East Hamilton’s two-way football star Austin Gatewood has made a commitment to play collegiately at East Tennessee State University, which is restarting its football program in 2015.
The Bucs were members of the Southern Conference at the time school administrators decided to drop the football program after the 2003 season. The school’s other athletic programs have competed in the Atlantic Sun Conference since 2005.
ETSU will become an official member of the Southern Conference in July 2014, along with Mercer University of Virginia Military Institute.
Gatewood will be a part of the first football class under coach Carl Torbush, who formerly coached at North Carolina.
“I’m very proud of Austin and the opportunity he has to continue to play football at the next level for Carl Torbush at ETSU,” said Ted Gatewood, Austin’s father and coach at East Hamilton.
The elder Gatewood started the East Hamilton football program from scratch and in Year 3 guided the Hurricanes to the Class 4A quarterfinals and last season the team reached the Class 5A quarterfinals.
Austin Gatewood made his presence known primarily as a starting linebacker for the past three seasons. The 18-year-old standout also played tight end and slot receiver on offense, starting at that spot as a senior.
“I visited up there (Johnson City) and have a great relationship with the coaches and it just felt right for me from the very beginning,” Gatewood said of his reason to choose the Bucs over Tennessee-Chattanooga, Murray State and Memphis.
He first visited the ETSU campus in November and will return for an official visit on Jan. 31.
Gatewood said he made his decision Wednesday night, "after praying about it and talking with my family."
“I’m really happy for this opportunity and am blessed that God gave me the ability to play football,” he said. “I kept my options open (through the recruiting process). I visited all four schools and after each visit I thought about what I liked about the school, who I enjoyed everything and tried to envision myself going there.
“I came to the conclusion that the best fit for me was at East Tennessee.”
Gatewood will sign on Feb. 5, National Signing Day and is the fourth East Hamilton senior to make a football commitment. Defensive back/wide receiver Tre Herndon plans to sign with Vanderbilt,d quarterback Hunter Moore has committed to Central Arkansas and tight end Bailey Lenoir is headed to UTC.
As a senior, Gatewood recorded 57 tackles, including 48 solos, and had five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Offensively, he caught 15 passes for 234 yards and a 15.6-yard average per reception.
This past season East Hamilton went 10-3, winning seven of its first eight games, and reached the Class 5A semifinals where it lost to District 5-AAA rival Cleveland, 21-14.
In 2013, the Hurricanes got off to a 1-1 start, but then reeled off 10 consecutive wins before losing at Giles County, 22-16, in the playoff quarterfinals. East Hamilton finished 11-2 that season.
In his three years as a starter, the Hurricanes compiled a 33-10 record.
Gatewood said he’s been playing football since the age of 7.
“I wanted to play earlier, but my dad wanted to hold me out,” he said.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)