Central 2020 signing

Central-Phenix City's Vontavious Maddox, Mike Harris, Byron Jenkins, Chase Alexander, Jon Stephens, Robert Marsh III, Gerald Palmer and BJ Randolph pose together after signing with their colleges on Wednesday.

When 7 a.m. rolled around Wednesday morning, Central-Phenix City safety Mike Harris was itching to officially put pen to paper. Given that fulfilling a lifelong dream was a signature away, Harris’ excitement wasn’t hard to understand.

Harris signed with Baylor in what was the most highly-anticipated decision of the Red Devils’ signing day. Harris was one of eight Central players who signed, joined by defensive back Chase Alexander, defensive linemen Byron Jenkins and Vontavious Maddox, receiver Robert Marsh, defensive back Gerald Palmer, defensive end BJ Randolph and receiver Jon Stephens.

Seven Central players previously signed during the December signing period: receiver E.J. Williams; offensive linemen Mason Cook, Javion Cohen, and Joshua Jones; quarterback Tucker Melton; linebacker PJ Ramsey and safety Terrell Gordon.

“It feels good. This morning, I was fired up. I signed exactly at 7:01 or 7:02. I was trying to be the first one up to get ready to sign so I can go ahead and get my day started,” Harris said. “(Baylor) welcomed me with open arms. Everywhere I went, they showed me open arms. It was like a family everywhere I went. The thing to win a championship is that you need family. Family is the most important. Also, my first time going I wanted to go to LSU. It was kind of a big deal with (Dave Aranda) being the head coach.”

Harris’ last few months have been a busy one on the recruiting circuit. He decommitted from Arkansas on Jan. 10 after committing to the team’s former coaching staff two months earlier. He took an official visit to Ole Miss shortly after he decommitted then one to Baylor and officially picked up an offer from the Bears on Jan. 28.

At the time of Harris’ signing, he was the second official February signee for new Baylor head coach Dave Aranda’s first class with the Bears.

Harris explained the last month has been a wild one, as his phone has constantly been blowing up. He said the family atmosphere at Baylor was a major selling point as well as Aranda, who he said swayed him with his personality during Harris’ recent visit.

Harris was the only returning starter in Central’s secondary this fall, but he lived up to the expectations as one of the Red Devils’ highly-touted college prospects. The 6-foot, 170-pound Harris tallied 76 total tackles with two interceptions and also forced one fumble and recovered another as part of a Central defense that gave only gave up 14.1 points per game.

Thanks in part to Harris’ play, the Red Devils reached the Class 7A state championship game for the second straight season. Now, Harris has his sights set on helping Baylor challenge for Big 12 titles in the years to come.

“I’ve talked to those guys already. We’re already family and we’re already clicking. They already know what to expect,” Harris said. “The conference, to me that’s like the best quarterbacks. Getting the chance to pick off the best quarterbacks in the (Big 12) every year, that’s a big thing.”

Harris was far from the only Red Devil to see a dream come true Wednesday.

Marsh remembered watching former teammate Justyn Ross sign with Clemson two years ago and collectively dreaming with the other underclassmen of having a moment like that. Marsh got his by signing with Troy as a preferred walk-on.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about from a little boy all the way up to high school. I was sitting here watching Justyn Ross sign my sophomore year. I wanted to be at that table,” Marsh said. “It still ain’t really hit me yet. I know it’s going to hit me in the stomach and I’m going to feel it later. I didn’t want to cry up there.”

Marsh, Harris and the rest of their teammates were crucial parts of an incredible run of success for Central. The Red Devils went 37-3 over the past three seasons, and in that time the team won 18 consecutive region games, three region titles and nine playoff games. The team played for back-to-back Class 7A state titles and won the 2018 game over Thompson.

The eight players who signed Wednesday took time to embrace their own moment, but they also celebrated the successes of their teammates who were also going on to the next level. The group was crucial in putting Central on the map in Alabama, and no matter where they go next that won’t soon be forgotten.

“It means a lot. The Red Devils, they just did so much for us. They helped us out a lot,” said Maddox, who signed with Clark Atlanta. “It feels good to be signing with my brothers. I’m just waiting on everybody — the whole family — to sign like that.”

Central’s February signees

» Chase Alexander, Mississippi Valley State

» Mike Harris, Baylor

» Byron Jenkins, Faulkner

» Vontavious Maddox, Clark Atlanta

» Robert Marsh, Troy (PWO)

» Gerald Palmer, Faulkner

» BJ Randolph, Valdosta State

» Jon Stephens, Huntingdon College

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