Photo/Zac Chamblee

Hattiesburg High School will certainly be well-represented in major college football the next few years. On Wednesday, the Tigers had four players sign Division I scholarships during the early signing period. 

Jarod Conner, Ole Miss

Conner was the engine that made Hattiesburg go the last two years. His 104 total touchdowns from the quarterback spot helped the Tigers complete back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 2017 and 2018. 

A one-time Memphis commit, Conner announced his pledge to Ole Miss on Dec. 7 shortly after taking his last official visit there. 

“When I stepped on campus for my last official visit, I knew that was where I wanted to be,” Conner said. “I knew it was closer to home. Getting to play for my home state, I knew that was where I wanted to be.”

Though he and the Tigers came up short of their ultimate goal, Conner will look back fondly on his time in a Hattiesburg uniform. 

“We had two undefeated seasons, and that was great. We came up short, but it was still pretty fun.”

Conner will play running back at Ole Miss. 

Jaren Handy, Auburn

One of the most sought-after defensive players in the state, Handy helped Hattiesburg limit opponents to just 15 points per game this past season. The defensive lineman had been committed to Auburn since the summer, choosing the Tigers over Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU and Florida to name a few. 

“I just felt comfortable and at home [at Auburn],” he said. 

Handy spent the previous two years at Perry Central before transferring back home to Hattiesburg for his senior year. He finished tied for the team lead in quarterback sacks with five. 

“It was like a homecoming because I didn’t have a choice but to leave with some family stuff going on,” he said. “But I’m happy to have come back and for this to happen.”

Hakeem Vance, Baylor

Like Handy, Vance wasn’t a part of the 2017 team. He transferred in from Lewisburg and got the chance to play for both his dad (linebackers and strength/conditioning coach Kareem Vance) and uncle (head coach Tony Vance). 

“It was a great opportunity and something most people probably dream of doing,” Hakeem Vance said. “We had a great time doing it. It was fun.”

The wide receiver/defensive back committed to Baylor in February, choosing the Bears over in-state options Southern Miss and Mississippi State, as well as several other opportunities. 

“It felt like home with the hospitality they show,” Vance said of Baylor. 

Demetris Allen, UTSA

Like his teammates, Allen had his fair share of options when it came to playing at the next level. The offensive lineman had been committed to UTSA since October, choosing the Roadrunners over Arkansas State, Louisiana and Memphis. 

His official visit to San Antonio last week only solidified his standing with the program. 

“I liked it because the coaches showed a lot of love, and the players showed a lot of love,” Allen said. “Everybody showed a lot of love.

“It’s a special day because a lot of people don’t have this talent and God-given opportunity.”