North Forsyth senior Brinley Rhys grew up visiting his grandparents on the campus of Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee. His grandfather was an English professor there for several years, and what Rhys remembers most about his visits was the architecture: the All Saints’ Chapel, the Breslin Tower and Walsh Ellet Hall, the Phi Delta Theta House.
“I thought it looked like Hogwarts from Harry Potter,” Rhys said.
Now, Rhys gets to go back.
The defensive lineman inked his future at Sewanee for the next four years when he signed a letter of intent to play football for the Tigers on Wednesday during National Signing Day ceremonies at North where five athletes in all signed to play at the next level.
There were soccer players Valerie Billstrom (Emmanuel College) and Taylor Raygor (Louisiana-Lafayette), and baseball players Jake Craddock (Catawba Valley Community College) and Caleb Dixon (Baton Rouge Community College), whose careers Raiders baseball coach Jim Cahill said “were just beginning.” They gathered with administrators, coaches, family and friends in a cafeteria crowded with balloons and cakes and cookies.
Each athlete’s coach spoke about them, and when it was Rhys’ turn, Raiders head football coach Jason Galt focused on Rhys’ loyalty to his team and teammates. That was never more tested than this past season, a season that almost made Rhys forget about playing college football.
Rhys had been a significant contributor as a junior, helping the Raiders go 6-5 and reach the state playoffs. He returned this past season poised to be a staple of North’s defense and hoping the Raiders could build off the momentum of 2013’s success.
Rhys made his presence felt, moving to the interior of the defensive line and garnering first-team all-region honors. But between inexperience and injuries North stumbled to a 1-9 record.
Rhys’ hopes waned. A few random schools called to express interest, but none Rhys found suitable. For a while, it was a real possibility he’d never play football again. He made plans to attend Ole Miss and focus on school.
Except that Rhys remembered about Sewanee. He remembered his childhood trips there, his fascination with the campus. He knew it was on Forbes’ List of Top Colleges, No. 98 in fact. If he could go anywhere, it’d be there.
Rhys sent a Tigers coach his highlight video. Soon several Sewanee coaches were contacting him. He went on a visit this past November for the team’s homecoming game and committed. He went on his official visit this past weekend and knew he’d made the right choice.
“After I went on a visit it was definitely where I wanted to go,” Rhys said. “It’s a great academic school. It’s one of the top 100 in the country. So football’s just kind of helped me get there.”