They took different paths during their Harris County High School football careers and signed with different colleges Wednesday, but defensive tackle Jay Ellison (Georgia Southern) and offensive tackle Tre'von Gunn (Clark Atlanta) share a trait that helped them succeed:
The Tigers persevered during their senior season after an 0-4 start to reach the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA quarterfinals -- the best finish in the program's history -- and Ellison and Gunn persevered through tough circumstances.
Harris County football coach Tommy Parks said Ellison, a two-way lineman, cramped up more than any player he has coached.
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"So this scholarship is testament to his perseverance, fighting through the cramps while playing 80-90 snaps a game," Parks said.
Gunn tore a knee ligament during the preseason but declined to have surgery so he could play his senior year.
"That's pretty painful, tearing an ACL, so this scholarship is very deserving," Parks said.
Ellison also persevered through the stigma of choosing a Football Championship Subvisision (Division I-AA) school over offers from more prominent Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) programs, such as Auburn, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Missouri, Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Syracuse.
"It's not where you go but what you do when you get there," said Ellison (6-foot-2, 285 pounds).
Georgia Southern's atmosphere and coaches swayed Ellison the most.
"The staff has been the same guys I've talked to since Day One," he said. " I just want to go somewhere I feel I can sit down and talk with the coaches if I have a problem, because I'm a big family person."
Family also factored into Gunn's decision. Clark Atlanta linebackers coach Braxton Kelley is his cousin.
"That makes me feel like I'll have a strong base there," said Gunn (6-3, 270), whose other offer was from LaGrange College.
Clark Atlanta is looking at Gunn as an offensive tackle or guard. "I prefer tackle," he said, "but I'm happy as long as I play."