Who's Milledgeville's most decorated college football player ever?


Closer to 200 young men from Milledgeville have suited up on Saturdays and played college football at some point over the decades, ranging from Division III to the SEC.

One of those players, of course, is Baldwin High Class of 2021's Javon Bullard, proud owner of two national championship rings with the Georgia Bulldogs. Bullard last winter was named the Defensive MPD in both the Peach Bowl and the College Football Playoff National Championship Game...

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With the Dawgs' season opener vs. UT Martin two weeks out, Bullard continues to rack up the preseason recognitions:

• CBS Sports Preseason All-American Team

• Collegefootballnews.com Preseason All-American Team

• The official Preseason All-SEC Team

• Bednarik Award Watch List

Up until now, BHS Class of 2001's Leroy Hill was the clear-cut most decorated college football player from Milledgeville. Hill dominated in his final two seasons at Clemson, where he was named AP first-team All-ACC in both 2003 and 2004. Hill's senior season included a whopping 19 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He was named the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, as well as a third-team All-American by the AP.

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In terms of NFL careers, the most decorated football player from Milledgeville is Ernest Byner. Now 59, Byner racked up more than 13,000 total yards in his 13-year NFL career. Byner also won a Super Bowl ring with the Washington Redskins and was named to a Pro Bowl. In college, though, Byner played for East Carolina, a smaller FBS school without as much fanfare. Byner was drafted in the 10th round of the 1984 NFL Draft, back before the draft was shortened to seven rounds. 

In terms of Milledgeville men drafted by the NFL, there have been five. There were Byner and Hill (third round of the 2005 draft by Seattle), as well as Sulecio Sanford, a BHS and Middle Tennessee State product who was taken in the seventh round of the 1999 Draft. John Milledge Academy's J.T. Wall was selected in the seventh round of the 2003 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, while BHS and Florida Gator product Maurice Hurt was selected in the seventh round of the 2011 draft.

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Finally, a total of five Milledgeville men have played in the NFL. Byner had the longest career. Sanford appeared in several games for the Chicago Bears in 2000. Hill was a starting linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks for four years and appeared in a Super Bowl. Nick Harper was an undrafted free agent out of Fort Valley State who actually began his career in the Canadian Football League before catching on with the Indianapolis Colts. Harper went on to have a very successful nine-year career, winning a Super Bowl ring with the Colts in 2005 and starting at cornerback. Hurt started several games on the offensive line for the Washington Redskins during his three-year stint in the league between 2011–2013.

Getting back to Bullard, he becomes draft-eligible after this season, when he could either declare for the NFL Draft or return for his senior season in Athens. In a composite of mock drafts, Bullard currently is projected to be drafted at the tail end of the 2024 NFL Draft, which would be the highest-ever for a Milledgeville man.

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