Nine Pirates commit on massive signing day

Quarterback KJ Lee, corner Amarion Whitfield, and linebacker AJ Wilson committed to Georgia Military College, while the trio of receiver/tight end Josiah Bess and offensive linemen David Newbauer and Keegan Carroll chose Greensboro College. Brunswick also saw receiver Tyrease Jones commit to Savannah State, defensive lineman Kaleb Hampton sign with Reinhardt University, and kicker Kyle Rehberg join Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Including offensive lineman Caleb Cook, who signed with Georgia Southern in December, the Pirates have already seen 10 of the 16 members of its 2021 class ink college scholarships with three to four more signings expected in the coming days.

It’s the largest signing class at Brunswick since 17 of 33 seniors signed in head coach Sean Pender’s first class in 2017 and one of the highest percentage of signees in program history.

But few expected for nine Pirates to be on the stage a year ago, including many of the players themselves, especially once COVID put the fall season in jeopardy before it even began.

“I’m feeling blessed today, man,” Carroll said. “I didn’t think I would really make it here as an undersized center. We made it through the whole season. I’m just blessed to be here today.”

Listed at 5-foot-10, 240 pounds, Carroll wasn’t sure he’d have the opportunity to play college football as an undersized center despite playing a crucial role on an offensive line that helped Brunswick average 365.8 yards and 28.8 points per game this past season.

Newbauer — an all-region team member — was in the same boat as a 5-8, 250-pound lineman that’s played every position on the offensive front.

However, both found a home together in North Carolina, along with Bess, who saw limited playing time his senior year.

“I’m feeling good,” Bess said. “It’s a blessing from God, honestly because everybody doesn’t get to make it to where I’m going to be at. I just want to thank God, thank the coaching staff, and the community, for getting me where I’m at right now.”

A testament to the family atmosphere Brunswick has cultivated amongst its team, Bess wasn’t planning on signing with a college until he received an offer from Greensboro and discovered Carroll and Newbauer would also be attending.

Each of the Greensboro commits emphasized that upon visiting the school, they felt it would soon become a second home. Newbauer, Carroll and Bess have already added a new maxim to their lingo: “Build the Boro.”

“I went on a visit there, and I just liked everything about it,” Newbauer said. “I just liked the winning mentality that they have.”

The trio of Lee, Whitfield and Wilson will also pursuit success at the next level together, joining the GMC Bulldogs after four years as Pirates.

“It’s the best school in Georgia,” Wilson said of Brunswick High. “It was a fun ride here. I enjoyed all the moments we had here: winning the City Championship, having all these people sign, it’s a big accomplishment for everybody.”

Lee took over as Brunswick’s undisputed starter this year and produced an all-region season, completing 65 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,981 yards and 20 touchdowns. However, having posted at least a handful of starts each of his four years as a Pirate, Lee will leave BHS with 32 career touchdown passes — the most in program history.

Impressed by Lee’s talent, GMC proved to the quarterback it was the school for him.

“I went there and they showed me a lot of love,” Lee said. “They really wanted me to come, so I decided to further my education there.”

Georgia Military College will also snagged a couple of promising defenders from Brunswick High who could just be scratching the surface of their potential in Wilson and Whitfield.

A two-year starter who notched 57 tackles and five tackles for a loss this past season, Wilson has the frame and athleticism to thrive as a hybrid linebacker/safety at the next level. Whitfield only has one year of starting experience as a defensive back under his belt after making the move across the line of scrimmage from receiver to corner in the offseason, but he quickly developed into a player teams avoided in the secondary.

With plenty of room still left to grow, GMC may just be the first stop in the group’s college careers. As former hometown standout Marvin Dallas proved, the JUCO program could be a stepping stone to playing Power 5 football.

After two years at Georgia Military, Dallas transferred to Louisville.

“That played a major part in it,” Whitfield said. “When I first got the offer, he was the first one I hit up.”

Wilson agreed: “They produce DI athletes from there.”

When they spoke, Whitfield said Dallas told him GMC is a great program, and although it’s going to be tough, the school can get him where he wants to go if he stays focused.

As it turns out, the same could be said about Brunswick High.

Jones considered sitting out his senior season entirely. A standout on the basketball team, Jones was unsure if he belonged on the football field, having reached the end zone just once in his career up to that point.

Convinced to give the gridiron one final hurrah, Jones put up one of the most productive seasons of any receiver in Class 6A. A big play waiting to happen, Jones made 42 catches for 788 yards and a school- record 13 touchdowns.

Suddenly, shooting up recruiting boards, Jones originally committed to Concord before re-opening the recruiting process in the days leading up to signing day. He re-evaluated his options and chose DI Savannah State.

“When I went to visit, I liked the campus a lot,” Jones said. “The coaches made it feel like home, and it’s closer to home.”

Hampton was also wooed by an in-state coaching staff, choosing to spend his next four years in Waleska. A mainstay on the Pirates’ defensive line the past two seasons, Hampton finished his prep career with 87 total tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and eight sacks.

Part of Reinhardt’s appeal was the opportunity to earn early playing time for the Eagles when they open their spring season in February.

But he’ll still miss being a Pirate.

“It’s a bittersweet moment right now,” Hampton said. “It’s kind of leaving the family. They were my family, for real. I’m going to miss the Brunswick style.”

Rehberg’s signing will take the kicker more than 800 miles away to Terre Haute, Ind., but he felt the world-class education, small class sizes, and a culture based around hard work made Rose-Hulman the school he belonged.

A shining example of Rehberg’s dedication to self improvement has been his evolution on Brunswick’s special teams. Rehberg got his feet wet with an extra point and a few punts as a sophomore, and as a junior, he knocked through 26-of-28 point after tries while booting away 15 punts.

As a senior, Rehberg traded his punting duties for field goals and kickoffs — hitting four of five attempts and consistently kicking the ball out of the back of the end zone while remaining reliable after touchdowns and going 35-of-39 on extra points.

He credited the Pirates’ coaching staff for his, and his teammates’ success.

“Coach Pender, as well as the other coaches, have created a culture at Brunswick that cares about the players’ development,” Rehberg said. “They truly want each and every athlete to succeed, and attending Brunswick High School has allowed me to prosper, and so I thank those at Brunswick High for giving me the best four years of my life.”