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Local standouts to play college football
Signee is first from West Forsyth
Ben Emert Signing Day 3 es
Ben Emert, left, visits with friend Kade Kelley after he signs with Wake Forest on Wednesday. - photo by Emily Saunders

In communities around the country, National Signing Day brought a surge of excitement, and Forsyth County was no exception.

Wednesday was the first day high school seniors could sign a binding letter of intent to play college football. Several local prep standouts made their choices official, including Ben Emert of West Forsyth and Forsyth Central’s Kasey Morrison.

Emert, a running back who finished his senior season with more than 1,500 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns, committed to Wake Forest University.

He is the first football player from West, which opened in 2007, to sign with an Atlantic Coast Conference team.

“It just hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Emert said. “It’s kind of surreal right now.”

Morrison, an offensive lineman, will be attending Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

Central head coach Chris Bennett said Morrison has “really left his mark on this program.”

“Not just Kasey, but the entire [Morrison] family,” he said. “... We hate to see him leave Forsyth Central, but we know there are great things in Kasey’s future.”  

From West to Wake

Tucked away in a room at the back of the Golden Corral in Cumming, friends and family congregated early in the evening to congratulate Emert.

Emert had signed his official letter to Wake earlier that morning, so the ceremony was unofficial, but a cheer erupted nonetheless when he signed a sheet of paper in the room decked with the black and gold of the Demon Deacons.

“I guess we’re Deacons now,” called out Vince Patton, a friend of the family sporting a red and black University of Georgia sweatshirt.

“That’s right. That Georgia shirt has got to go!” father David Emert jokingly replied.

The competition for Emert and his Wake teammates will be stiff. As part of the high-profile Atlantic Coast Conference, the private school in
Winston-Salem, N.C., battles Georgia Tech, Florida State and Miami, among others.

Gary Sylvestri, a former assistant coach with West football who recently moved into a job as assistant athletic director, said Emert represented the program well on and off the field.

Having a player move on to an ACC team is a big plus for the three-year-old school, he said.

“It’s huge for the [high] school and the program,” Sylvestri said. “That just puts us on the map and paves the road for the younger guys coming up.”

Emert’s mother, Mary, said the Wake program typically redshirts players during their first year out of high school. That allows them to work out with the team, but keeps them out of games until their second year with the program.

However, she said Ben holds out hope of proving himself enough in workouts to earn playing time right away.

Carrying on family tradition

Earlier in the day, a group of well-wishers gathered on the Forsyth Central campus to celebrate offensive lineman Morrison’s commitment to Samford.

Morrison expects to play guard for the Bulldogs, although he said lining up at center could be an option.

Samford competes in the Southern Conference as part of the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA. League rivals include powers like Appalachian State and Georgia Southern.

A selection to the AJC’s All-State team in Class AAAA, Morrison said he feels like he met the goals he set for himself this season.

“[That honor] meant a lot because that’s what I’ve worked towards,” he said. “That was my goal, I wrote it down before the season. I said [I wanted to make] all-county, all-state, all-region ... and I got it.”

Playing lineman seems to be a Morrison trait. The recruit is the son of former University of Georgia lineman Tim Morrison and his brother, Zach, played center at NAIA Shorter College in Rome.

Kasey Morrison credited his brothers for encouraging him.

In addition to Zach, who also played for Central, brother Austin has been a source of moral support at high school games, cheering for the Bulldogs along the sidelines despite being confined to a wheelchair.

“[My brothers] have been there for me through thick and thin,” Kasey Morrison said.

“Zach has been pushing me in the weight room ever since ninth grade, just getting me ready for college and making me get bigger and better. Austin is my inspiration. ... He can’t play, so I’m playing for both of us.”

Sports editor Jared Putnam contributed to this report.