Of the 11 athletes recognized at Forsyth Central on Thursday in the cafeteria for signing letters of intent to play in college, 10 had competed or are still competing in their respective sport this school year. Indeed, several had competed just the night before.
Baseball players Bradlee Brooks (Piedmont College), Jacob Holton (Lawson State Community College), Parker Jones (Piedmont College) and Greg Wozniak (South Georgia State College) had helped the team win their seventh straight game, as well as Jake Bump, who signed to play football at Birmingham-Southern College. Boys cross country runners Roy Harkins (Piedmont College) and Eli Smith (Benedictine University) had competed in a track meet. Soccer player Gavin Mitchell (Lake Erie College) had scored two goals in a win at North Forsyth.
Softball player Karah Straub (Young Harris College) and football player Brad Thiltgen (Bridgewater State University) had wrapped up their careers in the fall.
And then there was Dylan Buchs.
Buchs had been a backup running back for Central's football team in 2016 as a junior, finishing third in carries with 38 for 455 yards to go along with 150 receiving yards, so he was in the weight room after school one day the following spring to prepare for his senior season. Birmingham-Southern was already showing interest in Buchs, drawn toward the quickness that enabled him to run to the outside and the overall toughness with which he played.
Buchs felt there hadn't been enough weight lifting that day, so he walked back to do some more. Instead, a coach saw him and told him to see Bulldogs head coach Frank Hepler.
"I still remember the look on his face was just devastating," Hepler said.
Hepler broke the news to Buchs that he wouldn't get to play football his senior season. No senior athlete can participate in varsity competition if they turn 19 years old before May 1, per GHSA bylaws. Buchs would turn 19 on April 23.
He would be too old -- by a week.
"It was the worst moment of my life, by far," Buchs said.
Buchs' family appealed to the GHSA throughout the ensuing months, crafting an exhaustive proposal and even contacting Georgia politicians but to no avail. Buchs resolved to make the most of the situation. He continued to attend team practices, strength and conditioning sessions and helped coach the running backs during the season.
And when he told Birmingham-Southern about his lost season, their interest remained.
"It's the best feeling," Buchs said. "... It's a blessing that I've gotten the chance to prove myself again on the field and continue this."