Georgia Junior Bowl attracts elite talent

ATLANTA - The vision Joe Burns and Izell Reese have shared for the inaugural Georgia Junior Bowl has been in the works for quite some time.

They took very different paths to the NFL, but have the same message to pass along to some of the top junior prospects in the state of Georgia.

After walking at UAB, which was a Division III school at the time, Reese was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1998, where he remained through 2001. He played one season with the Denver Broncos and spent the final two years of his career with the Bills, where he and Burns hooked up.

Burns won three state championships and was twice named Georgia Player of the Year at Thomasville County Central High School.

Before spending four seasons with the Bills, he played collegiately at Georgia Tech, where he finished fourth all-time in rushing, was named All-ACC his junior year.

"So many athletes, they have so much potential, but they don't have the opportunity to make the transition to college, because of lack of information," he said. "This whole week is like a symposium, just like the NFL puts the rookies through."

Burns and Izell have brought in former NFL players like Danny Wuerffel and Dorsey Levens to speak to this year's participants.

On Friday, players from both teams are scheduled to visit the Egleston Children's Hospital and help with the 11 Alive Curing Kids Cancer Telethon.

"Sports are a foundation, it's not a career," Burns said. "We're just trying to get people to understand that. It's not about what you do in the first four quarters. It's about what you do in the fifth quarter."

Callaway High School coach Pete Wiggins was happy to send two of his players—Ricky Parks and Jeffery Cameron—to the first-ever game.

Carver High's (Ga.) Deion Bonner was one of several Clemson targets on hand. (Hale McGranahan)
"These kids will not only learn a lot about football, but they'll learn a lot of life skills. Joe Burns is putting people in front of the kids that bring great messages…they're getting to see things that will help them down the road in other than just football," Wiggins said. "Obviously, some of the best coaches in the state of Georgia are out here working with them."

The East team is coached by Tucker High School coach Franklin Stephens. The West is headed by Lowndes High School coach Randy McPherson. Staffs for each team are manned by coaches from some of the state's top programs. south recruiting manager Chad Simmons assisted in putting together this year's rosters.

"We all know in this business how important the junior year is to be identified, in this game of recruiting now," he said. "I think having this game is great."

Several Clemson targets were selected, including four-star quarterback Greyson Lambert, four-star defensive end Jordan Jenkins, four-star safety Deion Bonner and Parks, a three-star tight end.

"It's good. There's a lot of competition," said safety Zack Blaylock, who's also being recruited by the Tigers. "I enjoy playing with the other safeties and defensive backs. I like how it's not just about football. It's about everything else, education and everything. It's pretty neat how they show that to us." Top Stories