ASHS’ Clark, Yancie ink NLIs on Signing Day
By MICHAEL MURRAY
AMERICUS – Excitement was in the air at Americus-Sumter High School (ASHS) South Campus on Feb. 3, with two members of the Panthers football taking the opportunity on National Signing Day to commit to continuing their tradition of athletic excellence on the collegiate level.
In a large ceremony in the school’s gymnasium, in front of the entire student body, ASHS defensive tackle, Tyler Clark, signed a letter of intent to join the University of Georgia (UGA) Bulldogs on the gridiron next season. In the same ceremony, ASHS quarterback, Mekall Yancie, inked his letter of intent to play for the Arkansas Tech Wonder boys following graduation.
Following the ceremony, Clark, a 6’4”, 310-pound, four-star defensive tackle, stopped for a minute to speak with the Times-Recorder.
Asked what the deciding factor was in Clark’s decision to sign with UGA despite receiving offers from the University of Tennessee, Auburn University, and a host of other schools, Clark stated, “When they told me that [UGA head coach] Kirby Smart was coming, I was like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to stay… I think we’re going to go to the National Championship.’”
Clark stated that he has been playing football his whole life. “I’ve been playing since I was about five,” he said.
Clark went on to say that he is interested in studying sports management or physical education while attending UGA. He said that, during his free time, he enjoys running and lifting weights.
In his role as defensive tackle for the Panthers, Clark has been named first team all region three straight years and has been selected for three All-Star games. During his tenure at ASHS, Clark also racked up the most tackles on the defensive line of any of the Panthers’ team members.
Asked what he is looking forward to in his college experience, Clark said, “I’m looking forward to winning a lot of games, going to a national championship, and starting in my freshman year.
Following Clark’s interview, Yancie, the Panthers’ 6’4”, 223 pound quarterback, spoke with the Times-Recorder.
Asked how he made the decision to attend Arkansas Tech, Yancie told the Times-Recorder, “When I went to Arkansas Tech for the visit, they showed me a good time. I liked the campus and the [student] population. They also have my major. It felt at home there, so I decided to commit.” Yancie went on to say that he plans to study either sports medicine or athletic training while at Arkansas Tech.
Yancie has played for the Panthers for four years. He began playing the position of tight end as a freshman and, as a sophomore, was assigned duties as a back-up quarterback. In his junior year, the talented young athlete was promoted to starting quarterback, a position he continued through the 2015-16 season.
Yancie was chosen to participate in the All-Star game in his senior season, but was unable to participate due to a knee injury.
In addition to football, Yancie competes with the ASHS track and basketball teams. Due to his injury, Yancie has not been available to compete with the Panthers on the basketball court in his senior season.
Asked what he is looking forward to about his upcoming college experience, Yancie said, “I’m looking forward to working towards a national championship and a bowl game as well as earning my degree.”
During the ceremony, ASHS Panther head coach, Erik Soliday, addressed the crowd, saying, “This is an exciting day for all of us. These two young men have the chance to take their talents to the next level… A lot of people never have that opportunity… That’s what makes this so exciting. Hopefully we’re going to have several more in the next couple of weeks that will get this opportunity.”
These young men did everything they had to do in the classroom… and everything they had to do on the football field,” Soliday continued. “They got the attention of college coaches… We are so proud of them.”
As Yancie prepared to ink his document, Soliday stated, “Mekall has had a tremendous year. He was having an MVP-worthy year before he suffered a season-ending injury. Mekall accumulated over 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns for the team, which is a pretty good stat…. We’re proud of what he has done and what he is going to do. We’re certainly looking forward to seeing him playing on Saturdays in the future.”
When it came time for Clark to sign his NLI, Soliday continued, “We all appreciate the way that [Clark] has stepped forward and the exposure that he has created here… Tyler has the grades and the test scores… and he performs on the field… It’s one thing to get the attention of football coaches at this level, but that’s just one part of it. To keep their attention over a period of time by playing that level of football… That’s the hard part. Tyler has been able to do that. He’s played at that level for the last couple of years, kept their attention, and gotten to where he’s at today through hard work. We’re certainly excited for him… We’ll be watching him on Saturday and, hopefully, someday on Sundays.”
After the documents were signed and sealed, Clark addressed the crowd, thanking God, his family and coaches, and the school staff for their support.
Yancie also thanked the crowd of family members and Panther fans for their support.
After the ceremony, ASHS athletic director, Walter Knighton, spoke with the Times-Recorder, saying, “We’re looking forward to seeing great things from them. They will go out and represent themselves and their families as well as the community as they go off to these universities. We’re just excited for them… This could be a life-changing experience for them… They can become whoever they want to be. It’s just a matter of being committed. This is the easy part… the signing. The tough part is going to be maintaining that commitment to be successful at the next level. That’s the challenge ahead of them. They can do it. They’ve done it here once…”
A reception was held that evening at the Carnegie in Americus by Clark’s family for supporters and fans.