GUYTON — Two South Effingham football players joined the SEC last week during the early signing period.
Offensive lineman Austin Blaske and running back Rocko Griffin inked with the University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University, respectively. Blaske, who was committed to North Carolina State, was offered by Georgia early last week.
Blaske's commitment to the Bulldogs is a special story that goes beyond the football field and reflects a promise he made to Danny Hagan, his former trainer. Hagan was killed in a car accident Sept. 1 as he and his wife, Julie Hagan, were on their way home from the Georgia Southern at LSU game.
Blaske admitted he told Hagan he would sign with Georgia if he had the chance.
"Danny Hagan brought me where I am today," Blaske said. "I made him a promise that if I got an offer from Georgia I would take it — not just for him but for me and my family as well."
While his last-minute switch rattled North Carolina State fans, Blaske said the Georgia offer came as a shock. Blaske never thought he was on the Bulldogs’ radar most major programs make their offers to players during their junior years.
Sam Pittman, Georgia's former offensive line coach, however, left to take the head coaching position at the University of Arkansas and new offensive line coach Matt Luke was on the hunt for agile bodies with less mass.
After reviewing his film, Luke told Blaske he had to have him on his line.
"I grew up watching Georgia football but I didn't think the opportunity would present itself," Blaske said. "I think if I didn't take the opportunity I'd regret it for the rest of my life. I had to seize the opportunity.
“To North Carolina State, you all treated me like family. That's all I can ask for. I just have to do what's best for me. I hope they succeed."
Like all Georgia fans, Blaske has watched his favorite team play second fiddle in the SEC to Alabama, a team he hopes to dominate one day.
"I want to beat Alabama in the SEC title game," he said. "That would be big time for me."
There were no surprises when it came time for Griffin to sign his letter of intent. He's been committed to the Commodores since June 10 and never looked back.
A member of the South Effingham Chess Club, Griffin cited the school's academic prowess as one of the key factors that led him to ink with Vandy.
"I don't think it has set in yet," Griffin said. "I always thought I was supposed to be in this position. I thank God for it.
“I worked hard for this. Going from point A to point B is a blessing."
Griffin is excited to be joining a strong class of future Commodores, includMike Wright of Woodward Academy in Atlanta.
"He was one of my teammates at the All-Star Game," Griffin said. "We have a good class coming up. It's going to be a big change."
Coaching highly sought after recruits is nothing new for South Effingham head coach Nathan Clark.
"It's not about me," Clark said. "It's about the school, the kids and the community. I am so happy for the boys and their families. I am so happy for this school to have two SEC players. I am happy and blessed to be the coach.
“We have some good assistant coaches that they listened to. They did everything they asked them to do and put them in the right position. They are great leaders."
In 2020, Georgia will host Vanderbilt Oct. 3. While Clark will remain neutral during the contest, should Blaske line up at defensive tackle, Clark will be ready to catch what would be a memorable snapshot of both of his former players on the field at the same time.
"That will be awesome," Clark said. "That will be a lot of fun — something you can take a photo of and hang in the field house."