February 5, 2010 10:08:00 AM
A chance to make history was too much to pass up for Khiry Karriem.
That''s why the Itawamba Community College standout decided Wednesday to sign a National Letter of Intent to play football for Georgia State.
The Panthers, under the leadership of former University of Alabama, Georgia Tech, and Kentucky coach and ESPN analyst Bill Curry, will kick off their inaugural season later this year. The team will play its home games in the Georgia Dome, the home of the NFL''s Atlanta Falcons.
If Karriem doubted his destination, he only had to look to a chance meeting with Georgia State assistant head coach George Pugh at a Shell station in Fulton near the end of ICC''s 2009 football season.
Pugh said he had just been at ICC to pick up film for a player named Khiry Karriem. The encounter helped each side get to know the other and ultimately paid off for everyone.
"I didn''t know where I was going to end up," Karriem said. "When I went on my visits to Georgia State I found out a lot about Bill Curry and I was amazed at what kind of person he is. He can silence a room when he walks in. I love to play under leadership like that."
Despite missing four games this season with injuries, Karriem had 23 tackles (13 solo), including six and a half for loss. The 6-foot-3, 264-pound defensive end had one and a half sacks and three quarterback pressures.
Karriem started four games as a freshman at ICC and had 28 tackles (22 solo), six and a half tackles for loss, and two sacks.
Karriem said his goal is to etch his name in the Georgia State football record book by notching a memorable achievement. After missing a significant part of his sophomore season at ICC, Karriem said he will make the most of his opportunity to play at Georgia State.
"I feel like making history is something no one can ever take away from you," Karriem said. "I think it was God''s blessing. I struggled a lot through the season with injuries and I missed some games, but I feel God gave me another opportunity to pursue my dream. I always wanted to play Division I football."
Defensive tackle Jeff Howie, of Chester, Pa., stuck to his verbal commitment to Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen and signed a NLI on Wednesday with the Bulldogs.
Howie, an all-state offensive lineman last year, missed the final four games after suffering a broken hand against Mississippi Delta. He still had 38 tackles, including a team-best 12 for a loss, and five sacks.
"I''m really looking forward to playing in the SEC at Mississippi State," said Howie, who signed with Temple University out of high school. "I was told when I signed with ICC that with hard work I could get to this level. Even a guy growing up in Pennsylvania knows the SEC is the best in the country and my friends and family back home will get a chance to watch all of my games for the Bulldogs on TV."
Former Southern Miss quarterback, Bret Jefcoat, of Fulton, signed with the University of Tennessee-Martin after one year at ICC. Defensive tackle Jarrod Draper, of Batesville, and Rick Young, of Tunica, signed with Mississippi Valley State.
ICC coach Jon Williams expects several more players to sign with four-year schools. In December, six Indians signed NLIs with four-year schools in the early signing period.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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