AMITE — It was a split decision, but there were no divided loyalties when Amite High stars Ishmael Sopsher and Devonta Lee chose different college destinations.
When Lee, a top receiver prospect, chose LSU, there were loud cheers from students and members of the community who packed the AHS auditorium Wednesday for a signing ceremony televised live by ESPN.
The tension continued to build as Sopsher, the highly rated defensive lineman, took the microphone. When Sopsher chose Alabama and pulled a white visor with the Crimson Tide’s signature script “A” over his head, the crowd erupted again.
“With Devonta choosing LSU and Ishmael choosing Alabama, it lets us know we are doing the right things with our guys,” Amite coach Zephaniah Powell said as he watched a large group of reporters with cameras blanket Sopsher just after the ceremony ended. “Hopefully, this will inspire others to try and take the same path.”
AHS offensive guard Dominic Lange was the opening act. Lange signed with Texas-based Trinity Community College moments before the ESPN countdown began.
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Once the cheers subsided, and while pictures were taken and video streamed, some interesting facts came to light. Both players said they made their final decisions Wednesday morning. Neither knew which school the other picked.
After praying with family Tuesday night, Sopsher said, “When I woke up, Alabama was on my mind. I knew.”
The 6-foot-4, 334-pound Sopsher, a four-star prospect rated No. 3 in Louisiana and No. 47 nationally in the most recent 247sports rankings, provided insight into his recruitment that included visits from Alabama coach Nick Saban and LSU coach Ed Orgeron in the days before the NCAA’s traditional football signing date.
“It was very intense,” Sopsher said. “Everybody put up the hospitality and showed they really wanted me, but Alabama pushed it over the edge. I’ve been going there for years, and Nick Saban is such a great man. What I like about coach Saban is that he never pressured me to come to Alabama. He wanted me to see everything for myself.”
While Sopsher’s answers to questions were more analytical, Lee openly gushed about LSU’s decision to hire former Saints assistant Joe Brady as its passing game coordinator.
Lee (6-2, 212) is listed as a four-star prospect and is ranked No. 10 in Louisiana and 166 nationally by 247sports. Lee said he meditated Tuesday night and told reporters he made his final decision at about 9 a.m. Wednesday, less than four hours before signing.
“It was great to meet coach Brady,” Lee said. “I felt like he had a plan for me. He was showing me pass patterns like the ones Michael Thomas runs (for the Saints). I like the four-receiver sets they plan to run.”
Lee showed a playful side. He reached for a Kentucky cap on the table, before reaching under the table to pull out an LSU cap and other LSU gear for relatives seated with him. Kentucky was the school that recruiting services said also was in the running to sign Lee.
Sopsher got a shout-out from University High’s Christian Harris, who signed with Alabama in December. Harris took part in a ceremony honoring all of UHS’ signees at the same time the Amite players signed. Friends funneled information to Harris about Sopsher’s signing.
"Everybody's telling me," Harris said. "That's crazy. We're going to have a lot of fun."
Lee said signing day ended the way it was supposed to for both of the Warriors’ high-profile players.
“(Sopsher) got the best fit for him,” Lee said. “That's a good program and they will develop him well. It’s the good fit for me. I’m going to go over there (to LSU) and do some tremendous things on offense and go over there and succeed.”