By Frank Jolley, GateHouse Florida
It’s probably a good thing that blue is one of the dominant colors around Mount Dora Christian Academy.
That meant school officials needed only to add a splash of orange in the school gymnasium Wednesday when standout linebacker Jesiah Pierre signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the University of Florida.
Pierre, back-to-back winner of the Daily Commercial All-Area Defensive Player of the Year award, highlighted a class of six area signees who chose to sign Wednesday instead of waiting until National Signing Day in February.
Other signees included three from Lake Minneola — Kenan Johnson (signed with Georgia Tech), Jacob Johnson (Air Force Academy), and Stephone Atkinson (Western Kentucky) — along with South Lake’s Kelley Joiner Jr. (South Florida) and Wildwood defensive back Kanyon Walker (Tulane). In addition, Lake Minneola honored cross country standout Cadi Rowe, who signed with Troy University.
Pierre and Walker have already graduated from MDCA and Wildwood, respectively, and will begin college in January. That will make them eligible to take part in spring practices.
“This is a really big moment for me,” Pierre said before Wednesday’s ceremony. “It ends one chapter of my life and begins a new one. So many people at this school have helped me get to this point. My teachers, coaches, school administrators, teammates, friends and my family played a role in helping me.
“I’m leaving MDCA with mixed emotions because I’m going to miss so many people here, but I’m also excited to see what is ahead for me.”
Pierre’s family — his mother, father, two brothers and a sister — surrounded him as he signed. One of his brothers — Jeremiah — a U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Geiger in Jacksonville, North Carolina, surprised the family by showing up unannounced before the ceremony began.
For the ceremony, Pierre wore a dark suit and a blue tie emblazoned with Florida’s alligator head logo. After he signed, Pierre made everything official with Gator fans who filled the gym by donning a University of Florida visor.
“I knew Florida was the school I wanted to go to after I took my official visit there,” said Pierre. “I loved the family atmosphere on the team and the hunger for greatness within the football program. I left there just wanting to be a Gator.”
Pierre said he believes playing at MDCA instead of one of the larger schools in the area helped him become a better player.
“I think you always feel like you have more to prove when you come from a small school and a small town,” said Pierre. “Playing here humbled me and made me want to work harder to achieve my goals. At the same time, I hope it also proves that it doesn’t what school you attend or what city you live in … if you work hard enough, coaches will find you.”