts said. “I know it will push me to be better every day. I think that’s the key to life, improving every day. I feel like I can do that there.”

Buckingham, who threw for 1,643 yards as a senior, is going to an academy known for its difficult first year. The rigors of West Point’s plebe year are well-documented.

“I feel very comfortable,” Buckingham said. “I was just on an official visit this past weekend and went through all the steps. I’m prepared for it.

“After those long practices, you have to study every day. It’s going to be a grind, but I’ll be fine. And it’s worth it.”

Published on Gwinnett Daily Post.

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